City crush Fulham to go fourth

Mark Hughes was the man profiting from Tevez’s prowess in front of

goal 12 months ago but it will be Roberto Mancini hailing the South

American after a man-of-the-match display against his former boss.

Mancini had been criticised for his negative approach ahead of the

game and the Manchester City boss left himself open for more after

naming Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong and Yaya Toure in midfield.

However, there were few complaints from the City end when Tevez put

them in front early on and certainly none by half-time once Pablo

Zabaleta and Yaya Toure had increased the visitors’ lead. Fulham

came into the game a bit more after the interval but Tevez scored a

clever second just before the hour mark to put City 4-0 in front

and Zoltan Gera’s consolation barely took the shine off a terrific

performance by Mancini’s men. For a side said to be lacking in team

spirit and certainly lacking a few goals after successive goalless

draws, this was precisely the kind of banana skin City needed to

avoid. Hughes said all the right things in the build-up to his

first encounter with the club since he was controversially dumped

in favour of Mancini last December but his desperation to win must

have been huge. After all, five of the City team were his signings,

compared to just one in his own. This did not include Jo, who

arrived at Eastlands a couple of weeks before the Welshman and was

sent packing at the earliest opportunity. In a sense, Jo represents

the profligacy of Sheikh Mansour’s tenure. Bought for

£18million without any real role and sent away just as

quickly. It is Tevez though who remains City’s stellar buy of the

Abu Dhabi era. And it took the South American just five minutes to

show why. On the shoulder of Carlos Salcido, Tevez collected

Barry’s pass perfectly, allowing him to roll the defender, expertly

using his body weight, and then drill a low shot beyond Mark

Schwarzer. Such is the success City tend to enjoy when Tevez score,

Hughes must have feared the worst. Had Aleksandar Kolarov showed a

similarly clinical instinct when he nipped past Damien Duff after

David Silva had found him with a delicate chipped pass on a

lightning break forward, the contest would have been over before it

eventually was. The wait was only a couple of minutes though. The

culprit Duff, whose scuffed clearance to a low Silva cross rolled

perfectly for Zabaleta. In front of watching Argentina legend Diego

Maradona, Zabaleta must have impressed his fellow countryman with

the ferocity of his strike, which flew into the corner. If Tevez

was the stand-out signing of Hughes’ time in charge, Yaya Toure is

Mancini’s signature transfer. The wages, estimated at

£220,000, are still so colossal they can scarcely be believed.

The figure trotted out with every ineffective display. Yet Toure

goes about his work in an understated way. The Ivorian did not

really dominate proceedings here but overlapping to Tevez’s right

to collect a pass that continued a move Jo and Silva had started,

he finished in fine style, more or less in exactly the same spot as

the first City goal ended up in. A brief flurry which coincided

with Gera’s half-time introduction raised hopes of a Fulham

face-saving mission. Sadly for Hughes and his players it turned out

to be an illusion. Tevez really should have squared to provide an

unmarked Jo with a tap-in after he had burst clear of the home

defence. Instead he allowed Schwarzer to make the save, conceding

the corner from which he was to profit as, with his back to goal,

he stuck out a foot to send Zabaleta’s 20-yard drive looping into

the Fulham net for his 10th goal of the season. There was no way

back for the hosts, who did gain some consolation thanks to Gera.

But Hughes and his team are now in a relegation scrap and he can

only watch as City challenge for the major honours.