Two goals from David Silva saw Manchester City beat Fulham 2-0 at Etihad Stadium, closing the gap on title rivals Manchester United.
The reigning Premier League champions were ahead within two minutes, as Silva calmly guided Edin Dzeko’s parried shot past a hapless Mark Schwarzer.
City looked set to run riot, but they didn’t strike again until mid-way through the second half, as Silva latched onto Carlos Tevez’s through-ball and expertly chipped the ball over the Fulham keeper, guaranteeing the home side all three points.
Roberto Mancini picked an unchanged side for the first time this season, with fit-again Sergio Aguero listed on the bench.
Fulham made six changes to the side that stumbled past Blackpool in the FA Cup; Kieran Richardson, a goal-scorer in the match match, was picked at left-back, while Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov returned up front.
The hosts got off to a flying start, as James Milner pounced on a loose pass and offloaded to Dzeko. The Bosnian’s rasping drive was palmed into the path of Silva by Schwarzer, and the Spaniard duly stroked the ball into the far corner.
Despite the early goal, City struggled to exert their usual authority on the match as Martin Jol’s side enjoyed a large share of possession – albeit in non-threatening areas – and the game become a taut, subdued affair.
Mancini’s men seemed increasingly content to sit back, absorb pressure and counter, although they could have conceded when Steve Sidwell outjumped Pablo Zabaleta at the back post, heading Damien Duff’s cross just wide.
City finished the half with a modicum of urgency, as Dzeko blasted the ball over the crossbar from an acute angle, and that intensity grew further after the break, with Tevez leading a more direct and high-pressure approach.
Nevertheless, it was not until the hour-mark that City really threatened Schwarzer’s goal. Good work from Zabaleta earned his side a corner, from which Kompany powered a header on target, which was almost diverted into the net by the outstretched boot of Tevez.
The home side finally doubled their lead with 20 minutes remaining. Smart one-touch interplay between Gael Clichy and Tevez released Silva, who raced toward goal before effortlessly dinking the ball over the onrushing Schwarzer.
Seconds after the game restarted, Tevez and Silva combined again, but this time the diminutive playmaker could not beat Fulham’s Australian shot-stopper, dragging his effort wide of the far post.
Fulham mounted little in the way of a response, despite enjoying some healthy possession, and Joe Hart was almost completely untroubled as the game rolled towards its conclusion.
Aguero marked his return from injury with a brief but lively cameo off the bench and there was time for Dzeko to blaze an absolute sitter over the bar from six-yards.
The result sees Manchester City move to within four points of league leaders Manchester United, and if winning ugly is a sign of a good team, then City certainly proved their title credentials today.