MANCHESTER, England —Manchester City restored its three-point advantage at the top of the English Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Fulham at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Argentina international Sergio Aguero scored the opening goal from the penalty spot after nine minutes, his 15th league goal of the season. Just before the half-hour, City doubled their lead when Adam Johnson’s far post shot deflected into the goal off Fulham defender Chris Baird.
City were seeking to place pressure on defending champions Manchester United, who had drawn level with them at the top of the table in midweek and are scheduled to play Chelsea on Sunday.
And it proved to be a comfortable victory when striker Edin Dzeko scored the third goal after 72 minutes.
“I think maybe after tonight something can change for us,” said manager Roberto Mancini, who had seen City lose four of their eight league and cup games in the first month of 2012. “January was not a bad month but a difficult month for us. Now, maybe, we can go the other way.
“The clean sheet was important for the team and it was important to win quickly after the Everton defeat in midweek. I don’t think this puts pressure on United, they are used to always being there on top. But they are like us, we know if we want to win this league we should just try and win all the games and not think about other teams.”
A period of steady pressure featuring a pair of wayward shots from Dzeko, culminated in City taking the early lead.
Aguero ran past Philippe Senderos far too easily before passing to Johnson who was tripped by Baird in the area. Aguero converted the spot kick with a clinical shot into the top right-hand corner.
Dzeko turned an Aleksandar Kolarov shot to the wrong side of the post and Johnson might have had a second penalty when Baird, again, appeared to trip the England winger.
“I was surprised to see the penalty given,” Fulham manager Martin Jol said. “If you look at it again, maybe Johnson did well (to win it). But the second one probably was a penalty.
“The first goal was a soft penalty and the second goal was an own goal which is not what you want when you play a top team. After that, it was difficult for us.”
Aguero and Johnson also came close with long-distance shots as City’s England goalkeeper, Joe Hart, was finally called into action with a routine stop from Simon Davies and a dive to cover a curling Damien Duff shot.
But the outcome of the game appeared to be settled when Kolarov’s left-wing cross was flicked on at the near post by Aguero and met by Johnson. His powerful shot deflected off Baird and beat Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal.
Schwarzer had to save smartly to keep the scoreline respectable, first from his own defender Senderos then from Aguero but Fulham’s best hope appeared to lie in the game being abandoned as the snowfall worsened.
Play was halted twice in the second half to allow groundstaff to clear snow from the pitch markings.
Hart subsequently needed two attempts to smother shots from Stephen Kelly and a Baird free kick after initially fumbling the ball in the icy conditions.
But City pushed on and Fulham required desperate defending to block attempts from Aguero and Silva before Dzeko scored City’s third goal.
Aguero again created the goal, racing past Senderos into the Fulham area where he squared the ball for Dzeko to sweep home from 12 yards.
Kolarov and Mousa Dembele were cautioned for an altercation and there was momentary, late anxiety for the league leaders when Bryan Ruiz’s corner struck Dzeko and the City post and a Duff shot was well saved by the diving Hart.