City reminded Fulham of the harsh realities of the Premiership with a well deserved victory at Craven Cottage.
The Cottagers European adventure continued after a sensational 5-4 aggregate win over Juventus on Thursday evening but City showed exactly why they are pushing for a top four place with a clinical display.
But City have defender Kolo Toure to thank for avoiding a goal for Fulham which set up City’s opener. Zoltan Gera squeezed the ball beyond Shay Given but Toure to cleared off the line and set up a counter attack which was almost finished by Craig Bellamy. His shot struck the post but the rebound fell kindly for Roque Santa Cruz to tap in his fourth goal for the blues.
City would have expected a flourish from the home side, but Fulham offered little and it was no surprise when Carlos Tevez doubled the lead ten minutes from the break. Bellamy was again the architect on the left wing, crossing for the Argentine who turned future United defender Chris Smalling to bury the ball beyond Mark Schwarzer to send the blues in at half time two up.
It was the 22nd goal of a very successful season for the Argentine and has fully justified his move to Manchester from Trafford in the summer. Adam Johnson, last minute hero at Sunderland last week, came close to making it 3-0 midway through the second half but his dipping shot crashed against the post.
But with fifteen minutes remaining, Fulham were handed an unexpected lifeline. A cross from Chris Baird struck Gareth Barry and the referee adjudged it to strike his hand and awarded Fulham a penalty which Danny Murphy duly dispatched.
Fulham’s attempt at an equaliser also came to fruition when substitute Stefan Okaka struck the ball wide from ten yards out while in the final moments of injury time, Fulham appealed for another penalty after Bjorn Helge Riise’s cross struck Vincent Kompany on the arm but the referee turned down the home side’s appeals.
After Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford, City move back into fifth in the Premier League, just two points behind Spurs with a game in hand and the attention will now turn to Wednesday’s home game against Everton, which could see the blues move into the top four with eight games remaining.