x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Man City remain on course for Champions League

Carlos Tevez appears increasingly determined to become the man who drags Manchester City into the Champions League.

Carlos Tevez, right, scored Manchester City's second and decisive goal against Fulham.
Carlos Tevez, right, scored Manchester City's second and decisive goal against Fulham.

LONDON // Carlos Tevez appears increasingly determined to become the man who drags Manchester City into the Champions League, and another fine individual performance helped his side move up to fifth in the Premier League. Tevez was instrumental in creating Roque Santa Cruz's opener, and he added the second himself to give his side a two goal advantage at half-time. Danny Murphy gave Fulham hope from the penalty spot 15 minutes from time but the visitors fully deserved their win, a timely response to Liverpool's 2-1 defeat at Manchester United earlier in the day.

City's owners made clear their expectations of a top-four finish before the season started and the Eastlands side now sit two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, with a game in hand, and two points ahead of Liverpool. Just seconds after Zoltan Gera's close-range effort for the hosts was cleared off the line by Kolo Toure, Tevez initiated a counter-attack that ended with the ball in the back of Fulham's net.

Wriggling into space, the Argentine played the ball into the feet of Craig Bellamy, who ran towards goal and his right-footed shot deflected off Aaron Hughes and onto the post, before falling invitingly for Santa Cruz to tap in. In the 36th minute, Tevez doubled the advantage, finishing a flowing passing exchange with Bellamy by cutting inside Chris Smalling and turning the ball past Schwarzer with aplomb for his 22nd goal of the season.

"Carlos scored a fantastic goal, a key goal, because after we had lots of other chances but didn't score," said Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager. "Liverpool are a fantastic team and we must fight them, Aston Villa and Tottenham until the end." After the break, Santa Cruz forced Schwarzer into a smart save before Adam Johnson, the City winger, saw his fierce strike graze the outside of the post.

Roy Hodgson's side were back in the game in the 75th minute when Gareth Barry clearly handled Chris Baird's cross and referee Lee Probert awarded a penalty. Murphy, the Fulham captain, made no mistake with his spot-kick. The Fulham substitute Stefano Okaka missed a good opportunity before the home crowd roared for another penalty after Vincent Kompany appeared to handle in added time. "We came very close to an equaliser and I don't think there was any kind of hangover from beating Juventus on Thursday," said Hodgson. If last Thursday belonged to Fulham after they knocked out the Italian giants in the Uefa Cup, yesterday belonged to City, it belonged to Tevez.

sports@thenational.ae