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City forced to battle for all three points at the Cottage

CITY SLICKERS: Man City Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure (right) in celebratory mood

A LATE error by Fulham's John Arne Riise gifted Manchester City a much needed 2-1 win at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

A game, which started slowly, burst into life in the 9th minute when Pablo Zabaleta brought down Riise in the box. Referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot. Mladen Petric stepped up and sent Joe Hart the wrong way to give the home side a 1-0 lead. Fulham had their tails up and went looking for a second goal.

Hugo Rodallega crossed the ball into the City area but Petric could not reach it. In the 25th minute Riise had a free kick saved by Hart. Gradually City came into the game and started probing. Sergio Arguero hit the side netting from a David Silva Corner and Gael Clichy saw his shot saved.

In the 42nd minute City equalized. After some intricate and incisive passing and movement, Mark Schwarzer saved Carlos Tevez’s deflected shot but the rebound fell to Arguero who slotted the ball home. It was no more than City deserved just before the break.

In the second half Man City took total control. On 59 minutes Aguero saw his header go just wide and five minutes later Zabaleta shot wide. Roberto Mancini then decided to bring on Balotelli for Tevez who had a rather quiet game by his standards

One of the few chances Fulham had in the second half fell to David Ruiz who saw his long range shot saved by Hart.

In the 85th minute Mancini played his final card by bringing on Edin Dzeko for Javi Garcia and with that inspired substitution he hit the jackpot. A cross put into the box was helped on by Balotelli, but Riise could only head the ball straight at Dzeko, who composed himself and smashed it in from just 6 yards to win the game for City.

On the balance of play it was no more than Man City deserved. They showed why they are champions here today as they kept probing away rather than settling for the draw.

Fulham must have felt that they could at least get a draw from this game. But when you play teams like Man City you cannot afford to switch off for a second or make a mistake. Unfortunately that is exactly what they did.

Rodallega and Petric put in a shift but they missed the finesse of Dimitar Berbatov who was injured.

Fulham manager Martin Jol sai: “You cannot complain. They are a world-class team. The goals were scrappy.

"In the second half they were stronger than us. They were more eager to score than us.”

Mancini was happy that his team had belatedly secured all three points. He said: “We were unlucky for three or four weeks. We had a lot of possession today.”

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