Manchester City v Fulham: One Pass From Pizarro Shows Why He's Been Signed
For the neutral this was not a match to savour, but for City fans it was three hugely important points and a comfortable win that was sorely needed after an arduous January. While not a bogey team on the same level as Everton, City’s recent record against Fulham (a storming 4-1 win at Craven Cottage last season notwithstanding) meant complacency wasn’t an option. Nothing but three points would be sufficient.
The line-up did not inspire great confidence. There was Kolarov, who to be blunt, had been atrocious of late and Adam Johnson, who to my recollection has never put in an impressive performance when starting a game. A minor knee injury ruled out Kompany, meaning the very raw Stefan Savić was handed another start. I like Savić, but it’s clear he needs time to adjust to the rigours of English football. Thankfully, Fulham could not have given him an easier ride.
Unlike the famous ‘Ballet on Ice’ at Maine Road in ’67, this was emphatically not a classic. ESPN executives must have been cursing after the banner Premier League game of their free weekend turned out to be such a damp squib. Of the three goals, only one was a direct result of City’s incision, Agüero making a lovely slippery run into the box to tee up Džeko. Stand-in left back Chris Baird was culpable for goals one and two. For the first, his inability to deal with Johnson zig-zagging towards goal lead to him sticking out a leg, and Johnson didn’t turn down the opportunity to win a penalty. A miserable opening half hour for Baird was compounded when he deflected Johnson’s wild shot in via his knee. Mark Schwarzer’s face was a picture of disbelief, then anger, then resignation, before he willingly toppled backwards into the snow.
While it would do Fulham a disservice to call them unambitious, they seemed all at sea in their own half, all too happy to invite City onto them.
While it would do Fulham a disservice to call them unambitious, they seemed all at sea in their own half, all too happy to invite City onto them. The first half was largely the same story – Fulham retreating into their defensive third while City floated around the box, looking for the killer pass. On the few occasions the Cottagers did break they seemed able enough, Moussa Dembélé in particular impressed with his lithe athleticism and ability to find space. Clint Dempsey, meanwhile, has been in inspired form of late, but was too blunt an attacking threat to do any damage. All in all, City could not have wished for more hospitable opponents after coming away empty handed against a stubborn, resilient Everton side in midweek.
If the first half was somewhat dull, what came after the interval was largely incoherent. As the snow continued to fall in thick flurries, the standard of football slipped accordingly. Fulham showed admirable resolve to come forward on numerous occasions throughout the second half (indeed, they enjoyed the majority of possession), but their attacking players rarely came close to conjuring a goal. Even the late introduction of the cheerful Brian Ruiz did little to help their cause, and the closest they came to pulling one back was when a shot deflected off Džeko’s shin and trickled towards the post.
An unglamorous game but a potentially massive three points for City, and now all eyes turn to Stamford Bridge to see how Manchester Unitedrespond. Unless it gets called off.
Meanwhile, play had to be stopped twice in the second half to enable City’s ground staff to clear snow from the penalty box lines (in what was either a show of laziness or subtle arrogance, they didn’t bother to clear snow from the home side’s box the first time around). Play slowed to a crawl, tackles and passes were leaving tracks in the snow, and a previously mild game... well, remained mild, but there was an incident of sorts where Kolarov attempted to pull Dembélé to the ground, and they then did that primal threatening-to-headbutt-one-another thing.
(Quick aside: Whatever happened to the orange footballs they used to use for games played in snow? Do they still exist? On a white and green surface, the yellow ball used at the Etihad was almost invisible at times.)
Džeko’s goal aside, there was little else of note in the second half, save the debut of loan signing David Pizarro on the cusp of a lengthy spell of added time. He had little to do in truth, but a lovely through ball to Kolarov gave City fans a glimpse of his capabilities. An accomplished regista in his finest form for Roma, Pizarro’s ability to orchestrate play and make incisive passes from deep was Mancini’s key motivation for bringing him in, hoping he may provide the cutting edge City have desperarely needed in order to break down teams intent on parking the bus. Happily for Mancini and City, such was not necessary against a disappointingly limp Fulham side. An unglamorous game but a potentially massive three points for City, and now all eyes turn to Stamford Bridge to see how Manchester United respond. Unless it gets called off.
Click here for more Manchester City stories
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook