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Man City overcomes defensive errors to knock off Fulham

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The Canadian Press
12/21/2013 12:47:26 PM
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LONDON -- Manchester City substitutes Jesus Navas and James Milner recovered a 4-2 victory at Fulham on Saturday after the visitors threw away a two-goal lead in a rain-lashed English Premier League encounter.

Yaya Toure put City in front with his fourth goal from a free kick this season and captain Vincent Kompany fired in City's second just before halftime.

But five minutes after the break City conceded possession near the Fulham penalty area, and Kieran Richardson completed a rapid counterattack to begin the hosts' fightback.

In wild, windy conditions on the banks of the River Thames, Fulham was gifted an equalizer in the 69th. Kompany inexplicably sliced the ball past his own goalkeeper Joe Hart, who was recalled after being dropped in league games since October.

But Navas restored City's lead in the 78th when he slotted through goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg's legs.

And City ripped through the Fulham defence again five minutes later as Milner scored to condemn Fulham to an eighth loss in nine league games.

While Fulham is next from bottom, City rose provisionally into second place, a point behind Liverpool.

"It was a really difficult match because the pitch wasn't good and it was very windy," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said.

City can be overtaken by either Arsenal or Chelsea, who play on Monday, but the team's status as the league's most formidable attack was reinforced here against the most porous defence.

While City has a leading-leading 55 goals, Fulham has conceded a high of 32.

But away from the Etihad Stadium, City has averaged only a point a game this season, and the intensity from the hosts was greater from the outset.

The City defence was easily beaten after 13 minutes, as Adel Taarabt forced Hart into making a fine diving save -- one of several that convinced Pellegrini to retain the goalkeeper for Thursday's match against Liverpool.

"At the moment he deserved to play today and he also deserves to continue," Pellegrini said. "When I put (Costel) Pantilimon in the starting XI I spoke with Joe and he understood that he was not in a good moment.

"Maybe seven games after, one month after, he's working very hard, and I thought that he deserved another opportunity, and I think he did it well."

City's opener came in the 23rd minute from a set-piece.

After Silva was brought down on the edge of the area, Toure curled in a free kick off the underside of the crossbar.

City extended its lead in the 43rd. Silva's free kick was met by the unmarked Martin Demichelis at the far post. An initial header was saved well by Stekelenburg, but the ball was pushed straight to Kompany to fire in.

"The goals that we concede, from set plays, it's not good enough defending, especially the one just before halftime," Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen said.

"I was hoping the experience would kick in a bit from some of these players, to steady the ship."

That appeared to happen at the start of the second half.

Silva was tackled near the Fulham penalty area by Scott Parker, allowing Fulham to surge forward and score. Taarabt rampaged down the left flank past Demichelis who squared into the centre for Richardson to sweep the ball in.

City responded by taking off ineffective striker Dzeko, and bringing Navas on, leaving Negredo as the lone striker.

But Hart was beaten again, this time by his own player. Sascha Riether whipped a cross into the penalty, and Kompany managed to turn the ball into his own goal.

Kompany's blushes were spared, though, by Navas. The winger raced onto Silva's throughball, cut in from the right and slotted through Stekelenburg's legs from a tight angle.

And Milner ensured a comfortable conclusion for City, meeting Negredo's cross and netting his first league goal of the season.

Fulham did not risk playing Dimitar Berbatov after the striker picked up a groin injury in training.

Yaya Toure scores on Fulham (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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