Silva stars in Man City's winter warmer

Posted by Simon Curtis

Freezing weather demands lively football to warm us all up and, although Manchester City huffed and puffed against Fulham, making an immediate breakthrough, the game quickly got bogged down in a familiar situation of cat and mouse: City in complete and comfortable control, the Cottagers unable or unwilling to do much about it.

- Mison: Running on empty, Jol out of ideas

For this admirable control, the Blues once again had David Silva to thank. He scored the early goal to make it one-nil. By the end, he had scored again and missed a glorious chance for his hat-trick. He had completed 60 passes, more than anybody else on the pitch, of which 92% had found the correct target. He had produced six goal-scoring chances for others, the most of anybody present and had scored all the goals the game had to offer.

The ovation he was afforded when he left the pitch after 88 minutes was clear proof that everybody, including manager Roberto Mancini, were more than pleased with the little man's assistance in gaining City a fifth straight win since the disaster at the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day. Norwich, Stoke, Arsenal and Watford have been put to the sword since that day, with a total of fourteen goals flying into the back of the net. Only Norwich's three, in a somewhat atypical game at Carrow Road, have gone in at the opposite end during this period.

City have started the New year well. The form of last season is yet to return but that dogged ability to carve out win after win is still there, even if the all-pervading possession football went askew on this occasion. Mancini resisted the temptation of bringing the returning Nasri and Aguero into the side, instead sticking with the eleven, who had performed so well in dispatching Arsenal last week.

The visit of Fulham was one to get a certain number amongst us feeling slightly romantic. Old partnerships were in evidence as Tevez and Berbatov and Karagounis and Javi Garcia lined up opposite each other, perhaps thinking of olden times when they bestrode in unison the fields of England and Portugal respectively. Quickly it became obvious that Garcia and a number of others on the pitch were keen to take this affection to higher levels, giving away plenty of presents in a midfield scramble that was at once touching and also more than slightly frustrating.

As the game drifted, dreamy reveries took us off to the banks of the Thames in 1999, where City dreadnought Andy Morrison, not known up to that point in a career full of broken bones and fistfights, as an incurable romantic, sidled up to the apparently good-looking and undoubtedly well-built Stan Collymore, then of Fulham. In a moment of touching togetherness, Morrison - to the crowd's general surprise - attempted to produce a full-bodied copy of the scene from Leaving Las Vegas where Nicholas Cage notices the formidable assets of Elizabeth Shue. Morrison even had his tongue fully extended in preparation for the inevitable.

Thankfully something deep in Morrison's troubled psyche snapped him back to reality and he tried to lay Collymore out with a haymaker instead, for which he got a red card. At this stage, the game was crying out for kissing, punching or even a brief appearance by Elizabeth Shue to liven things up. It slumped into a mid-match morasse of squandered passes and haphazard defending, leaving us all with plenty of time to try to imagine for ourselves what a kiss from Andy Morrison might feel like or indeed look like.

Suddenly there was space. City's high pressing was beginning to tie Fulham in knots and their continual loss of possession was beginning to result in proper chances for the Blues. Sadly, a number of blue shirts were also in the midst of a day of giving the ball away, leaving us with a ping pong of skewed passes to delight at. Whilst Barry and Milner in midfield did their utmost to help us forget that Yaya is far away in the Southern Hemisphere, poor Javi Garcia continued to look ponderous and predictable, whilst Tevez and Dzeko again fired blanks upfront.

The former covered for this evident off day by running his socks off, the latter livened things up by shooting at members of the crowd. Indeed the work of the likes of Tevez, Clichy, Zabaleta and Silva of chasing down the ball whilst it was still deep in Fulham's half was one of the obvious successes of City's game plan. On another day, with greater accuracy in passing and finishing, Fulham would have been buried long before the end.

For the umpteenth time, City were left to think about the growing list of missed chances carved out in the last twenty minutes, all but two of which went begging. Silva's hat-trick miss when clear through on Schwarzer's goal was easier than the one he had already scored after 68 minutes and Dzeko's horrendous scoop over the bar in time added on, after an athletic surge down the right by Clichy, by this time playing as a roving striker, made the blood drain out of your face. The big Bosnian was probably in need of a loving hug, but all he got was row upon row of disbelieving faces. As Andy Morrison might have said, sometimes warm thoughts are difficult to come by.

ESPN Conversations