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Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

City turns on style to rip Fulham apart

LONDON (AP) Manchester City moved three points behind joint leaders Chelsea and Manchester United with a 4-1 thrashing of Fulham, and Blackburn gave its new Indian owners a winning start in the Premier League by beating Aston Villa 2-0.

After being criticized for playing too negatively in recent games, City produced an attacking masterclass at Craven Cottage, with goals in either half by Argentina striker Carlos Tevez sandwiching efforts by Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure.

Zoltan Gera's 70th-minute consolation would have failed to brighten the mood of Fulham manager Mark Hughes, who was looking for revenge against the team that fired him midway through last season.

Blackburn was playing in front of two directors of Venky's, the Indian poultry giant which paid £23 million ($36.8 million) to buy out the club on Friday, and the team responded with a hard-fought victory over Villa courtesy of a goal in each half by Morten Gamst Pedersen.

With Chelsea losing to Birmingham and Arsenal going down to Tottenham on Saturday, City's win means the top four teams are separated by only three points.

Chelsea and Manchester United, which beat Wigan 2-0 on Saturday, have 28 points, two more than Arsenal.

After scoring in the fifth minute through Tevez, who shrugged off Carlos Salcido before slipping home a neat finish, City was in control and oozed a confidence that had been lacking in recent weeks.

"Especially in the first half, it was the best we've played," City and England midfielder Gareth Barry said. "It was a good chance to make an impression and move up the league."

Right back Pablo Zabaleta doubled City's lead in the 32nd and central midfielder Yaya Toure made it 3-0 in the 35th to complete the first-half scoring in front of former Argentina coach Diego Maradona, who was in the crowd.

Tevez flicked home Zabaleta's goal-bound shot in the 56th to make it 4-0, before Gera's deflected consolation.

"We had a fantastic performance," said City manager Roberto Mancini, whose tactics have been heavily criticized following recent scoreless draws at home to local rival United and Birmingham.

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