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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

City blasts Sunderland with CL place in sight

LONDON (AP) Manchester City thrashed Sunderland 5-0 to strengthen its chances of a top-four finish in the Premier League, and Fulham eased its relegation fears with a convincing 3-0 win over Blackpool on Sunday.

News photo
City of fortune: City's Yaya Toure celebrates after scoring in his team's 5-0 win over Sunderland on Sunday in Manchester, England. AP PHOTO

City had five different scorers in Adam Johnson, Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure as the rampant hosts threw off the shackles to move into third place in the table, above reigning champion Chelsea.

The title appears beyond City — with crosstown rival Manchester United 10 points clear at the top — but a finish in the Champions League positions looks well within reach for Roberto Mancini's side, which climbed six points above fifth-place Tottenham.

"In the last 45 days, we've played every three days and we've had more player injuries. That was the problem," said Mancini, whose team is out of Europe but through to play United in the F.A. Cup semifinals at Wembley.

"Now all the players have recovered and we play Saturday to Saturday, we don't have a problem. We hope we continue to play very well like today."

Bobby Zamora marked his first league start for Fulham in seven months with a quick-fire double before halftime against beleaguered Blackpool, guiding his team to a comfortable victory at Craven Cottage that lifts the London club into the top half of the table and six points clear of the bottom three.

Midfielder Dickson Etuhu scored Fulham's other goal to leave Blackpool just a point and a place from the relegation zone.

"We've never wavered from that view (that Fulham is a top-10 team) and we're in that position," Fulham manager Mark Hughes said. "We're three points from seventh. It's possible we can really establish ourselves from now until the end of the season in that top half."

Johnson opened the scoring for City in the ninth minute before Tevez reached 19 goals for the campaign — one behind leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov of Manchester United — by converting from the spot six minutes later after he was brought down by Phil Bardsley.

Silva poked home a close-range finish in the 63rd, and Vieira — with his first touch after coming on as a substitute — slid home a cross by Aleksandar Kolarov in the 68th to make it 4-0.

Toure completed the rout by jumping on a crazy cross-field pass by Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole and clipping a neat finish past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

"Our main goal at the start of the season was to qualify for the Champions League and that's still our main target, so it was a helpful three points," City midfielder Nigel de Jong said. "There are still seven games to go and anything can happen, but this is a great confidence boost for our team — we are real contenders for the Champions League places."

City is three points behind second-place Arsenal and a point ahead of Chelsea, both of which have played one game fewer than City, as has Tottenham.

Zamora, Fulham's top scorer last season, has been sidelined with leg and ankle injuries for most of this campaign but showed the team what it's been missing with a fine display against Blackpool.



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