The Ped Report Fulham 1-2 City
Sunny Craven Cottage was the venue for the latest volume in the tales of Manchester City as the Blues in maroon looked to avoid a fifth consecutive match without a win.
Mancini fielded a "more like it" line up with Zabaleta restored to right back in a back four with Tevez and Aguero providing the spearhead, Garcia in for Milner and David Silva completing the ground attack trio.
After early exchanges proving to be mixed it was Zabaleta who was somehow penalised for bringing down Riise inside the box when the contact was clearly outside and the dive inside. Quite how City's one-time favourite referee Mark Halsey saw fit to point to the spot only he will know. Maybe he has now joined the growing band of referees intent on trying to call a halt to Sheikh Mansour's juggernaut.
There was some hope when Petric stood to take the kick - he is left footed and after all don't left footers sometimes give you a chance with key penalties? Alas that only seems to apply to English left footers as Petric hammered the ball one way with Hart diving the other.
Nine minutes gone, a gift to the home team and a team who has yet to concede a goal on home turf this season.
A few minutes later the self same Riise was involved in tugging back Tevez well inside the Fulham box and Halsey waved play on. Why? It was more of a penalty than the one awarded to Fulham. So a mountain had to be climbed, not only against tough opposition but a referee who looked as though he would give nothing today.
Neat football from midfield between Tevez, Aguero, Toure and Zabaleta produced a chance for Aguero which at first looked as though it had crossed the line, although cameras zoomed in on Schwarzer holding the ball right on the goal line. Did he scoop it back? Well Halsey wasn't going to debate it, play on the verdict.
Was anything going to go right for City. Schwarzer was having one of those days with which he has haunted the Blues for years. No doubt he is a top keeper, especially when City come to town.
Silva, Tevez and Aguero were clearly back to form today with Zabaleta in full support. The ground forces were causing problems for Fulham but everything seemed to get stuck in treacle inches from the Fulham goal.
But it was from that combination that the equaliser finally came two minutes from half time. First Silva found Tevez in space, inside right but outside the box. Tevez drilled in a shot uncharacteristically going wide, but Silva had for once followed it in and diverted it goalwards. Schwarzer somehow kept it out but the ball rebounded to the unattended Aguero who tapped in from a couple of yards.
City had become ascendant and after half time sought to put the hammer down. Five minutes in and an even more laughable decision by our friend Halsey, this time with Sidwell clearly and openly pushing over Zabaleta in the box. There was no other decision to give, unless you are called Mark Halsey.
So City had to continue to make their own luck and nearly did so when a glancing header by Aguero narrowly missed. Twenty minutes to go and time to shuffle the pack. Tevez was sent for a rest and on came Balotelli.
Fulham maybe could have got themselves a second penalty as the ball unwittingly caught Zabaleta`s arm as he flung himself in to block a cross and from the rebound Ruiz had a goalbound strike well saved by Hart.
Time to shuffle the pack again. Barry and Garcia off and Nasri and Dzeko on. Fifty seconds later Silva and Nasri combined to play in Clichy whose cross was glanced by Balotelli, half cleared by Riise and then fell to Dzeko who half-turned and drilled home the winner in supersub fashion with his first kick.
Hart seems to be gradually coming back to form as Mancini paraded a full complement of four in front of him which included Nastastic alongside Kompany. This looked a solid enough unit after the first few minutes. Garcia and Barry provided the cover with Toure and getting-back-to-form Silva providing the dynamism. Silva's passing was much tighter today and he was working the channels well.
The pace of Tevez and Aguero was always going to give Fulham a headache and so it did.
There were some neat touches from Balotelli and please oh please do not sell Edin Dzeko. How many times does he come up with a key goal. Today was no exception. Dzeko is a grafter and sometimes has to do a lot of work without the football, but today his reward was scoring with his first touch.
This was a key victory for City and a much needed one. It could indeed be the win that ignites the machine and gets it back on track. Mancini looked bewildered as the decisions went against his charges, but today they dug deep and dug out a much needed win.
He can now take his men home to prepare for the visit of Dortmund, before Sunderland come to town next week.
UPDATED UPCOMING FIXTURES:
all times East Manchester
We 03 Oct 19h45 Borussia Dortmund, The Etihad, CL
Sa 06 Oct 12h45 Sunderland, The Etihad, PL
Sa 20 Oct 15h00 West Brom, The Hawthorns, PL
We 24 Oct 19h45 Ajax, Amsterdam Arena, CL
Sa 27 Oct 17h30 Swansea City, The Etihad, PL
Sa 03 Nov 17h30 West Ham, Upton Park, PL
Tu 06 Nov 19h45 Ajax, The Etihad, CL
Su 11 Nov 13h30 Spurs, The Etihad, PL
Sa 17 Nov 15h00 Aston Villa, The Etihad, PL
We 21 Nov 19h45 Real Madrid, The Etihad, CL
Su 25 Nov 16h00 Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, PL
We 28 Nov 20h00 Wigan, DW Stadium, PL