By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Sergio Aguero scored his first Premier League goal for 14 months as Manchester City cruised to a 3-0 victory at Fulham on Saturday to continue their countdown to the title.
The Argentine, who had made only 14 appearances in the last 12 months before getting the nod at Craven Cottage, tucked in penalty to complete a straightforward win that left leaders City 17 points clear of their nearest challengers.
Fulham, who had the incentive of knowing a win or a draw could lift them out of the bottom three, kept City firmly in check in the first half but crumbled after the break to concede three times in the space of 14 minutes.
City defender John Stones was left unmarked to score from close range in the 47th minute and Gabriel Jesus then capitalised on some comical defending to make it 2-0.
Aguero then converted his penalty to make the points safe and from then on it was damage limitation for Fulham.
City, who made seven changes to their side with one eye on next week's Champions League last-16 second leg tie against Borussia Moenchengladbach, move to 71 points from 30 games, 17 ahead of Manchester United who have two games in hand.
Fulham have 26 points from 29 games, behind Brighton & Hove Albion on goal difference.
Home manager Scott Parker would have been delighted with the way his team managed City in the first half, restricting Pep Guardiola's side to half chances.
But they self-destructed in the second half, culpable in all three of City goals.
"We tried to take the game to the best team in Europe and this division. I thought we did do that. We conceded silly goals in the second half," he said.
"I asked the team to be brave and show a way about us to try and assert ourselves on Man City. For large parts they did very well but it was some silly goals, really."
Things began to go wrong for Fulham in the 47th minute when City were awarded a free kick out on the left.
Fulham's defensive line was too high and when Joao Cancelo whipped the ball into the danger area, Stones timed his run well and was all alone to prod the ball past Alphonse Areola.
City do not usually require gifts but they got another soon after. This time Fulham got themselves in a dreadful tangle as they over-elaborated in defence and Joachim Anderson's attempted clearance struck his team mate Ivan Cavaleiro and the ball fell for Jesus who took the ball around Areola to score.
Fulham failed to learn and Tosin Adarabioyo tried an audacious drag back on the edge of his penalty area and was robbed by Ferran Torres who he then fouled.
Aguero's penalty was not his best, but good enough to end a 417-day wait for his 181st league goal for the club.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)