Pellegrini praises Toure after hat-trick
Manuel Pellegrini hailed the importance of midfielder Yaya Toure after the Ivorian's first career hat-trick.
MANCHESTER - Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini hailed the importance of midfielder Yaya Toure after the Ivorian's first career hat-trick helped his side to thrash Fulham 5-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.
Toure scored a penalty in each half before bringing up his treble just after the hour with a sublime effort from outside the box, reminiscent of his equalising goal in the 3-1 win over Sunderland in the League Cup final earlier this month.
City moved up a place to third, six points off leaders Chelsea with three games in hand and two behind Liverpool, who have played two matches more than Pellegrini's team.
The 30-year-old Toure has now scored 20 goals this season - 16 in the league - and he became the first City player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League since April 2012.
"Not every midfielder scores 20 goals a season so Yaya Toure is a very important player," Pellegrini told the BBC.
Toure's strikes took him past team mate Sergio Aguero into third spot on the league scoring chartes behind Liverpool duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
City's attack has been more subdued in recent months after an explosive first half to the season but they were back to their rampant best against Fulham, with Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis also on the scoresheet at the Etihad Stadium.
While Pellegrini was pleased with their attacking display, he was more satisfied by a fourth straight league clean sheet.
"After the first penalty, we played free and could score more goals. I am not only happy because we scored five goals but it was very important the way we defended.
"When in attack, it is not always easy not to concede a goal. We have four clean sheets in a row in the Premier League. It is very important to be a very balanced team."
Toure was delighted with his scoring exploits.
"That is the only time I have scored a hat-trick in my career," he said. "I am very happy and I think it is very important for the confidence for the next game," he said ahead of Tuesday's clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
"The team played very well. Credit to the manager because we are playing more attacking, we are always pressing high," he added. "It's very easy for me to be concentrating on doing something like I did today."
Having been dumped out of the FA Cup and Europe, City's sole focus is trying to overhaul Chelsea - who face Paris St Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals next month - and win a second league title in three seasons.
"We have only one thing to think about, the Premier League, Chelsea have two. It (the league title race) is going to be very, very tough and tight," said Toure.