Manchester City vs Fulham: Match Report

Visiting teams to the Etihad have set up in a diverse array of ways over the last decade, with many seeking to sit deep and defend and some pressing from the front foot.

I cannot recall many, though, who arrive determined to give the ball away in front of goal for the first 15 minutes at every opportunity they are given.

It was incredible. Not even three minutes were played when a Fulham pass was rolled to the feet of Riyad Mahrez midway inside the Fulham half. He flicked it on to Gabriel Jesus, who looked up and fed Raheem Sterling in on goal down the left. Sterling, who has as much faith in his left foot as I do, used the outside of his right instead and kicked it straight at Alphonse Areola in the Fulham goal. Big let off. So, lesson learned?

Well, no. A whole two minutes later and the ball was in the back of the Fulham net. The ball was lost on halfway this time, and suddenly Kevin de Bruyne was running at an exposed Fulham defence.

It was only going to end one way.

His perfectly measured through ball found Sterling in down the right this time, and he confidently stroked the ball into the bottom corner. It was the early goal City craved, and that the Cottagers would have feared.

Would Fulham now stop giving the ball away? The answer may not surprise you in that, no, no they did not. The turnover of possession was incredible, and City were starting to carve out chances at something approaching their fluid best.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa was the next guilty man, losing the ball on the D of his own box, with de Bruyne’s quick one-two with Jesus well dealt with by Joachim Andersen. Joao Cancelo took aim next, with his curling effort from the edge of the box just too high.

After 10 (yes, that is ten) minutes, it was looking like it could be a cricket score. From a quickly taken corner, Mahrez then played in de Bruyne down the right channel, and his deflected driven cross was brilliantly kept out at his near post by Areola. A minute later, Gundogan drove over the bar from inside the box from a Cancelo cutback.

The only surprising thing is that it took 26 minutes for two.

When Sterling collected the ball in the middle of the Fulham box, alarms would have been ringing. Andersen decided to turn the alarms into a full fire drill by needlessly kicking the City man’s knee in the box, with Jon Moss instantly pointing to the spot.

Would de Bruyne have nerves after his penalty miss against Liverpool? If he did, they were not apparent as he easily converted, sending Areola the wrong way.

The only other City chance of note in a dominant first half performance came after a wonderful Mahrez chip saw Sterling’s side-footed volley well pawed away by the excellent Areola, although Fulham were almost gifted a goal after Ederson charged needlessly out of his goal just as John Stones played a backpass towards him.

Luckily for the Brazilian goalkeeper, the ball trickled just wide.

Half time: Manchester City 2-0 Fulham

The second half kicked off with City very much in job-done mode, happy to counter as Fulham pressed up the pitch.

However, like in the first half, Fulham’s defence again gave the impression that they do not deem the first 10 minutes of a half to warrant any, well, defending.

First, a de Bruyne-Jesus exchange saw the former strike the bar with a powerful shot, before the Belgian was sent clean through by the imperious Mahrez. Areola, again, did well to come out and block, but it was a chance you would expect the brilliant Belgian to finish.

Half chances followed, with a de Bruyne effort whipped just over and Ruben Dias prodding a freekick wide when well placed. Fulham did manage a shot on target, with Ivan Cavaleiro’s drive from the corner of the box held by Ederson at his near post. Aside from that, the City man could have been excused for having a chair and a book around to keep him entertained.

The final 10 minutes saw City run the clock down easily, and puts them in the Champions League places for the first time this season. Fulham remain just outside the drop zone, and knowing they have more important fixtures coming up.

Full time: Manchester City 2-0 Fulham

Man of the Match: Riyad Mahrez

Put simply, he was brilliant. His control, poise, passing, all were world class once again. Finally getting a consistent run, he is once more showing just how good he is.

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