Manchester City celebrated their fourth win in their fourth league match. Against Fulham, the defending champions were pragmatic and had the VAR on their side, along with three-pointer Haaland.
It took Manchester City an unusually long time to get into the game against Fulham FC on Saturday, with Palhinha absent from the squad after his bounced Bayern move. With new signing Doku making his debut with a starting eleven, the Skyblues’ otherwise dominant play was slow to get going.
Ream answers Alvarez by return of the post
It took a full 30 minutes in the absence of Pep Guardiola, who had back surgery, before the first typical City attack rolled – and promptly gave them the lead: Kovacic slipped through to Haaland, who found Alvarez somewhat unwillingly. El Arana took advantage of the opportunity and slotted home (31st).
However, the 1:0 did not last long, only two minutes later Ream pushed a corner kick into the net and equalised (33.). It remained an unusual half for the hosts, who repeatedly left the Cottagers spaces, which they were unable to exploit due to almost negligent misplaced passes.
Akanji offside? VAR on Aké’s side
Marco Silva’s team were punished for this in a most debatable manner. Aké nodded in almost as the half-time whistle blew, but Akanji was clearly offside and had dodged the ball so late that Leno’s delayed reaction was clearly visible (45.+5). The VAR, however, was not satisfied with the Swiss international’s action. After a long review, Michael Oliver finally pointed to the centre and City went into the break with the 2-1 lead.
After the break, the picture of the first half changed little. ManCity played superior, but lacked the final determination. But the triple winners were ice-cold. With the third real chance of the game, Haaland, who had been almost invisible up to that point, made the preliminary decision on an assist from Alvarez and beat Leno to make it 3:1 (58th).
Three-pointer Haaland for the decision
The former Dortmund player and the reigning world champion were to remain the decisive figures in a team that was now acting with more drive. First Haaland laid on again for Alvarez, against whom Diop saved (64th). Then the Frenchman was too late against the Argentine and caused a penalty kick, which Haaland used for the decisive 4:1 (70.).
This was followed by a final phase that offered little flow due to numerous changes, in which Fulham again showed caution. Ederson was on the spot against Jimenez (74), before Haaland scored his third goal in injury time to make it 5:1 (90.+5). What remained was a deserved victory for an efficient ManCity team, who went into the international break as league leaders in a pragmatic and relaxed manner without dropping a point.
After the international break, both teams will continue in step: On Saturday, 16 September, the Skyblues will host West Ham from 4 p.m., while Fulham will welcome Luton Town at the same time.