Fulham 0-3 Manchester City: Visitors waltz to comfortable victory

League leaders Manchester City made it 16 wins from 17 Premier League matches as they dispatched low-lying Fulham comfortably at Craven Cottage.

The hosts held strong in the first half, but the deadlock was broken soon after the break, and all three of City's goals fell within 13 minutes of one another. First John Stones prodded home from a free-kick, Gabriel Jesus then capitalised on an error from Joachim Andersen to double his side's lead, and the finishing touch was provided by Sergio Aguero from the penalty spot.

The result sees Fulham remain 18th in the standings, while City are now a staggering 17 points clear of local rivals Manchester United as we head into the final quarter of what could be the campaign in which Guardiola's side reclaim the English title.

Story of the game

Fulham manager Scott Parker made just the two changes to the side earned a historic win at Liverpool last time out: Ruben Loftus-Cheek came in for Bobby Decordova-Reid while Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa replaced Josh Maja in an apparent formation shift.

Meanwhile, there were seven adjustments to Pep Guardiola's starting 11, the most notable of which were seen in midfield. Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne all made way as City switched to a three-at-the-back system which included a certain Aguero leading the line, the first time the club record goalscorer has partnered Jesus up front since February 2020.

Visibly buoyed by that victory at Anfield, Fulham made an energetic start. Ademola Lookman tested the City defence with a couple of mazy runs down the right early on and on one occasion attempted to pick out Ivan Cavaleiro, ready to dart into the box, but the back line held strong.

Minutes later, Anguissa robbed Benjamin Mendy deep into the Frenchman's own half and surged towards goal before again trying that pass over to Cavaleiro on the other side, City's defence remaining alert to intercept and clear the danger.

It would be City, though, who fashioned the first clear-cut chance of the match. Joao Cancelo thread Ferran Torres through on goal with a beautifully weighted pass, and the Spaniard attempted a low drive into the far corner, but Alphonse Areola thwarted the effort with an outstretched leg.

All-in-all, it was a pretty even opening 30 minutes. Mendy and Cancelo were showing promise down City's flanks but most of City's attempts at getting in behind were stopped by the offside flag, while Fulham struggled to get out of their half at times but seemed quite content to bide their time and wait for the opportunity.

The visitors worked another good chance with 34 on the clock. Bernardo Silva picked up a loose ball just outside the Fulham area, weaved towards goal before shifting it onto his stronger left foot and leaving Tosin Adarabioyo grounded in the process, but his resultant effort was saved well by another low dive from Areola.

With about five minutes before half-time, Jesus pounced on the ball after a misunderstanding between Joachim Andersen and Adarabioyo. He looked for the run of Torres through on goal, but when the former Valencia forward attempted to cut it back for Jesus in the middle, Areola was again at hand to gather the ball.

City were probing. Aguero had been quiet thus far, but his eyes lit up when he latched onto a knockdown from Jesus and darted into the area. His low drive was no trouble for Fulham's French shot-stopper. We entered the break goalless.

And we emerged from it to see the deadlock broken almost immediately. The visitors earned a free-kick near to the left edge of the Fulham box. It was whipped in sumptuously by Cancelo and Stones made the crucial contact to prod the ball past Areola who, this time, was finally helpless to resist.

They nearly made it two when Bernardo, in superb form this evening, twinkle-toed his way past Ola Aina and teed up Rodri running into the area from deep, but the resultant effort was straight down the throat of the goalkeeper.

The visitors did find their second goal on the 55th minute, in quite calamitous fashion as far as Fulham will be concerned. Andersen slammed his clearance right into Cavaleiro and the ball was diverted into Jesus, still in the area after the last attack had fizzled out. With all the time in the world, the Brazilian rounded Areola and smashed it home.

City now had what felt like an insurmountable lead, leaving the Cottagers with a mountain to climb if they were going to salvage anything from this match.

It got even better for the visitors when Adarabioyo pulled down Torres in the area; no need for VAR to check hat one. Up stepped Aguero to drill the ball emphatically into the bottom corner and score his first league goal since January 2020.

The Citizens were really strutting their suff here, and Fulham had absolutely no reply.

Having urged his team to be more direct in the first 45, Guardiola had now changed his tune. "Keep the ball, keep the ball!", he shouted repeatedly as City settled into their shape and knocked the ball around.

Nonetheless, their intrinsic ambition made them search for that fourth goal to put the cherry on the icing on the cake and round off a truly fantastic performance in the second half.

Fulham, too, kept probing, hoping for a consolation to save their grace after goals they won't have been happy to concede. Substitutes Aleksandar Mitrovic and Josh Onomah combined as the former set the latter through on goal, but Ederson — untroubled in the match thus far — was alert to diver the midfielder's effort behind for a corner.

But that was that. A ruthless performance from City who switched it on when they needed to, while Fulham came smashing right back down to earth after their Merseyside victory last weekend.

Takeaways from the match

Tactical adaptability will bode well for Fulham

They don't often take a hiding — but, then again, they don't have to play sides of this calibre every week. The Cottagers will be pleased to have got this fixture out of the way.

But there were aspects of the match with which Fulham and his players can be pleased. Their deployment of four central midfielders showed their awareness of the threats City would pose in the middle of the pitch and, in the first half particularly, it reduced the space in which the visitors could operate significantly.

On another day — and, admittedly, against weaker opponents — it might have come off, but their ability and tendency to switch things up will serve Fulham well for the rest of the season.

Three in four for City?

It's always too early to predict who will claim the Premier League title until it's confirmed, but it feels as though no one will come anywhere near catching Guardiola's side now. The fact that they were in the bottom half 10 games into the campaign is incomprehensible — they've looked so dominant for so long now.

A staggering 16 wins out of 17 matches shows a side who are desperate to reclaim their title having lost it to Liverpool last season — their chances of doing just that are looking good, to say the very least.

Teams

Fulham: Areola; Tete, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Aina; Reed, Anguissa, Lemina (Onomah 72'); Loftus-Cheek (Mitrovic 62'), Cavaleiro (Robinson 78'), Lookman.

Unused subs: Fabri, Hector, Ream, Kongolo, Bryan, Maja.

Manchester City: Ederson; Stones, Dias (Garcia 73'), Laporte; Cancelo, Rodri, Bernardo (Fernandinho 66'), Mendy; Torres, Aguero, Jesus.

Unused subs: Steffen, Walker, Zinchenko, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Foden, Mahrez.

Up next

Following defeat here, Fulham are at home again in the Friday evening kick-off next weekend, with fellow newly promoted outfit Leeds United their visitors.

Meanwhile, Manchester City will be hoping to progress into the Champions League quarter-finals when German side Borussia Mönchengladbach visit the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

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