Manchester City continued their return to form with another one-sided home win, outclassing Fulham to move up to fourth in the Premier League table.
Pep Guardiola’s side recorded their now annual 5-0 home win over Burnley last weekend and were similarly dominant, albeit a bit wasteful against the Cottagers to move three points behind league-leaders Tottenham.
Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne laid the platform for the win, with the latter setting up the former to slot in the opening goal.
The roles were then reversed with the England winger tripped in the box by Joachim Andersen to allow the Belgian midfielder to score from the penalty spot.
The pair could easily have had another four goals between them but Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola made a string of good saves, while De Bruyne also struck the bar with a shot.
It is the first time this campaign that City have won back-to-back league matches and it lifts them to a spot in the table more in keeping of a side with title aspirations.
Fulham spent most of the game repelling attacks, but at least tried to ask questions of the home side, as they did to far greater effect at Leicester on Monday.
An eighth defeat of the season means the Cottagers remain 17th in the table, one point better off than West Brom and Burnley, both of whom have played a game less.
Pep reaches 700 as City make their move
This was City boss Pep Guardiola’s 700th game as a manager, during which he has won 29 major trophies in 11 seasons, including two Premier League titles with City.
Their inconsistent form in the early stages of this campaign has prompted some to question whether they are capable of reclaiming the English top-flight crown, which they relinquished to Liverpool last season.
The critics may not be entirely won over by successive victories over such vastly inferior opposition as Burnley and Fulham, but they cannot deny the ease with which they were dispatched.
Nor can they ignore the small signs of that confident swagger returning to City’s play nor the ominous stamping of authority on both games by De Bruyne, who scored his first league goal since the opening day win over Wolves and made it 14 assists in 2020 – more than any other Premier League player.
City weren’t perfect – this should have at least matched the scoreline against Burnley – and there are bigger challenges to come, not least of all at Manchester United in their next league fixture, but with some stars rediscovering their form and Sergio Aguero reportedly soon to return from injury, another title challenge from Guardiola’s side is well under way.
As for Fulham, you could forgive them for viewing this as something of a free hit, especially after having claimed a morale-boosting second win of the season earlier in the week.
Their season was never going to be defined by a fixture against an opponent who have now beaten them 10 times in a row by an aggregate of 29-3.
They failed to produce a meaningful effort at goal bar a couple of speculative Ivan Cavaleiro shots, but will be pleased at the determination and discipline they showed in not crumbling after Sterling’s early opener.
Things don’t get any easier for Scott Parker’s side, though. Up next: champions Liverpool.
Guardiola with a 72% win percentage
This was Man City boss Pep Guardiola’s 700th match in charge in his managerial career (W507 D111 L82), while it was his 250th in all competitions with the Citizens (W179 D34 L37).
Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 16 meetings with Fulham in all competitions (W13 D3), winning the last 10 in a row by an aggregate score of 29-3.
Fulham have conceded more goals than any other Premier League side this season (21), with no side conceding in more different games than the Cottagers (10).
Manchester City have scored as many goals over their last two Premier League games as they had in their previous seven in the competition (7).
This was the first time Manchester City didn’t make a single substitute in a Premier League match since April 2005, in a 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic.
Since joining Manchester City in 2015, Kevin De Bruyne has both scored and assisted a goal in 16 different Premier League games – no player has done so more in that time (level with Mohamed Salah).
Man City’s Raheem Sterling has won 20 penalties in the Premier League, more than any other player in the competition’s history.
Man City’s Kevin de Bruyne has been involved in more shots than any other Premier League player this season (62 – 34 shots, 28 chances created), with the Belgian involved in eight against Fulham this afternoon (6 shots, 2 chances created).