Manchester City increased their Premier League lead to 17 points with a 3-0 victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage. Pep Guardiola’s team were not at their best in the first half, but a sequence of errors by the visitors helped them to cruise to victory in the second.
In the 47th minute, John Stones scored, Gabriel Jesus added a second nine minutes later, and Sergio Aguero converted a penalty after Ferran Torres was fouled by Tosin Adarabioyo on the hour. Guardiola made seven changes from the squad that defeated Southampton on Wednesday, but the away side was still in command, despite being marginally below par. Even during the sluggish first half,In the City center, Fulham lacked a touch.
Scott Parker was taken aback by his team’s collapse. The defense, which had been excellent for 45 minutes, fell asleep at a free kick, allowing Stones to score the game’s first goal. They had flirted with risk in the first half by playing the ball out from the back, and their second and third goals came as a result of possession mistakes. Fulham is now in the relegation zone. At the break, a draw was a valid goal. They would have been lifted out of the drop zone if that had been possible.
It took a long time for City to gain control. It took them more than 17 minutes to get their first chance. Joao Cancelo threaded a pass into Torres’ direction down the inside right line, but Alphonse Areola had seen the danger and narrowed the angle, allowing the goalkeeper to avoid the attempt.
City was getting more and more of the ball, and when they did, they used a back three. At times, Stones and England defender Aymeric Laporte hugged the touchlines, and the latter was ready to join the attack. With two fine diagonal balls to Benjamin Mendy, he demonstrated his passing range, but the massed defense thwarted the threat.
In Fulham’s half, there was very little space. To get engaged, Aguero and Jesus had to dig deep. Parker’s players struggled over any loose ball, shut down their rivals, and obstructed passing lanes. Harrison Reed was City’s chief irritant, bullying ballcarriers and stepping in to shore up the back line when required.Bernardo Silva attempted to break the deadlock by dribbling past three defenders into the penalty box, but his shot was short, and Areola easily saved it.
Fulham had room to counter, and Ola Aina took advantage of it to dash 40 yards upfield before giving Ivan Cavaleiro the opportunity to cross, but the ball was aimless, as were so many of the home side’s offers across the City box.
Fulham may have made more money by attempting to get the ball out easily against the away team’s high line and thinly spread defenders, but they continued to play out from the back. When they wanted to break fast, they worried City the most.
Just before halftime, Aguero created a chance by running on to a chested pass from Torres, but the angle was close again, and Areola easily saved.
Parker’s team led at halftime, but something went horribly wrong in the second half. They were called for an unnecessary penalty on the touchline.Stones ran through to put the ball in the net after Cancelo curved in a cross and the defense stood motionless.
Fulham was now in shambles. Cavaleiro brought the ball around the face of goal nine minutes after dropping behind and played a panicked shot back to Joachim Andersen. Under attack, the centre half has no alternative but to try to get the ball out of the danger zone. Cavaleiro was struck by his clearance, and the rebound put Jesus in the open. The Brazilian took his time around the goalkeeper before scoring.
Three minutes later, the crash continued. Torres was able to take advantage of Adarabioyo’s hesitation with the ball, dispossessing the goalkeeper and advancing into the box. Adarabioyo made matters worse by taking down the City striker. The penalty was slammed home by Aguero. Fulham’s chances of winning the game were now dwindling.
To defeat those rash rivals, City did not need to play well. Fulham cannot tolerate those attention lapses if they want to prevent relegation.