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  • By Yann Tear at Craven Cottage

Fulham blitzed by early second-half salvo as Man City take another step towards Premier League crown

Fulham (0) 0

Manchester City (0) 3 Stones 47, Jesus 56, Aguero pen 60

A first-half full of promise gave way to stark reality as champions-elect City broke Fulham’s resistance and then went for the jugular.

Three goals in 13 minutes undid all the good work the Whites had done up to then and there was never going to be any way back from that against the runaway Premier League leaders.

Scott Parker’s men were so well organised and diligent with their pressing that City looked a little nonplused in that opening half – going about their work as if distracted by thoughts of whether they had left the gas hob on at home.

They created very little and seemed to be crying out for the missing creators who were on the bench – Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan were all omitted from the starting XI by Pep Guardiola.

Fulham had also produced very little themselves, but dared to dream. That was until the second half quickly made a nonsense of their ambitions to claim the point that would have hoisted them out of the bottom three.

John Stones made the breakthrough two minutes into the second half, prodding home from close-range after a hanging free-kick had been swung over from the left edge of the area by Joao Cancelo.

The lead was soon doubled as Gabriel Jesus picked up a loose ball after a mix-up between Ivan Cavaleiro and Joachim Andersen, and rounded Alphonse Areola before gleefully pummeling the back of the Fulham net.

Sergio Aguero made it three from the spot on the hour after Tosin had felled Ferran Torres after dithering on the ball. It was the Argentinian striker’s first league goal in 14 months, hard though that seems to believe.

The first goal freed up the visitors, who finally got into some of their more familiar rhythms. Silva’s trickery helped him get around the Fulham defence and Rodri met his pull-back with a firm drive straight at Areola as a prelude for the two goals which quickly followed Stones’ opener.

The Whites had only pride to play for after that, and the consoling notion that more than ever, they are very much in touching distance of the teams just above them – Brighton and Newcastle – even after a trio of games against elite sides. Leeds at home next Friday is the challenge that awaits.

In a first half of surprisingly few eye-catching moments, Areola needed to be sharp to block a Torres effort after Cancelo had fed in a dangerous ball from the right and Silva wriggled past two players before getting a weak shot away before Aguero also tried an angled shot that proved easy to stop. A very mundane half was not to be repeated by City.

Whites: Areola – Tete, Andersen, Tosin, Aina – Anguissa, Reed, Lemina (Onomah 73) – Loftus-Cheek (Mitrovic 63) – Cavaleiro (Robinson 79), Lookman. Subs not used: Hector, Ream, Bryan, Maja, Kongolo, Fabri

City: Ederson – Stones, Dias (Garcia 75), Laporte – Cancelo, Rodri, Silva (Fernandinho 67), Mendy – Torres – Jesus, Aguero. Subs not used: Walker, Gundogan, Zinchenko, Steffen, De Bryune, Mahrez, Foden


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