Sergio Aguero scored his first Premier League goal since January 2020 as Manchester City cruised to a straightforward 3-0 win at Fulham and extended their lead at the top of the table.
Scott Parker’s Cottagers had given their survival hopes a massive boost with a 1-0 win at Liverpool last weekend, but runaway leaders City brought them back down to Earth with a clinical second-half display.
Neither side looked particularly impressive in the first half, with City’s few opportunities not giving Alphonse Areola a great deal to worry about.
But Pep Guardiola’s men took their chances in the second period as Fulham gifted them a couple of goals, with John Stones, Gabriel Jesus and Aguero netting, the latter’s penalty his first league strike since January 21 last year after being plagued by injuries.
Fulham were initially the brighter of the two teams as Ademola Lookman’s pace and trickery caused issues, but he was guilty of overplaying early on and allowed Ruben Dias to block a shot.
Bernardo Silva and Aguero both drew routine saves from Areola at the other end, but the goalkeeper was helpless to keep City out at the start of the second half.
Just 76 seconds after the restart, Stones latched on to Joao Cancelo’s free-kick delivery and guided the ball in from close range.
It was 3-0 by the hour mark – first, Jesus rounded Areola and smashed home after Joachim Andersen’s clearance struck Ivan Cavaleiro and fell kindly for the Brazilian.
Then former City youngster Tosin Adarabioyo was tackled on the edge of his own area by Ferran Torres and he subsequently hauled the Spaniard down, with Aguero converting the penalty.
City comfortably saw the game out to extend their lead at the summit to 17 points, though second-placed Manchester United do have two games in hand.
What does it mean? City make Fulham pay for errors as hosts get a reality check
Having lost just one of their previous seven Premier League games, Fulham have hoisted themselves back to within touching distance of safety and have received a lot of praise for their performances.
But there were hints of them believing the hype as they played one pass too many in decisive areas, meaning City were able to keep them out at the back and punish those errors at the other end.
City were by no means excellent in the first half, with many of their regulars held back for the week ahead, yet you still got the impression they knew what they were doing.
Cancelo catches the eye
It was not a match full of standout individual performances, but Cancelo – as he often does – did make his mark.
The Portuguese full-back has developed into a key man for City and he was a joy to watch here, his forays forward adding an extra dimension to his team.
While he only played one key pass in open play, he also got the assist for Stones’ opener with a gorgeous delivery and was solid defensively, making five tackles – tied with Rodri for the most by a City player.
Adarabioyo’s day to forget
Playing against his former team, Adarabioyo will have been desperate to impress, and perhaps that was partly to blame for his decision-making in the lead-up to the City penalty.
His attempt to dribble past Torres was unnecessary and he conceded the foul. That aside it is difficult to say he impressed much defensively, failing to make any tackles or clearances.
City now turn their attentions towards the Champions League as they face Borussia Monchengladbach in the second leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday. As for Fulham, they host Leeds United on Friday.
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