Manchester City moved top of the Premier League table on Saturday but they left it late to secure a 2-1 win over Fulham at the Etihad Stadium.
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It seemed like a typical day at the Premier League champions’ office when Ilkay Gundogan advanced from midfield before playing Julian Alvarez to open the scoring, but the mood at the Etihad Stadium changed when Joao Cancelo conceded a penalty and received a red. card 10 minutes later. The free kick was converted by Andreas Pereira, but despite the numerical advantage, it was the Citizens who kept control of the game.
Kevin De Bruyne was Manchester City’s brightest in a game that required his full league caliber. The hosts thought they had taken the lead when the Belgium international connected with substitute Erling Haaland in the 75th minute – only for VAR to confirm he was slightly offside.
It seemed to be City’s last chance of the game before De Bruyne won an injury-time penalty. He left the duty to Haaland, who made no mistake as he dispatched from 12 yards to earn three important points for his team.
Pep Guardiola’s side made sure to stay in control despite dropping to 10 men at the start, and they finally got their reward. De Bruyne also appears to be in the kind of form that was crucial in helping them win the league title last season.
An unnecessary challenge from Cancelo made things difficult for his team, turning what looked like a routine afternoon into a busy day for the rest of his teammates.
Pep Guardiola, 7 years old — Manchester City appeared to stay in control despite a man down, and Guardiola didn’t panic as he made just two substitutions before injury time.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ederson, 6 — There was little for Ederson to do that day as Fulham offered few shots on target in open play.
DF João Cancelo, 3 — A sending-off and a penalty left him all to do in a game City were leading when he received his marching orders.
DF Nathan Ake, 6 — Forced to work hard as the opposition committed forward numbers when counter-attacking on the flanks and were often able to rise to the challenge.
DF Manuel Akanji. 6 — Akanji could have done better with his chance near half-time, when he headed a free header straight at Fulham keeper Bernd Leno.
DF John Stones, 7 — Stretched the game steadily down the right flank with hard-to-return runs for Fulham. A precise cross curving towards Haaland almost saw Stones pick up an assist, but the Norway international couldn’t put his effort on target.
MF Rodri, 7 — Showed more focus on his defensive duties after Cancelo was dismissed and helped keep Manchester City in control in midfield. Rarely made a bad call in passing and was quick to shut down danger to prevent play developing in City’s third of the field.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 7 — The Germany international controlled play well throughout the game, but his play was best defined by excellent midfield drive complemented by an accurate pass to assist the fly-half. Well chosen Haaland in the second half with a nod.
MF Kevin De Bruyne, 9 — Manchester City’s regular talisman looked most likely to shake things up from midfield as he remained at the heart of all promising attacking moves. Often able to unlock his more advanced players with precise passes into tricky areas. Won the penalty in added time to win the match.
FW Jack Grealish, 6 — Looked to make room along the canal before making crosses in the box which never seemed to find its target. Two shots on goal didn’t bother the keeper before he was replaced by Phil Foden.
Forward Julian Alvarez, 7 — A powerful strike from Alvarez saw him put Manchester City ahead after timing their run behind the defense to perfection. Replaced just after the hour mark by Haaland.
AT Bernardo Silva, 6 — A deception down the right flank saw Silva make it difficult for his opponents to shut him down, but the final ball was not at his normal level that day.
Erling Haaland (Álvarez, 64′), 7 — Had the ball in the back of the net but VAR intervention revealed it was slightly offside. Made no mistake with the penalty to seal the game with moments to spare.
Phil Foden (Greal, 64′), 6 — Introduced just after the hour mark and played straight, although he faced similar difficulties to Grealish trying to create opportunities down the flanks. Looked more impressive when combining in central areas.
Ruben Dias (Gundogan, 97′), N/R — Brought in to help see the final seconds of the game.
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