Manchester City 5, Fulham 1
Erling Haaland hit his 7th Manchester City hat trick as Fulham were well beaten at the Etihad after a controversial Nathan Ake goal.
The big Norwegian had already been named man of the match before he completed his hat trick which supplemented goals from Julian Alvarez and Ake to send them back to the top of the Premier League going into the international break.
And with just 39 Premier League appearances to his name he already have five hat tricks on top of another record as he became the fastest to record 50 goals or assists in the Premier League (41 goals, 9 assists) in those appearances – beating Andrew Cole who did it in 43 appearances.
City had started with Jeremy Doku making his full debut in place of the injured Jack Grealish, while Bernardo Silva and Josko Gvardiol were also stood down for Manuel Akanji and Phil Foden as Juanma Lillo made three changes to the side that beat Sheffield United.
Fulham were hit by an early blow when Tom Cairney had to go off injured, and was replaced by Luke Harris. The Cottagers were already without Joao Palhinha, whose move to Bayern Munich broke down yesterday leaving him no time to prepare for this game.
But there was controversy later as the goal that allowed City back into the lead after they gave it up was not disallowed by VAR.
Julian Alvarez had a tap in from close range after Mateo Kovacic slid the ball to Erling Haaland and the Norwegian unselfishly squared the ball for the Argentine hit-man. There was a brief VAR check for offside but the goal was given.
City had barely any time to breathe before Fulham equalised from a corner when Tim Ream reacted first to the rebound from Ederson’s save off Bobby Decordova-Reid from a Fulham corner to tap the loose ball in at the far post.
City toiled but were ahead again right at the end of first half added time but there was more VAR controversy after Manuel Akanji was cleared of interfering with the Bernd Leno’s view of the Nathan Ake’s headed ball from 12 yards out following Phil Foden’s cross.
Despite Akanji standing in an offside position and swiping his leg at the ball before it went past Bernd Leno there was no surprise that Fulham boss Marco Silva was left seething after VAR checked but did not overturn the goal.
After that lucky escape City were more comfortable in the second half and after 58 minutes extended their lead the Rodri’s defence splitting pass was diverted into the path of Erling Haaland by Julian Alvarez – the Norwegian was deadly from inside the box.
Julian Alvarez was fouled in the box by Issa Diop to earn a penalty which Haaland slotted away with power – he had missed his last penalty – and the Norwegian completed his hat trick with a classic City cutback goal from the touchline after Sergio Gomez showed his attacking talent.
The win was so comfortable that Oscar Bobb was given his first team debut off the bench – showing some of his silky skills in the final third – as stand-in boss Juanma Lillo signed off in style with a rousing win and a chance for fans to see the likes of Kalvin Phillips and Gomez off the bench.
PLAYER RATINGS – Manchester City 5, Fulham 1
Ederson: 7. Could do little about Tim Ream’s goal on the rebound after saving from Bobby Decordova-Reid. Saved from Raul Jimenez.
Kyle Walker: 6. Showed his playful side early on but cross field passes were not coming off for him and he wasn’t as effective raiding forward.
Ruben Dias: 7. Pushed up at times but was as guilty as the other City defenders for Tim Ream’s goal. Protected the penalty spot from being roughed up before Erling Haaland stepped up to hit his second goal.
Nathan Ake: 7. Sloppy moment at the back but a firm header from the edge of the box crept in from 12 yards from Phil Foden’s cross to put City back into the lead.
Manuel Akanji: 6. Inverted into midfield from central defence.
Rodri: 7. Defensively solid as usual but his incisive pass cut Fulham apart for City’s third goal. Given a rest after the game was won late on.
Julian Alvarez: 8. Making the most of a deeper midfield role, his distribution was not great but he arrived late into the right spot to break the deadlock and then created the third goal with a simple touch into the path of Erling Haaland. Was denied another chance of another goal when Issa Diop stepped in to block his shot after he ran into the area but drew a foul from Diop to win a penalty as he raided the box again.
Mateo Kovacic: 7. Has fitted in well into the City system, made intelligent runs forward and covered back as well.
Jeremy Doku: 6. Under the microscope from the start, pressed well and chose his moments carefully, showcasing his defensive discipline. Switched to the left flank midway through the first half but didn’t pose much of a threat to Fulham aside from one burst which nearly allowed him through to feed Phil Foden. Felt his ankle in the second half and was later replaced by Sergio Gomez.
Phil Foden: 8. Started on the left flank but switched to the right where he started to put ball into the box – one was blocked by Issa Diop as Haaland waited for the tap-in. A cross from the left was converted by Nathan Ake and Foden was much better in the centre as the game wore on.
Erling Haaland: 9. Little service but managed to set up Julian Alvarez for his goal and was denied a header from Foden’s cross by Issa Diop. Favour was returned twice by Alvarez – a one-touch pass by the Argentine set him up and he gobbled up a penalty earned him Alvarez for his second and there was just enough time to bag his hat trick in injury time as Sergio Gomez teed him up from the left touchline.
Bernardo Silva (for Rodri, 76): No time to mark.
Sergio Gomez (on for Jerome Doku, 76): No time to mark.
Kalvin Phillips (on for Mateo Kovacic, 84): No time to mark
Rico Lewis (on for Julian Alvarez, 90): No time to mark.
Oscar Bobb (on for Phil Foden, 90): No time to mark.
GOALS – Manchester City 5, Fulham 1
Man City 1, Fulham 0: 31. Julian Alvarez had a tap in from close range after Mateo Kovacic slid the ball to Erling Haaland and the Norwegian unselfishly squared the ball for the Argentine hit-man.
Man City 1, Fulham 1: 33. Tim Ream had a tap-in from 1 yard out at the back post after City fell asleep when a Bobby Decordova-Reid shot from a Fulham corner was parried out by Ederson with nobody but the American reacting to the rebound.
Man City 2 Fulham 1: 45+5. Nathan Ake headed City back into the lead after meeting a cutback from Phil Foden.
Man City 3, Fulham 1: 58. Erling Haaland made no mistake after Rodri found Julian Alvarez from midfield and the Argentine’s simple one-touch move deflected the ball into the Norwegian’s path for a simple finish by his standards.
Man City 4, Fulham 1: 70. Erling Haaland hammered his penalty inside the left post after Julian Alvarez was felled in the box by Issa Diop.
Man City 5, Fulham 1: 90+5. Sergio Gomez skipped inside from the left and cut the ball back for Erling Haaland to bag his 7th City hat trick from 12 yards out.
MATCH STATS – Manchester City 5, Fulham 1
Man City: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Ake, Akanji, Rodri (Bernardo Silva 76), Alvarez (Lewis 90), Kovacic (Phillips 84), Doku (Gomez 76), Foden (Bobb 90), Haaland
Man City Subs not used: Ortega, Carson, Gvardiol, Nunes
Booking: Rodri 41 (foul on Luke Harris); Bernardo Silva (foul on Harry Wilson)
Goals: Alvarez 31; Ake 45+5; Haaland 58, 70 pen, 90+5
Fulham: Leno, Tete (Castagne 73), Diop, Ream, Robinson, Cairney (Harris 16), Reed, Pereira, Wilson (Traore 81), De Cordova-Reid (Willian 73), Jimenez (Muniz 81)
Fulham Subs not used: Rodak, Bassey, Vinicius, Francois
Booked: Diop 43 (foul on Jeremy Doku); Robinson 45+3 (foul on Manuel Akanji); Decordova-Reid 54 (foul on Ruben Dias); Pereira 69 (foul on Julian Alvarez)
Goal: Ream 33
Referee: Michael Oliver