Pep lauds Manchester City's 'incredible spirit'

Silva, Aguero score in 2-0 win with pressure back on Liverpool; Huddersfield relegated

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Fulham 0

Man City 2


LONDON • This felt like a little more than a box-ticking exercise for a team with Manchester City's ambitions.

There was never any jeopardy, no sense that they were ever in any danger against opponents with all the nous and snarl of a sleeping kitten, and City did not have to do much more than tickle Fulham's tummy to return to the Premier League's summit yesterday.

It was over as a contest long before the end - first-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero enough to seal a 2-0 win and three points for Pep Guardiola's side, who will be hoping for a slip-up by Liverpool when they host Tottenham today.

The pressure is back on Jurgen Klopp's men, who will start with 76 points - a point below the leaders when they face Spurs.

City manager Guardiola, though, is not focusing too much on their rivals and looking only to carry on the momentum in hopes of winning every game left in the season.

"After the international break, you usually miss a bit with your rhythm, but the effort was there," the Spaniard told BBC Sport.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero shooting over Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico to score their second goal yesterday. With the 2-0 win, City regained top spot, one point ahead of Liverpool.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero shooting over Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico to score their second goal yesterday. With the 2-0 win, City regained top spot, one point ahead of Liverpool. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"The first 15 to 20 minutes was incredible with the way we played. We played with incredible spirit, we could have scored more. After the goals, we controlled it.

"We are going to do everything to win. No matter the next competition, we will win the game. We don't think too much about what people say about the quadruple.

"What Liverpool and Man City have done in the Premier League, both deserve the credit. That's why we are here.

"Enjoy the moment and dream to win another game."

The task of puncturing the worst defence in the league proved predictably straightforward for City.

They got down to business straight away, setting up camp in Fulham's half from first whistle to last, and were so dominant that it almost felt as though they had wasted time by waiting until the fifth minute to break the deadlock.

Fulham, cautious and timid in their 5-4-1 system, had intended to frustrate City's illustrious attack by sitting deep and waiting for opportunities on the break.

The problem with that ploy, however, is that Scott Parker's players were riddled with anxiety even on the rare occasions when they had possession.

Unable to cope with City's high press, they were punished for trying to play out from the back when Timothy Fosu-Mensah's errant pass went to Kevin de Bruyne instead of Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.

Bad idea. The ball was nestling in the back of Fulham's net in a matter of seconds.

De Bruyne, starting for the first time since March 2 after shaking off a hamstring problem, quickly found Aguero, who looked right and saw Bernardo Silva.

The Portuguese midfielder cut inside, ignored a couple of limp challenges and fizzed a crisp drive inside the right post from 20 yards, confirming the suspicion that Fulham were horribly out of their depth against opponents of this calibre.

  • 0

  • Fulham failed to get a single shot on target for the first time in their last 188 home league matches, since April 2010 against Wolves.

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    YESTERDAY

    Man United 2 Watford 1

    Burnley 2 Wolves 0

    Leicester 2 Bournemouth 0

    Palace 2 Huddersfield 0

    Brighton 0 Southampton 1

    West Ham v Everton Late kick-off

    TODAY

    Cardiff v Chelsea Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, 9.05pm

    Liverpool v Tottenham Ch102 & Ch227, 11.30pm

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    Arsenal v Newcastle Ch102 & Ch227, Tuesday, 3am

It barely resembled a contest as City rained attempts on Sergio Rico's goal for the rest of the half.

David Silva was at his creative best in midfield, de Bruyne looked free of rust and Raheem Sterling, brimming with confidence on the left flank, relished running at the nervous Cyrus Christie.

Second-bottom Fulham, bereft of belief, could not get close to them.

They were once again punished for their sloppiness in the 27th minute when Joe Bryan's miscued pass gave Bernardo Silva the chance to free Aguero, who swept past the ineffective Maxime Le Marchand before lifting a lovely shot over the advancing Rico.

"We started the game very well, pressing high, creating chances," Bernardo Silva told Sky Sports.

"The second half we tried to control the ball. We're very happy with three points and it's on to the next one. If we win the seven games left, we will be champions."

Meanwhile, Huddersfield were relegated yesterday after losing 2-0 to Crystal Palace. With Southampton and Burnley both picking up wins, Huddersfield become the first Premier League team since Derby in 2007-2008 to be relegated in March.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'Pep lauds City's 'incredible spirit''. Print Edition | Subscribe