It was victory at the Etihad Stadium for Manchester City as they defeated Fulham 5-1 to return back to the top of the Premier League table going into the international break.
A remarkable victory in the end for the reigning champions, who showed their class in the end, but it was a difficult opening 45 minutes for the Blues, who were largely held back by a resolute Fulham side.
Having the lions share of possession was a predictable reality for the home side but they were limited in their joy, with the away side remaining robust in their approach looking to keep the champions at bay.
However, a frustrating opening 31 minutes would be put behind them, as City managed to break the deadlock, after Erling Haaland was slipped through via an intricate Mateo Kovacic pass, before the Norwegian teed up Julian Alvarez, who made no mistake from close range.
After VAR deemed Haaland to have been onside in the build-up, a sigh of relief breathed around the Etihad Stadium. However, before fans could even catch their breath, Fulham drew themselves level through Tim Ream. Acting on a careless piece of defending from the home side, Fulham forced an initial save from Ederson, before the rebound was tapped home on the line by Ream, equalising for the visitors.
With half time approaching, Manchester City managed to create their own joy from a corner, as a ball whipped in from Phil Foden met the head of Nathan Ake, who put the Blues back in front. A lengthy VAR check confirmed the goal, after Manuel Akanji possibly impeded the Fulham goalkeeper, much to the confusion and dismay of the away side.
It was a very different approach to the second half, with Manchester City being pragmatic and being constantly on the front foot, resulting in the blues extending their lead after 58 minutes. Once again the chemistry between Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland was on display, with the Argentine slipping Haaland through who finished inevitably, slotting the ball past Bernd Leno.
In cruise control by now, the champions would soon make it four, after Alvarez was fouled in the box, as Erling Haaland stepped up and made no mistake from the spot, grabbing his second of the afternoon.
Seeing the game out in typical fashion, it seemed as though the scoring had stopped, until substitute Sergio Gomez danced past two defenders, before finding who else but Erling Haaland once again, who completed his hat-trick.
It was a comfortable afternoon in the end for the Premier League Champions, and with that being said, here are five things we learned from Saturday afternoon’s victory!
Mr. Inevitable – Erling Haaland
16 touches, three goals and one assist; it was just another day at the office for Erling Haaland. The Norwegian international proved exactly why he was the worthy winner of the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and PFA Men’s Player of the Year earlier this week.
It was a vintage Erling Haaland performance, with the forward largely kept quiet for most of the game, but when called upon, it was him who invariably stepped up and made the difference.
Netting his sixth goal of the season, Erling Haaland broke another record with his hat-trick in the Premier League, becoming the fastest player to reach 50 goals and assists in the competition, overtaking Andy Cole.
A dynamic debut for Doku!
It was a frustrating afternoon overall for new signing Jeremy Doku, but the Belgian international showed glimpses of his capabilities, following his arrival from Rennes this summer.
The pacey winger offers a very different proposition on the wing for Manchester City, with a very different playing style to Riyad Mahrez who departed in the summer. Doku showed flashes of flair, with the winger looking an exciting prospect this season.
The absence of Jack Grealish – a cause for concern?
Jack Grealish missed out on the matchday squad through injury, as per Juanma Lillo. Although the temporary boss confirmed that his problem is not too serious, is it still a cause for concern this season?
Following the departure of Cole Palmer and James Mcatee to Chelsea and Sheffield United respectively, the blues look a little light in attack in the absence of Grealish, with limited options off the bench.
With the transfer window over now, it begs the question whether Manchester City did fulfil all of their needs in the market, despite the several signings made this summer.
Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez – a new dynamic?
Pep Guardiola astonished fans up and down the country last season when deploying John Stones in a makeshift midfield role, with the innovative approach working wonders, with the Englishman flourishing in a new position.
It’s no secret that Pep Guardiola likes to keep things fresh, and the consistent starts for the duo of Haaland and Alvarez may be the beginning of a new approach this season, as City look to build on their historic season last campaign.
With the pair combining on multiple occasions on Saturday, it seems to be a working formula, with Haaland seemingly thriving having another striker to play off, after being isolated in certain matches last season.
A ‘fourmidable’ start to the season!
After the penalty shoot-out defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield, almost laughable question marks were placed over Manchester City, with many wondering whether they would have the motivation to go again this season.
Making it four wins from four on Saturday afternoon, Manchester City enter the international break top of the Premier League table, with a flawless start to the season, immediately putting any questions to bed.
City return from the international break with an away trip to the capital, taking on West Ham at the London Stadium, with Pep Guardiola set to return to the touchline for their clash with the Irons.
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