EPL

Manchester City battle hard to beat Fulham and return to Premier League summit

By Sports Desk April 30, 2023

Manchester City are top of the Premier League for the first time since February 17 thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Pep Guardiola’s men were pushed until the end by Fulham, who stuck doggedly with the in-form champions throughout the match.

Far more experienced top-flight sides might have crumbled when Erling Haaland netted his 50th goal of the season from the penalty spot after just three minutes.

However, Fulham managed to find a leveller a little over 10 minutes later through Carlos Vinicius, who has struggled for goals since he became a regular starter in the absence of the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic.

It took a touch of class from Julian Alvarez to restored the visitors’ advantage in the first half, superbly curling home what proved to be the winner.

It was Fulham who looked most likely to score again as the game neared its conclusion, but City held on to move above Arsenal.

Haaland made no mistakes with his powerful penalty just three minutes in after Tim Ream, who has been a mainstay of the Fulham defence this campaign, was judged to have brought down Alvarez in the box.

The goal all-but killed any forward momentum from Fulham who reverted to a defensive formation to try and curb City’s attacking threat.

Jack Grealish had a low drive saved by Leno in the 14th minute, but Fulham found an equaliser against the run of play just moments later.

Vinicius, who had only scored two goals previously this season, thrashed a fine finish past Ederson in the 15th minute.

The forward, who has been criticised by the home fans in recent weeks for his lack of end product, was in the right place after Harry Wilson flicked the ball down into his path, and made no mistake with his left-foot strike.

Fulham were dealt a blow in the 20th minute with the loss of on-field captain Ream, who slipped trying to make a tackle and landed awkwardly on his arm.

City maintained their pressure on the Fulham defence, with Leno called into action again to tip a Grealish effort onto the bar and Antonee Robinson denying Alvarez at the far post.

The visitors restored on 36 minutes, with a stunning curled strike into the corner from Alvarez.

The Argentinian held off the defenders to create an opening outside of the box before taking his shot.

City started the second half in the same manner they finished the first, with Leno diving low to his right to deny a low effort from Haaland.

Andreas Pereira was carried off on a stretcher following a coming-together with Manuel Akanji, forcing manager Marco Silva into his second unplanned change of the afternoon.

Fulham had a chance to score a second leveller when Vinicius was played in down the left side of the box, but Ederson was just able to gather and deny the forward a shot at what would have been an empty goal.

Tempers flared briefly between Grealish and Kenny Tete as Fulham felt they should have been given a penalty when Bobby De Cordova-Reid was brought down in the box, but Hooper waved play on.

The game finished in tense fashion, but City are back at the summit of the Premier League – a point ahead of the Gunners having played a game fewer.

Related items

  • Pep Guardiola hoping Jack Grealish can seize chance to make late-season impact Pep Guardiola hoping Jack Grealish can seize chance to make late-season impact

    Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has urged Jack Grealish to seize an opportunity to finish the season strongly.

    The England midfielder has so far this term been unable to reproduce the influential form he played in last year’s treble success.

    The 28-year-old’s campaign has twice been interrupted by injury and there was also an unsettling off-field incident when his house was burgled while members of his family and girlfriend were in the property.

    His latest setback came when he suffered a groin injury during City’s Champions League game at FC Copenhagen earlier this month but, after a speedy recovery, he was an unused substitute at Bournemouth on Saturday.

    He could come back into the reckoning for Tuesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Luton and Guardiola hopes he can make the most of it.

    Guardiola said: “He started a bit late but (in) the last month Jack is back in terms of many things.

    “That’s why he played an important game in the Champions League in Copenhagen. Unfortunately there was a setback after 10-15 minutes but he’s recovered quick and he is back.

    “Hopefully (he can have) the impact he had last season. It depends on him.

    “I try to be fair with my decisions. If he played a lot of minutes last season and this season a little bit less in the beginning, he is the same player. It’s the same manager, the same way we want to play. Nothing has changed.

    “It is just how how we perform, that is the difference. We need him. I’ve said from day one we need him. He has a special quality for our team. Hopefully he can do a good last three months.”

    With other players in good form, however, Guardiola admits Grealish will have to hit the ground running when the chance arises.

    Grealish must compete with the likes of Phil Foden, Jeremy Doku, Julian Alvarez and Bernardo Silva, all of whom have been in better form this season, for a place.

    Guardiola said: “I cannot give three or four games in a row in order to get the rhythm.

    “They have to take a rhythm to play 20 minutes, 90 minutes, in the high level. You cannot wait.

    “I’m going to give you three or four (games) for you be fit and the other 10 players don’t play?

    “They don’t deserve the same? Of course they deserve it but that’s not how it works.

    “You have to see in the training session, every moment all details.

    “He’s the same lovely person, lovely guy, same qualities, skills. He has even more years to improve.

    “So the players don’t have to convince me. They have to convince themselves that they deserve to play.”

  • Oscar Bobb extends deal at Manchester City until 2029 Oscar Bobb extends deal at Manchester City until 2029

    Manchester City winger Oscar Bobb has extended his contract with the club until 2029.

    The Norway international, 20, has made 16 appearances so far this season, scoring twice – including the last-minute winner in the 3-2 victory at Newcastle last month.

    “I am very proud and honoured to have signed my new contract with City,” said Bobb, whose previous deal was set to expire in 2026.

    “It is an incredible environment and the best possible place to be for a young player.

    “I have already learnt so much from (manager) Pep (Guardiola), his coaching staff and my team-mates. To know I am going to be here at the club until 2029 means everything to me.

    “Now I just want to focus on continuing to further my development and to work as hard as I can every day to try and help the club achieve more success.”

    City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain feels there is plenty more to come from Bobb, whose first senior goal came on his full Champions League debut against Red Star Belgrade in December.

    “Oscar is blessed with superb natural talent and technique and has already established himself as a very important member of the squad,” Begiristain said on the club’s website.

    “He is an exciting young player who is always hungry to learn and who takes on board all the advice and guidance Pep and the coaching staff provide him with.

    “We have been delighted to watch his progression from our academy through to the first team and to see his fantastic ability, attitude and application continue to prosper.

    “Oscar is developing all the time, and we believe he can help to bring even more success to the club in the coming years.”

  • We’re going for it: Pep Guardiola relishing crunch period as Man City eye titles We’re going for it: Pep Guardiola relishing crunch period as Man City eye titles

    Pep Guardiola is relishing the decisive phase of the season and has promised Manchester City are again “going for it”.

    The treble winners are in strong contention to repeat last season’s glories in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

    March will be a crucial month with a derby against Manchester United followed by clashes against title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal. They will also look to wrap up their place in the Champions League quarter-finals as they host FC Copenhagen leading 3-1 after the first leg of their last-16 tie.

    Prior to that comes an FA Cup fifth-round trip to Luton on Tuesday and Guardiola is looking forward to that and the coming weeks.

    The City manager said: “So after this game, February is over. Just two-and-a-half, three months to end of the season and we’ve arrived here still being there (in the competitions).

    “Tomorrow is a final, like every game in Premier League and of course in Champions League.

    “The decisive part of the season is here ahead of us, in front of us, not far away, and we are going for it.

    “It’s better to play for this than being 10th in the table and (having) no chance for that. The feeling is that if you lose – bye-bye. It’s so nice.

    “The problem is September, October – you see the expectations far, far away. In that moment you don’t think about any titles.

    “We don’t even now. I would say how we’ll define the end of March, beginning of April depends on what we have done this next month. Tomorrow and this month will (determine) our options.”

    City have close to a fully-fit squad for the trip to Kenilworth Road after Jack Grealish returned to the squad as an unused substitute at Bournemouth on Saturday following a groin injury.

    Defender Josko Gvardiol is now the team’s only notable absentee with an ankle problem and Guardiola is hopeful he will return soon.

    City needed to come from behind to beat relegation battlers Luton away in December and Guardiola is anticipating another tricky encounter.

    He said: “It will be even more difficult. We saw all the games played there against the top, top sides, and the reason why is clear – football goes in the direction Luton play, so, so aggressive.

    “It doesn’t matter if you are at top of the league, the bottom or in the middle, (they have) courage to play and face the challenge without any fear.

    “And after, it’s not just that. They have played direct channels but at the same time they have the ability. I think they’ve improved a lot since we met them there with their build-up play and the patterns are so clear.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.