Sané hits old heights to help City stand tall
In his address to supporters to mark the 10th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi takeover, the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour, suggested Manchester City are merely “half way up their Everest”. They are already out of sight to Fulham, who by the same calculation must be observing events from somewhere between base camp and a hole in the ground. Even though there were half as many goals, this was as much of a mismatch as Huddersfi eld being hit for six last month.
To say City won with something to spare would be to risk serious understatement. They had John Stones, İlkay Gündoğan, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden on the bench, with no place for Benjamin Mendy in the squad. Whatever the reason for the absence of one of the better performers this season – Pep Guardiola mentioned a minor injury in training – the France international was not missed.
“Three- nil is a good result but we created enough chances to score fi ve or six goals,” he said. “We probably need to be more clinical but I give a lot of credit to Fulham. They will surprise a few people this season and I think they will still be in the Premier League the next.”
Slavisa Jokanovic was equally magnanimous. “We didn’t make it easy for ourselves but the result was completely fair,” the Fulham manager said. “City showed they are one of the best teams in the world.”
The visitors were behind after two minutes and the contest would have been as good as over within a quarter of an hour had Raheem Sterling’s erratic fi nishing not come back to haunt him. Leroy
Sané marked his fi rst start of the league campaign with one of the easiest goals he will ever score after a heavy touch by Jean Michaël Seri in his own half was mercilessly punished by Fernandinho. The Brazilian intervened decisively as soon as the midfi elder failed to control a pass from Marcus Bettinelli, galloping into space
Raheem Sterling spurned an early chance but made amends with the fi nal goal of the game Pep Guardiola behind a non- existent defensive line to fi nd Sané up in support with a cross that required only a tap- in. With Fulham already obliged to chase the game, Bernardo Silva held the ball up well before releasing Sterling for a run on goal . The winger looked odds- on to score with only Bettinelli to beat but ending up putting his shot too close to the goalkeeper, who pushed it on to the bar.
At least Sterling made amends fi ve minutes later with a hand in City’s second goal, fi nding Bernardo Silva in space for a cross from the byline. Sergio Agüero was on to it fi rst, only to see Seri block his shot – but with City players queuing up on the six- yard line, David Silva calmly tucked away the loose ball.
Fulham did manage a couple of goal attempts in the fi rst half, both from André Schürrle and both saved by Ederson, the second requiring a far more acrobatic stop than the fi rst. Yet with City in control from such an early stage the afternoon inevitably resolved itself into a question of how many more they might score. They could easily have gone further ahead before the interval but for Bettinelli spreading himself to keep out a shot from Sané and then ending the half with a onehanded save to deny Sterling.
The visitors’ defensive resolve at the start of the second half lasted about as long as it did in the fi rst, Agüero cutting in from the right to beat Alfi e Mawson and leave Sterling with an unmissable chance from a couple of yards out ( albeit one made more diffi cult by a late touch from Seri on the way through).
Agüero departed after that, warmly applauded even though it had not been one of his most productive outings. His replacement, Gabriel Jesus, then almost scor ed with his first touch when David Silva crossed to the near post.
With no further goals and little urgency on show from either side, the last half- hour was soporifi c, if not downright tedious. Bernardo Silva should have made it four but blasted high over the bar when unselfi shly set up by Jesus. “You’re just a crap Man United,” the Fulham supporters chanted unsympathetically. If only it were true.
‘ Three- nil is a good result but we created enough to score fi ve or six’
Manchester City 4- 3- 3
Fulham 4- 3- 3
Leroy Sané, making his fi rst league start of the season, taps in Manchester City’s opening goal against Fulham