Manchester City made light work of Championship side Fulham as the holders coasted into the fifth round of the FA Cup. First half goals by Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva were followed up by two headers in three minutes by Gabriel Jesus, while the visitors played most of the match with ten men after Tim Ream was sent off after six minutes.
City made nine changes from the win at Sheffield United with Angelino, Joao Cancelo, Nicolas Otamendi and Eric Garcia all starting with Claudio Bravo in goal, while Phil Foden, and Gundogan started in midfield.
The blues will have been wary of the visitors, who lie third in the Championship and knocked out Premier League opposition in the form of Aston Villa in the third round.
But the holders almost got off to a perfect start when Tim Ream attempted to play the ball out from the back but got caught in possession by David Silva, who nicked in and tried to tee up Mahrez. It was a reprieve for Ream that City couldn’t make anything of the chance, but the defender wasn’t as luck five minutes later.
Gundogan’s through ball was dummied by David Silva and Gabriel Jesus ran clear, only to be dragged back by Ream, who made no attempt to play the ball and City were awarded a penalty. To make matters worse for the visitors, Ream was shown a red card for a professional foul.
After missing a penalty at Bramhall Lane on Tuesday, Jesus relinquished the duty to Gundogan, who buried the spot kick beyond the reach of the keeper into the bottom corner.
City looked to press home their extra man advantage and the Spanish Silva worked his magic in the middle to tee up Angelino, whose shot whistled over the bar after just ten minutes. Riyad Mahrez was a huge threat to Fulham in the first half and the Algerian was denied a goal on 12 minutes. Hi trickery inside the box opened up a bit of space, but his shot was parried by the keeper as City threatened to run riot.
And the fear of a goal glut increased on 18 minutes when Bernardo Silva made it 2-0. Minutes after Foden drilled a shot wide, Silva teased the Fulham defence, twisting one way then the other before firing left-footed into the bottom of the goal.
Fulham’s first chance of the match arrived on 21 minutes with Reid shooting straight at Bravo but that was all the visitors could muster as the attempted to keep City at bay. The blues had another opportunity to score on just 23 minutes. Winning the ball in midfield, the blues poured forward but Foden fired over from the edge of the area.
The was a slight concern over Riyad Mahrez, who went down under a heavy challenge from Bryan, and fears of an injury were intensified as Raheem Sterling was sent to warm but, but thankfully the winger was good to return to the field.
City had averaged five cup goals per game during Guardiola’s tenure and City came out of the blocks quickly in the second half, looking to keep that run going. Mahrez had a chance just a minute after the break as City camped out in the Fulham half for pretty much the rest of the match.
Sterling replaced Mahrez on 52 minutes, then hit the bar just six minutes later as City tried to turn their possession into goals. Fulham were already beginning to tire and were making mistakes, passing the ball straight to City players inside their own half and it was only a matter of time before the blues scored again.
Joao Cancelo crossed and Gabriel Jesus, who had been denied a goal by a brilliant tackle earlier in the half, headed home to make the game safe. VAR checked for a possible offside against the Brazilian and with the fans growing impatient by the length of time the check was taking, the goal was finally awarded.
Just two minutes later, Jesus scored again, capitalising on another mistake in the Fulham defence. After the Brazilian had intercepted an attempted pass out of defence, the ball fell to Foden, whose shot was parried by the keeper, but Jesus was on hand to head home his second and City’s fourth.
There was a moment of fear for Cancelo when he was caught by an off the ball challenge, but he was able to return to the field in time for the referee to blow for full time.
So City are safely through to the fifth round and will now look to secure their place at Wembley in the League Cup Final when they face Manchester United in the semi-final second leg.
Final Score: Manchester City 4-0 Fulham