Erling Haaland’s injury time penalty secured a vital three points for the blues as Fulham’s defensive display threatened to end the blues 100% home record. Julian Alvarez had given City the lead only to be pegged back by a penalty award that saw Joao Cancelo sent off. City pushed for a winner, which duly came courtesy of Haaland’s composure in the dying minutes of injury time.
It was just reward for the blues, who had retained the majority of possession despite being a man down and faced a Fulham side that, rather than try to press home the extra man advantage, sat back and defended resolutely to simply frustrate the home side.
And it was working until manager Pep Guardiola introduced Haaland and Phil Foden in the 64th minute, with the Norwegian having a goal disallowed before converting the penalty after Kevin de Bruyne had been brought down.
Guardiola made a few changes from the one that came from behind to beat Sevilla in midweek, with the goalscoring debutant Rico Lewis dropping to the bench. How the Catalan boss had wished he’d kept the Bury-born defender in his side as Cancelo received his marching orders.
Things were looking rosy for City as Alvarez, who remained in the side ahead of Haaland, gave the blues the lead after just 16 minutes. Ilkay Gundogan performed a great impersonation of de Bruyne as his perfectly weighted pass released Alvarez. The Argentine raced away from the Fulham defence and rifled a shot that cannoned off the underside of the bar and into the back of the goal.
Usually, such a goal would have opened the floodgates, but Fulham, and Cancelo, had other ideas. 12 minutes later, the Portuguese defender barged into the back of Harry Wilson and referee Darren England had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. To make matters worse, England reached for the red card and Cancelo was off. The defender watched from the tunnel as Andreas Pereira levelled the scores. It was far too much to ask that, after Riyad Mahrez missed a couple of penalties in the Champions League, that we would be afforded the same courtesy. Unfortunately, Pereira sent Ederson the wrong way and the scores were level again.
It wasn’t entirely clear in discussions with Guardiola and Cancelo whether the boss was berating his defender or agreeing with Cancelo’s assessment that it wasn’t a penalty. But it wouldn’t change the fact that City would have to play for an hour with ten men. The penalty was one of Fulham’s two shots on goal throughout the entire match as they sat back to frustrate the blues, instead of taking a chance to take more than a point.
With City failing to break down the visitors defence, the blues brought on Foden and Haaland to try and make an impact and unsettle Fulham. And they thought they’d made the breakthrough in the 74th minute when de Bruyne’s cross was met powerfully by the head of Haaland, but VAR overturned the goal after deciding Haaland was offside.
City toiled away but looked like dropping their first home points of the season, until de Bruyne was brought down inside the penalty area. All eyes turned to the Norwegian striker as England again pointed to the spot. Haaland took the responsibility and despite the best effort of the visiting keeper, managed to squeeze his penalty into the bottom corner to win the match for the blues.
The striker couldn’t contain his delight as his penalty hit the back of the goal, neither could Guardiola at the final whistle, who celebrated a hard-fought but ultimately deserved win.
The result means City go top of the Premier League, albeit until after Arsenal’s match at Chelsea. Anything but a Gunners win will see City remain there.
Final score: Manchester City 2-1 Fulham