Fulham 0-2 Manchester City: Premier League – as it happened

City pressed hard, Fulham crumbled, and the champions returned to the top of the Premier League table.

All that remains is to guide you in the direction of Jacob Steinberg’s match report. Here it is, clickity click, be about your business. Thanks for reading!

Pep talks! “Our first 15-20 minutes was one of our best of the season. We started after the international break with incredible spirit, we scored one goal and could have scored more. Fulham has quality players but we controlled them. An incredible result for us. We did what we should do. Some players were tired but they will come back up to their rhythm. Playing away after the break is always difficult, the players reacted very well. The guys who didn’t play today have a big chance on Wednesday to play. We are not going to win the Premier League with 11 players, or reach the finals or semis of other competitions. Forget about it. Liverpool and Manchester City have done incredible all season and deserve all the credit, but one will not be happy at the end. The numbers are incredible. Enjoy the moment and dream to win another game and another game. Against Cardiff we will be with our people, and good memories of Bernard.”

Scott Parker’s verdict. “It was a tough day. From the outset we knew the challenge ahead. On the day it proved that. We had a little bit of a nervous start and it would be a tough mountain to climb. We showed some bits at times, but against a world-class side it’s not enough really. Our mistakes came from pressure, they put you in those scenarios. But the way we play is not going to change. Mistakes happen. And we had some good spells. But it was a difficult afternoon. I do feel there have been some improvements. I have no doubt given time we can turn things around.”

And now the Fulham perspective courtesy of Cyrus Christie. “It’s always tough when you play a team of that calibre. You can’t give them a sniff, and we gave them two goals with two bad passes. They were clinical. We made it too easy for them. We made it hard for ourselves. But we didn’t test their keeper, there was no end product, Ederson didn’t have to make a save. We’re disappointed by that. When the second goal went in, that stopped the momentum we were building up. We’ve got six games left, mathematically we’re still in it, so we need to keep our heads high, keep pushing, and hopefully we can pick up the results we need.”

Kyle Walker is asked whether City, who have now won seven on the bounce, are slipping into top gear at exactly the right time. “I think we’ve done well all season. Obviously we had the little blip, but hopefully that’s behind us. Apart from that, we’ve done remarkably well, we’re in all competitions, so we’re still fighting. We just need to take each game as it comes, and pick up victories in each one.”

City celebrate the result with their fans, though it’s bittersweet. They wear red-and-black 1969 FA Cup final scarves in memory of Bernard Halford, their former secretary and life president who passed away this week. Pep Guardiola’s team were sensational in the opening exchanges of this match, sending Fulham heads spinning like a teenager after two cans of Special Brew. The game was pretty much settled from the get-go, City pressing the home side’s tissue-strength defence into the mistakes that led to both goals. The hosts offered nothing in attack. The difference between the reigning champions and a side that only came up from the play-offs laid bare. City are now favourites for the title, while Fulham are almost certain to go back down.

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, left, and the players celebrate with their fans at the end of the match.
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, left, and the players celebrate with their fans at the end of the match. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

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FULL TIME: Fulham 0-2 Manchester City

Fulham have given both Chelsea and Liverpool a hard game at Craven Cottage of late. They didn’t provide any resistance to Manchester City, though, Pep Guardiola’s champions strutting and sashaying to the easiest 2-0 win you’ll ever see. City go top, a point ahead of Liverpool with seven games to go. It’s in their hands. Fulham aren’t down yet, but it’s just a matter of time.

90 min +2: Schurrle sprays a lovely pass wide right for Christie, but the resulting cross doesn’t trouble City at all. Fulham have been inept in defence today, and not a whole lot better in attack.

90 min: Anguissa barrels down the left, a fine run that takes three City players to stop. There will be four added minutes.

88 min: Sterling shoots wildly over, and that’s his last contribution to this match. He’s replaced by Mahrez. Fulham meanwhile make their last change, sending on McDonald for Babel. So the Dutch winger couldn’t do his former club a favour today, as it turns out.

The away fans are enjoying themselves.
The away fans are enjoying themselves. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

87 min: Schurrle whips a low inswinger into the box. The ball bagatelles its way through to Ederson. That could have gone anywhere.

86 min: Babel is brought down again, this time by Sterling out on the left. The Fulham fans want Sterling booked, but a harsh word from the ref is all that happens.

84 min: Gundogan has a lash from distance. That effort, miles over the bar, is currently flying over nearby Twickenham, which seems apt.

83 min: Bryan crosses deep from the left. Christie rises at the far post and heads back across goal. Kebano sends a meek header wide left. That was a decent half-chance, as good as Fulham have managed all afternoon. If they had any hope of scrambling an unlikely draw, that one had to go in.

82 min: Babel is bowled over by Otamendi and it’s a free kick out on the left. Fulham line up on the edge of the City box. Nothing much comes of the set piece, floated and wasted.

80 min: ... City fly up the other end, Sterling feeding Walker down the inside-right channel. The full back slams a shot, intended for the top right, off the post and away.

79 min: Le Marchand flies at David Silva and will be booked. But only after ...

77 min: Walker slams a clearance straight into Schurrle’s coupon. Ooyah, oof, that was flush. He’s up and about soon enough.

75 min: De Bruyne makes way for Fernandinho as City look to ease to the line.

74 min: Schurrle has the chance to send Babel tearing down the right, but decides to purchase a cheap free kick from Zinchenko instead. A chance to load the box. The free kick’s hooped into the mixer, and flies off Otamendi for Fulham’s first corner of the m... ah hold on, someone’s caught offside.

72 min: Bryan threatens to scoot clear down the left but Walker slams the door. Then Christie hooks in a cross from the right, but it’s easily plucked out of the sky by Ederson. A little better from Fulham, not that they’re asking any serious questions.

70 min: Fulham’s captain Cairney is replaced by Schurrle, who returns after a lengthy battle with a virus.

69 min: Le Marchand opts against a simple clearance and instead chooses to tee up Sterling. Fulham’s defence is a circus troupe. Sterling can’t get a meaningful shot away. Let’s call it an indicative shot.

Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus in action with Fulham’s Maxime Le Marchand.
Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus in action with Fulham’s Maxime Le Marchand. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

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67 min: Christie goes in the book for an unnecessary clatter on David Silva. A little bit of frustration perhaps. Christie had clearly decided that Silva wasn’t getting past, no matter what.

66 min: Sterling is sent clear down the right by a lovely threaded Walker pass. Sterling should really do better than just winning a corner. But a corner’s a corner. And that leads to a second corner, which is eyebrowed clear by Christie.

65 min: Fosu-Mensah is good to continue. Meanwhile in other Fulham personnel news, Ayite is replaced by Kebano.

64 min: Anyway, Fosu-Menssah had fouled Sterling while hurting himself, so it’s a free kick out on the left. De Bruyne swings it in, and Rico flaps it away under pressure from Otamendi.

Fulham’s Sergio Rico and Calum Chambers combine to put off Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi.
Fulham’s Sergio Rico and Calum Chambers combine to put off Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images via Reuters

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63 min: Fosu-Mensah is down, receiving an accidental clack on his ankle while tackling Sterling. Fulham will presumably be hoping this time is not added on at the end.

61 min: Once again Fulham fail to clear their lines, and Sterling is able to scamper in from the left and send a shot towards the bottom right. Rico gets a strong hand on the ball, and Bernardo Silva isn’t able to turn home the rebound. A third goal seems merely a matter of time.

59 min: Rico rolls a pass out for Anguissa, who clearly doesn’t want it and plays a first-time pass back to Fosu-Mensah. It zips out for a corner. Oh dear. If City score from this, it’ll be an unwelcome hat-trick of own-foot-shooting misery. But the corner’s hit long and straight out for a goal kick. Blessed relief for Fulham’s hapless defence.

58 min: Aguero takes a couple of glances towards the bench, and is eventually hooked for Jesus. He’s not limping, so hopefully nothing serious, but this is obviously a precautionary measure.

57 min: Some Fulham pressure! Sessegnon gets the better of Walker down the left. His cross ends up at the feet of Anguissa, 20 yards out. He can’t get a shot away. The ball’s shifted wide left to Cairney, whose cross nearly finds Babel, Ederson punching away. And the flag goes up anyway.

Ederson of Manchester City punches the ball away from Ryan Babel of Fulham.
Ederson of Manchester City punches the ball away from Ryan Babel of Fulham. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

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55 min: City are beginning to impose themselves again. It’s defence versus attack, in the training-ground style.

53 min: Suddenly Bernardo Silva rolls a pass down the right, allowing De Bruyne to win a corner off Chambers. It’s 8-0 in terms of corners now. Anguissa heads clear, but De Bruyne is soon bursting down the right again. He cuts back and tees up Otamendi, who skies a shot that’s now sailing over Hammersmith.

Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi, center left, attempts a shot at goal and misses.
Look out below!! Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

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51 min: This isn’t exactly high-octane stuff. City have slipped into this-game-is-surely-won mode, while Fulham, despite seeing a bit more of the ball, aren’t doing anything to knock them out of their breezy stride. Craven Cottage is very quiet. You can almost hear the dirty old river rolling.

49 min: Fulham are seeing plenty of the ball in these early second-half exchanges, though they’re doing little with it. Baby steps. If only they’d started the match like this, Scott Parker will surely be thinking.

Ryan Babel of Fulham surges past lkay Gündoan of Manchester City.
Ryan Babel of Fulham surges past lkay Gündoan of Manchester City. Photograph: Shaun Brooks/Action Plus via Getty Images

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47 min: A neat burst from deep by Sessegnon, putting City on the back foot. That allows Bryan to make good down the left, but with men in the box, he flays a miserable cross deep into the stand behind the goal. It’s been a tough afternoon for poor Bryan.

Fulham get the second half underway. Possession is squandered immediately. City knock it around. Otamendi eventually miscues and gifts Fulham a throw, which gives the home wags something new to cheer about.

Half-time entertainment. City are heading back to the top, but the Premier League title race isn’t quite over yet. Although most of our scribes have a good idea who’s going to prevail. Here’s how they see things developing along the final stretch.

HALF TIME: Fulham 0-2 Manchester City

Fulham have been given a dreadful chasing by City, though both goals are results of their own mistakes. As things stand - and those things are extremely unlikely to change - City are heading back to the top of the Premier League.

45 min: Bryan nearly makes up for his role in the second goal. Sessegnon is sent scampering down the left, and pulls one back for Bryan, who sends a shot-cum-cross whistling across Ederson’s goal, inches wide of the bottom right. That would have put a different complexion on things, albeit only slightly.

44 min: Bernardo Silva toys with Bryan down the right, then cuts back for Gundogan, who sends a diagonal screamer towards the top left. It’s always curling away from goal, though Rico was at full stretch, unsure.

A relieved Sergio Rico watches the ball sail past the upright.
A relieved Sergio Rico watches the ball sail past the upright. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

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43 min: It’s a lovely peaceful spring day down by the river. You can hear a pin drop right now. Fulham’s spirit is broken.

42 min: Gundogan is brought down 25 yards from the Fulham goal. Quite a few City players fancy this free kick. But it’s De Bruyne who takes it. He bashes a shot that hits his own man Otamendi, who tries to rescue the situation by getting involved with Rico as the keeper makes a meal of gathering the ball. Rico wins, eventually.

Fulham’s Sergio Rico saves from Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi.
Fulham’s Sergio Rico saves from Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

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40 min: This is like a training session now. Fulham spent £100m in the summer!

38 min: David Silva puts the ball in the net, after Augero and Sterling combine down the inside-left channel and tee him up. But Sterling falls foul of a micro-offside decision, and the flag goes up.

36 min: The next corner is sent wide by Otamendi. City don’t really care. Another one will be along soon enough.

35 min: Another corner for City, their sixth of the game, won by De Bruyne out on the right. Gundogan takes. It’s not very good. Sterling then hoicks a cross in from the left, forcing Chambers to bundle out in a panic at the far post. There was no need for that. Fulham are a complete shambles at the back, like that’s breaking news.

33 min: Chambers bursts suddenly down the left, barging his way past a couple of challenges then slipping the ball forward for Sessegnon, who enters the box and whips a low cross towards Babel at the far post. But Ederson, guarding his near post, reads the play well, getting down to punch the ball away from danger.

30 min: City should have a penalty here. Sterling dribbles into the box from the left, and is shaping to shoot when Fosu-Mensah comes in from the back, clatters him over, then takes a smidgen of the ball. The referee considers that enough to wave play on, but Sterling is livid, and rightfully so.

29 min: Bryan holds his hand up in apology, as well he might. That’s really taken the wind out of the Craven Cottage sail, with Fulham having worked so hard to get back into it. Silence, apart from the celebrating City section.

GOAL! Fulham 0-2 Manchester City (Aguero 27)

Just as Fulham were getting something of a foothold in the game, Bryan loses the plot. He’s trying to pass backwards to Christie, but stubs his toe. The ball only squirts to Bernardo Silva, who immediately feeds Aguero down the inside-right. He bustles into the box, and lifts a shot over Rico and into the net.

Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero scores their second goal.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero scores their second goal. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero (right) celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game with fellow goalscorer Bernardo Silva.
Aguero (right) celebrates scoring his side’s second goal of the game with fellow goalscorer Bernardo Silva. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal.
Aguero celebrates as the City players head back to the centre circle. Photograph: Tom Flathers/Man City via Getty Images

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25 min: But you can’t keep City down too long. Sterling skedaddles down the left and deliberately nutmegs Chambers, rolling a ball across the face of the Fulham goal. The home defence stands as one, frozen in fear, until Le Marchand snaps out of it and hacks away. What a player Sterling is.

24 min: In fact, Fulham have enjoyed 52% of possession during the last ten minutes. That’ll give them some much needed succour after a harrowing start.

22 min: A rare period of possession for Fulham, and suddenly Sessegnon has a chance to blooter a shot from 25 yards. It’s blocked, and City clear their lines, but that’s much better from Fulham, whose heads appear to have stopped spinning at 78rpm.

20 min: After an age, Cairney takes the free kick and whips it high towards the far post, where Babel rises highest. The ball skims off the top of his bright-red head and out for a goal kick. The flag would have gone up for offside anyway. Idle chatter, incidentally, concerning a couple of City players who had drifted offside and were in Rico’s road while Bernardo Silva was in the business of scoring ... but the replays look inconclusive. Not sure they were in the way at all.

18 min: But it’s still only 0-1, and Fulham have a chance to get an effort on goal, because Cairney glides in from the left and is upended by Otamendi just outside the City box on the left.

16 min: This is a rout in all but scoreline. City have enjoyed 80% of the possession. Sterling and Bernardo Silva smash shots goalwards, amid a melee in the Fulham box. Both are blocked. Then De Bruyne bursts through the middle. He should score but slams his shot straight at Rico. Fulham string a couple of passes together and the home fans holler some self-aware olés. You’ve got to get your kicks somehow.

14 min: Sterling dribbles in from the left, and lays off to Gundogan, who batters a low fizzer goalwards. Rico does well to parry, though the ricochet only just evades the lurking Aguero. Then another phase of City attack, Walker crossing from the right, Rico plucking the ball from the sky to gallows-humour cheers from the home fans.

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling goes past Fulham’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling goes past Fulham’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

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12 min: Bernardo Silva dawdles down the right and whips in a low cross. Chambers does pretty well to knock it behind from a corner. Nothing comes of that set piece, but Fulham are getting a right chasing here. Since kick-off, 64% of the play has taken place in their final third. 64%!

10 min: The corner from the right is met by Sterling, whose shot is deflected out for another corner. Laporte heads this next one wide right. Fulham breathe again, albeit sharply and shallowly.

9 min: Now it’s Cairney’s turn to play a troublesome ball across the face of his own box. Anguissa was looking the other way, and that allows Sterling to nip in and get a shot away. It’s blocked out for a corner, and from the set piece, the ball’s worked to De Bruyne, to the left of the D. He loops a shot towards the top right, and it’s dipping in. Rico does extremely well to tip over the bar. Another corner.

7 min: Fulham had started nervously, and their worst fears have been realised. That was an awful ball inside by Fosu-Mensah ... and he’s just given it away again! That allows City to flood forward, but Sterling and Aguero can’t quite get their act together to get a shot away from the edge of the box.

GOAL! Fulham 0-1 Manchester City (Bernardo Silva 5)

Fosu-Mensah plays a dreadful square ball in from the right, across the face of his own area, looking for Cairney. Bernardo Silva takes up possession, sashays in from the right, and plants a glorious, unstoppable low shot into the bottom left. City off to a flyer!

Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva scores their first goal.
Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva scores their first goal. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters
Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring the opening goal.
Silva celebrates after opening the scoring. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

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4 min: Rico shanks a dreadful clearance upfield. Not very far upfield. It allows City to come rushing back at his box en masse, Aguero and Walker one-twoing down the right, teeing up the striker for a shot. Fosu-Mensah blocks, and hacks clear.

3 min: Bernardo Silva dribbles his way down the right and wins the first corner of the afternoon. De Bruyne to take. Babel heads it clear. Zinchenko tries to return it with great force and feeling, but the shot is blocked and Fulham clear their lines.

1 min: A shaky start for Ederson, who races out of his box to clear a long Le Marchand hoof, and takes a fresh-air swipe. Had the flag not gone up for offside, Babel would have been in. Nobody’s immune to nerves, not even the champions.

City get the ball rolling! Whereupon they stroke it about a bit.

The teams are out. Fulham are in their famous old white and black, while Manchester City wear a change strip of dark blue with fancy pinstripe. A fine atmosphere at the Cottage, and we’ll be off before you know it! “While on the face of it Man City are good at football, on the not face of it they have their season’s losses to mediocre sides,” notes Ian Copestake. “I welcome fellow Liverpool supporters to grasp at this particular straw.”

The Premier League launch their No Room for Racism initiative this weekend. Meanwhile the players have been warming up in Kick It Out shirts. The two captains will also wear Kick It Out armbands.

England’s in-form sensation with a vital message.
England’s in-form sensation with a vital message. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images
The Fulham and Manchester City players stand with the match officials in protest against racism.
The Fulham and Manchester City players stand with the match officials in protest against racism. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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#STOPTHEGREED. Craven Cottage may be the prettiest ground in the Premier League, and well worth a visit, but prices starting at £55? It’s a big ask. Protesters are leafleting outside the ground today, and will make their point again on 55 minutes. Incidentally, the best available price on a 5-5 draw is a miserly 200-1. Is there no end to the gouging?

Preach on, brothers and sisters.
Preach on, brothers and sisters. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

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Pep also talks. “In this division we are second. You select thinking about the next game, you forget what you have to do today. I am pretty sure against Cardiff we are going to make some changes. The schedule and fixtures we have this month, we have a lot of games, so everybody must be involved.”

Scott Parker explains the absence of his main man Aleksandar Mitrović. “Mitro has been struggling with a slight problem for the last couple of weeks. He’s come back from international duty and he’s not ready to play today. So we’re looking to get him some treatment.”

Fulham make three changes to the team named for the narrow loss to Liverpool a fortnight ago. Cyrus Christie, Maxime Le Marchand and Ryan Sessegnon come in for Tim Ream, Jean Seri and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Manchester City name four changes to the side selected for the narrow victory at Swansea City in the FA Cup a couple of weeks back. Alexander Zinchenko, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling replace Fabian Delph, Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus.

The teams

Fulham: Sergio Rico, Fosu-Mensah, Chambers, Christie, Bryan, Cairney, Le Marchand, Zambo, Ayite, Ryan Sessegnon, Babel.
Subs: Odoi, McDonald, Kebano, Schurrle, Vietto, Ramirez, Steven Sessegnon.

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva, Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling.
Subs: Danilo, Stones, Sane, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Muric.

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).

Preamble

It’s difficult to see anything other than a Manchester City victory here. There’s probably no need to hammer home the point, but let’s get the mallet out anyway and rat-a-tat-tat.

City are the reigning English champions, with the destination of this year’s title in their own hands. Fulham are in 19th place in the Premier League, 13 points and 17 goals from safety.

City have won 11 of their last 12 matches, and the one they didn’t win ended in a penalty shootout and their lifting the first major silverware of the season. Fulham have lost their last seven on the bounce, and 11 of their last 12.

City have scored 79 goals in the league so far. Fulham have let in 70.

City have won their last seven fixtures against Fulham to an aggregate score of 21-3. Fulham haven’t beaten City for ten years, give or take a couple of weeks.

City are 8-1 on to win this match with your local turf accountant. Fulham you can get at 20s, and they’re 10s to scrape a draw.

But this is football, so there’s always hope! And here it comes: they’ve recently put up a good show here at Craven Cottage under interim boss Scott Parker against both Chelsea and Liverpool.

Well, OK, it’s not much. But from little acorns, etc. So will City register the easy win that’d take them back to the top of the Premier League, one point ahead of Liverpool? Will they rattle in a few to help the old goal difference, already six to the good over the current leaders? Or will Fulham pull off one of the shocks of the season, giving their faint hopes of survival an unlikely boost and scuppering City’s title charge? One suspects it’ll either be a goalfest or something very dramatic indeed. It’s on!

Kick off: 12.30pm GMT.