Erling Haaland scored his 50th goal of the season as Manchester City moved above Arsenal at the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Fulham.
The striker broke the deadlock from the penalty spot inside three minutes at Craven Cottage with his record-equalling 34th strike in the Premier League this campaign.
Carlos Vinicius equalised for Fulham before Julian Alvarez’s stunning long-range effort sealed an eighth straight league win for Pep Guardiola’s side, who moved a point clear of Mikel Arteta’s Gunners with a game in hand to come.
City have now won each of their last 14 encounters with the Cottagers, who suffered their sixth defeat in eight games to remain in 10th.
A penalty had been awarded in each of the sides’ five previous meetings and less than 90 seconds had elapsed when Simon Hooper pointed to the spot after Tim Ream tripped Alvarez, Haaland making no mistake from 12 yards.
Fulham equalised in the 15th minute when Harry Wilson neatly cushioned a lofted ball into the penalty area for Vinicius to fire home on the volley.
But after Bernd Leno tipped Jack Grealish’s curling shot onto the crossbar, City regained the lead in spectacular fashion on 36 minutes, Alvarez whipping a wonderful 25-yard effort into the top-left corner.
The visitors went close to stretching their advantage as Leno produced marvellous reflex saves to deny Haaland and Alvarez early in the second half.
The hosts struggled to find a route back into a scrappy affair after the break, with City holding on to extend their timely winning streak and take another step towards a third successive title.
Fulham player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Bernd Leno – 7/10 – Kept Fulham in the contest with several good saves.
RB: Kenny Tete – 5/10 – Got embroiled in a physical feud with Grealish, though did give him a lot of freedom with the ball in play.
CB: Tosin Adarabioyo – 5/10 – Occasionally made strange calls as to whether to stay or go, pass or clear, leave or retrieve.
CB: Tim Ream – 3/10 – Roasted by Alvarez in his 21 minutes on the pitch until he was forced off with an arm injury.
LB: Antonee Robinson – 5/10 – Recovery pace came in handy given the space he often vacated for Man City to attack into.
CM: Harrison Reed – 5/10 – Didn’t stand out too much in the midfield battle.
CM: Joao Palhinha – 6/10 – Went toe-to-toe with Rodri.
RM: Harry Wilson – 5/10 – Grabbed an assist but did little else.
AM: Andreas Pereira – 6/10 – Found it hard to consistently stay in the game but came up with a crucial contribution for Fulham’s first. Substituted with a serious leg injury.
LM: Bobby De Cordova-Reid – 5/10 – A rather wasteful outlet and failed to win a penalty off of Walker.
CF: Carlos Vinicius – 7/10 – Equalised with an effort Aleksandar Mitrovic would have been proud of.
Issa Diop (21′ for Ream) – 6/10 – Fulham’s most reliable defender, unfazed in his battles with Haaland.
Tom Cairney (58′ for Pereira) – 6/10
Manor Solomon (76′ for De Cordova-Reid) – N/A
Dan James (76′ for Wilson) – N/A
Sasa Lukic (76′ for Reed) – N/A
Marco Silva – 6/10 – Fulham were unafraid of Man City despite their various injury woes.
Manchester City player ratings (3-2-4-1)
GK: Ederson – 5/10 – Didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
CB: Kyle Walker – 5/10 – Looked rather hesitant and it’s understandable why Guardiola doesn’t fully trust him in this new system.
CB: Ruben Dias – 5/10 – Very few of Man City’s defenders had particularly good games. The Portugal centre-back was guilty of not communicating properly with Ederson.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Swept up for his teammates’ errors.
DM: John Stones – 6/10 – Had to drop further back to assist with actual defending today.
DM: Rodri – 6/10 – Put to work by Palhinha in the engine room.
RM: Riyad Mahrez – 7/10 – Looked noticeably than Robinson but was able to rely on his trickery to create space instead.
AM: Julian Alvarez – 9/10 – Often pushed up alongside Haaland. Fulham simply couldn’t keep him quiet.
AM: Ilkay Gundogan – 6/10 – Got frustrated with a few errant passes which fell below his high standards.
LM: Jack Grealish – 7/10 – Should probably have taken advantage of the openings he got but nonetheless did well to create them.
CF: Erling Haaland – 8/10 – Tied the record for most goals scored in a Premier League season. Fulham had to bend their defensive shape just to cope with him.
Phil Foden (82′ for Mahrez) – N/A
Bernardo Silva (82′ for Alvarez) – N/A
Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – Man City lost their composure as the game went on but did enough to earn the win.
Player of the match – Julian Alvarez (Man City)
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