Returning Riyad Mahrez scores brace for FA Cup progression – Manchester City 4-1 Fulham Review
In a battle between the table toppers of the Premier League and EFL Championship, Pep Guardiola's Manchester City ran out 4-1 winners against Fulham at the Etihad in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup. After a two-week absence, the Blues were back in action and goals from Riyad Mahrez (x2), John Stones, and Ilkay Gundogan enough to see City confirm their name into the pot for the next round.
Much has been said about Guardiola's time in England and particularly his strong team selections in the domestic cups, so nobody expected anything else today.
Academy stars Liam Delap and James McAtee, who recently signed a contract with City until 2027, both earned a spot on the bench but were denied a starting role. Cole Palmer and Gabriel Jesus both missed out due to injury.
Here is the team Pep chose:
Many predicted a shower of goals prior to kick-off and that was the case, to begin with.
City had the first opportunity to take the lead, just one minute into the game after Phil Foden won the ball high inside Fulham's half. Foden gave the ball to Kevin De Bruyne who slipped Jack Grealish in behind the opposition defence, but his left-footed effort wasn't enough to beat Paulo Gazzaniga in the Fulham net.
The visitors actually took the lead just moments later. They broke down City's left side, with Harry Wilson beating Joao Cancelo and crossing across goal towards the unmarked Fabio Carvalho. The 19-year-old tapped into an empty net.
It didn't take City long to grab an equaliser, however. Cancelo's ball into the box found Riyad Mahrez who timed his pass perfectly to find Gundogan in the box. The German swept the ball into the far corner to finish what was a superbly worked goal from the Premier League champions.
13 minutes in, City had the lead. De Bruyne swung in an inviting corner towards the front post where Stones rose highest to head past Gazzaniga into the net. What had been such a worrying start for the Blues had been flipped on its head in the space of just nine minutes.
After such an electric start nothing else really happened in the first half. Fulham's threat wasn't as potent as it was in the early moments and City looked slightly off it but did go into the break with a 2-1 lead.
Early in the second 45, Guardiola's side were awarded a penalty.
The ball fell to Grealish on the edge of the penalty area, and after some excellent footwork, the £100m man was brought down by Joe Bryan's pretty weak tackle. Mahrez stepped up and struck up into the top-right corner to give City a 3-1 lead.
Moments later the Blues added a fourth. De Bruyne streaked forwards into space before playing an inch-perfect ball round to Mahrez on the right. A deflected finish from the Algerian trickled past the Fulham keeper for his second and City's fourth.
Then the two youngsters were brought on by Pep. James McAtee and Liam Delap entered the pitch with 10 minutes to go and the latter thought he had a goal. Gundogan sent in an inswinging cross towards Delap, he headed down and past Gazzaniga but immediately looked to the linesman whose flag was raised for offside.
Steffen (6), Walker (6), Stones (7), Ake (6), Cancelo (7), Fernandinho (6.5), De Bruyne (8.5), Gundogan (8.5), Mahrez (8.5), Grealish (7), Foden (7).
Substitutes: Sterling (6), Zinchenko (7), Delap (7), McAtee (7), Silva (6.5).
After a nervy opening 10 minutes, City controlled the game through their possession and deserved the win. De Bruyne and Mahrez were great and the minutes for McAtee and Delap were the cherry on top of what was a great afternoon for City.
Credit has to be given to Fulham who came to the Etihad to attack and play, unlike a certain London-based side.
City now only have to wait until Wednesday for their next game when they host Brentford in a return to Premier League action.
The fifth round draw will take place prior to Liverpool vs Cardiff City tomorrow lunchtime.
Written by: @TomCayless_
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