Review and Player Ratings from epic 10-man Etihad fightback – Manchester City 2-1 Fulham
Manchester City fought Fulham, the elements, the officials, and a red card to come out on top and secure three points on Saturday afternoon.
Pep Guardiola's starting 11 was a bit of an overhaul from what he sent out in Sevilla, with only three players starting both games.
Ederson came back into the lineup for Stefan Ortega, while the line of defence completely changed, with John Stones, Manuel Akanji, Nathan Ake, and Joao Cancelo starting. A midfield three of Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, and Ilkay Gundogan, with a front three of Jack Grealish out left, Bernardo Silva out right, and Julían Alvarez through the middle.
Marco Silva's Fulham lined up with ex-Arsenal man Bernd Leno in goal, a back line of Kenny Tete, Issa Diop, Tim Ream, and Antonee Robinson. The five in midfield consisted of Harrison Reed, Joao Palhinha, Willian, Manchester United reject Andreas Pereira, and Harry Wilson, with Brazilian Vinicius (not the one you're thinking of) up front.
Quite frankly, City were in cruise control for most of the first half. The Blues were winning the ball back at ease whenever given away and seemed relaxed with the ball. A Pereira challenge down the back of Rodri's Achilles earned him a yellow card in the 7th minute, and he was probably lucky it was only a yellow, as I've seen a red given for less.
The breakthrough came in the 17th minute. Gundogan picked up the ball just inside the final third and threaded a wonderfully weighted pass through the lines for Alvarez to run onto. The Argentine struck a sweet right-footed hit off the bar and in, leaving Leno with no chance. Kun Aguero-esque from the boy they call La Arana.
In the 24th minute, Stones found the back of the net from a free kick delivery and ricochet, but Akanji was judged to be offside in the buildup.
53 seconds later, Fulham's Wilson was in on goal. Cancelo made a clumsy tackle; referee Darren England was quick to give a penalty and the full-back marching orders for his challenge. I've seen them given, and I've seen them not given. Pereira stepped up and slotted home, doing a knee slide celebration.
City had to regroup and see out the half. Fulham had a period of sustained possession, egged on by the travelling support. Guardiola's side found their footing in the 36th minute. De Bruyne found Alvarez again, whose shot was blocked by Ream.
No changes for City after halftime, and the trend of the game continued. Fulham were happy to sit back with 11 behind the ball in hopes of snatching a precious point.
In the 64th minute, reinforcements arrived. Phil Foden and Erling Haaland came on to replace Grealish, who gave a good account of himself, and Alvarez, the goalscorer. The Etihad started bouncing as City searched for a winner.
In the 74th minute, City came close. A ball in from De Bruyne found Haaland, who guided the ball into the net via a header. After a VAR review, the Norwegian was judged to be millimetres offside.
City had to go again.
In added time, City found something.
De Bruyne picked up the ball in the 93rd minute and pirouetted in the Fulham area. Robinson stuck a leg out, catching the Belgian. Feeling the contact, De Bruyne went down. Penalty City. Soft? Sure, but I've seen them given.
Who other than Haaland to step up and put a less-than-confident shot past Leno to give City a 2-1 lead in the 95th minute? They all count the same on the scoresheet.
The Etihad erupted, along with Pep Guardiola, who knew his men had found something magnificent to rescue the points.
Man of the Match
You could not go wrong by picking any of the midfield three or Bernardo Silva as your Man of the Match, but mine was Rodri. Excellent as always, the Spaniard controlled the tempo and played a variety of crucial roles after the sending off.
Ederson - 6
Stones - 7
Akanji - 7
Ake - 7
Cancelo - 4
Rodri - 9
Gündogan - 8.5
Kevin De Bruyne - 9
Grealish - 7
Álvarez - 7
Bernardo - 8.5
Subs: Haaland - 7, Foden - 6.5
Written by: @Ba5que
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