'Always we score goals': Manchester City bring up a century with rout of 10-man Fulham
Any hopes of Championship side Fulham causing an upset at the Etihad Stadium were dented in less than six minutes after captain Tim Ream received his marching orders
It has become an annual occurrence, a milestone many clubs do not reach but which Manchester City bring up every New Year. For the third consecutive season, Pep Guardiola’s team reached a century of goals in January. Few have allied potency with consistency over so long.
If there was a surprise they limited themselves to four against 10-man Fulham, that reflected well on a Championship side who only had a full complement of players for six minutes. The FA Cup holders nevertheless ensured smooth progress into the fifth round as they took their tally to 34 goals in their last eight games in the competition. “Always we score goals since we are here,” said Pep Guardiola. “Always we have the ability to score.”
Ilkay Gundogan advanced his candidature to fill the problem position of penalty taker, Bernardo Silva made them centurions with a terrific finish and Gabriel Jesus got a predatory double while thoughts could turn to Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester United. Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne were among those who were rested ahead of a decisive derby. Aymeric Laporte sat the game out with fatigue. “We are not going to take risks,” added Guardiola, who is waiting to see if the defender can play against United.
He has suggested axing replays in the FA Cup but this was never likely to require one. “If it had been 11 against 11, it would have been a tough game,” he added. “After one or two minutes I thought it will be tough game.” Instead, as Fulham manager Scott Parker said: “The plan and prep you do goes out of the window after six minutes when you go down to 10 men and they score a goal.”
Each was courtesy of poor decision-making by their stand-in captain. Fulham had begun with six men who are defenders by trade, but lost one almost immediately. As Jesus accelerated on to Gundogan’s pass, Tim Ream grabbed the striker around the neck. It was an obvious foul and an automatic red card for the American. “Tim is obviously devastated,” added Parker. “He has been immense for us this season.”
City have had their problems from 12 yards of late, with Jesus, Aguero and Raheem Sterling all missing in the last year. Guardiola had joked on Tuesday that he might put Ederson on penalties. Instead, with the Brazilian benched, Gundogan took responsibility and slotted his spot kick past Marek Rodak. The German is sufficiently adept to have scored a penalty in the 2012 Champions League final. “If you see his statistics from the last years, even when he played for Dortmund and the national team, his average is so high,” added Guardiola. “The most important fact for the penalties is pressure and Gundo in these terms is so, so good.”
Then Bernardo Silva made them the first club in any of Europe’s five major leagues to reach three figures – albeit six days slower than last season, when their 100th came on January 20 – by bending a shot into the bottom corner of the Fulham net with expert precision.
City ought to have added a third before Jesus’ four-minute double. Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden blazed efforts over. Sterling came off the bench and clipped the bar with a rising shot.
The Fulham debutant Terence Kongolo made a magnificent challenge when Jesus was closing in on goal. Kongolo undid some of that fine work with a failed attempt to play out from the back when City scored their third. It allowed Joao Cancelo to cross and Jesus to head in. A man who scored twice in last season’s FA Cup final added another brace in the competition with a close-range finish after Rodak parried Foden’s shot.
“Four-nil is a hefty result but there are big nuggets for me as a coach,” added Parker, noting that 11-man Premier League sides have suffered heavier defeats to City. “I have nothing but pride for my players.”
But the only reminder of the FA Cup’s propensity for the unlikely came before kick-off with the sight of Aaron Wilbraham. The 40-year-old Rochdale striker, and City fan, had scored against Newcastle United in the third round. There can still be shocks, but there was not one at the Etihad.
Updated: January 26, 2020 08:00 PM