Match ends, Manchester City 2, Fulham 0.
Pep Guardiola believes this season's Premier League title race will be more open than in previous campaigns, with his Manchester City side now fourth in the table after a comfortable win over Fulham.
Raheem Sterling's close-range finish and a Kevin de Bruyne penalty made it back-to-back wins for City, who were vastly superior to their opponent but also wasteful in front of goal.
Having struggled for consistency so far this season, City are now three points behind the leagues joint leaders, Tottenham and reigning champions Liverpool.
As it stands, just four points separates the sides at the top and Wolves in ninth.
"In my first season, Chelsea dominated and the next three were us and Liverpool, we controlled the league.
"But Leicester came here and scored five goals and then this week lost against Fulham, who we've just beaten. It is like how the Premier League was, everyone can beat everyone.
"The important thing is to be in there.
"In this month, it was important to focus on qualification in the Champions League and now we focus on the Premier League. It will be a long, long season for all the clubs."
City ensured their progress to the Champions League last 16 with two group games to spare, meaning they could rest players for the 0-0 draw in Porto that preceded Saturday's win.
Guardiola's side recorded their now annual 5-0 home win over Burnley last weekend and were similarly dominant, albeit a bit wasteful against the Cottagers.
Sterling and De Bruyne laid the platform for the win, with the latter setting up the former to slot in the opening goal.
The roles were then reversed with the England winger tripped in the box by Joachim Andersen to allow the Belgian midfielder to score from the penalty spot.
The pair could easily have had another four goals between them but Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola made a string of good saves, while De Bruyne also struck the bar with a shot.
It is the first time this campaign that City have won back-to-back league matches and it lifts them to a spot in the table more in keeping of a side with title aspirations.
Fulham spent most of the game repelling attacks, but at least tried to ask questions of the home side, as they did to far greater effect at Leicester on Monday.
An eighth defeat of the season means the Cottagers remain 17th in the table, one point better off than West Brom and Burnley, both of whom have played a game less.
Pep reaches 700 as City make their move
This was City boss Pep Guardiola's 700th game as a manager, during which he has won 29 major trophies in 11 seasons, including two Premier League titles with City.
Their inconsistent form in the early stages of this campaign has prompted some to question whether they are capable of reclaiming the English top-flight crown, which they relinquished to Liverpool last season.
The critics may not be entirely won over by successive victories over such vastly inferior opposition as Burnley and Fulham, but they cannot deny the ease with which they were dispatched.
Nor can they ignore the small signs of that confident swagger returning to City's play nor the ominous stamping of authority on both games by De Bruyne, who scored his first league goal since the opening day win over Wolves and made it 14 assists in 2020 - more than any other Premier League player.
City weren't perfect - this should have at least matched the scoreline against Burnley - and there are bigger challenges to come, not least of all at Manchester United in their next league fixture, but with some stars rediscovering their form and Sergio Aguero reportedly soon to return from injury, another title challenge from Guardiola's side is well under way.
"We struggled at the beginning of the season for many reasons. Now four games, four clean sheets. It's so important for us to maintain this solidity," added Guardiola.
"The finishing was wasteful. We know we have to improve this, but it's important to keep creating the chances. In the last 20 minutes we lost too many simple balls, which is a problem.
"We have to do the simple things better. That is the next step."
As for Fulham, you could forgive them for viewing this as something of a free hit, especially after having claimed a morale-boosting second win of the season earlier in the week.
Their season was never going to be defined by a fixture against an opponent who have now beaten them 10 times in a row by an aggregate of 29-3.
They failed to produce a meaningful effort at goal bar a couple of speculative Ivan Cavaleiro shots, but will be pleased at the determination and discipline they showed in not crumbling after Sterling's early opener.
Things don't get any easier for Scott Parker's side, though. Up next: champions Liverpool.
"I see a team that had some fight today," said Fulham boss Scott Parker. "I really liked what we were about in the second half. There's no shame in losing to a quality side. I asked for spirit and personality and I thought we had that.
"The performances this week will stand us in very good stead. The first few games we weren't in the contest and since then we've been right in them. Today was another big performance. We'll keep building."
Guardiola with a 72% win percentage
- This was Man City boss Pep Guardiola's 700th match in charge in his managerial career (W507 D111 L82), while it was his 250th in all competitions with the Citizens (W179 D34 L37).
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 16 meetings with Fulham in all competitions (W13 D3), winning the last 10 in a row by an aggregate score of 29-3.
- Fulham have conceded more goals than any other Premier League side this season (21), with no side conceding in more different games than the Cottagers (10).
- Manchester City have scored as many goals over their last two Premier League games as they had in their previous seven in the competition (7).
- This was the first time Manchester City didn't make a single substitute in a Premier League match since April 2005, in a 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic.
- Since joining Manchester City in 2015, Kevin De Bruyne has both scored and assisted a goal in 16 different Premier League games - no player has done so more in that time (level with Mohamed Salah).
- Man City's Raheem Sterling has won 20 penalties in the Premier League, more than any other player in the competition's history.
- Man City's Kevin de Bruyne has been involved in more shots than any other Premier League player this season (62 - 34 shots, 28 chances created), with the Belgian involved in eight against Fulham this afternoon (6 shots, 2 chances created).
- 3Rúben Dias
- 17De Bruyne
- 9Gabriel Jesus
- 20Bernardo Silva
- 14De Cordova-ReidSubstituted forKamaraat 71'minutes
- 29Zambo Anguissa
- 21ReedSubstituted forLeminaat 68'minutes
- 15Loftus-CheekSubstituted forCairneyat 83'minutes
- Jonathan Moss
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Manchester City 2, Fulham 0.
Foul by João Cancelo (Manchester City).
Ademola Lookman (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by João Cancelo (Manchester City).
Ademola Lookman (Fulham) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Fulham. Tom Cairney replaces Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Attempt missed. Ivan Cavaleiro (Fulham) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Mario Lemina.
Attempt missed. Rúben Dias (Manchester City) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by Kevin De Bruyne with a cross following a set piece situation.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Joachim Andersen (Fulham).
Attempt saved. Ivan Cavaleiro (Fulham) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by André-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Attempt missed. Ola Aina (Fulham) left footed shot from more than 35 yards misses to the right.
Substitution, Fulham. Aboubakar Kamara replaces Bobby De Cordova-Reid.
Attempt missed. Rúben Dias (Manchester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high following a corner.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Antonee Robinson.
Substitution, Fulham. Mario Lemina replaces Harrison Reed.
Offside, Fulham. Antonee Robinson tries a through ball, but Ademola Lookman is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Riyad Mahrez following a corner.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Tosin Adarabioyo.
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