With the conclusion of the first “no news fortnight” of the season when the media world had nothing else to do but obsess themselves with Moaning Maureen, the Pug, The Nasty Rash et al, it was back to the Premier League for our clubs ahead of the first round of Champions League matches for the chosen few.
And with our Scouse brethren getting the weekend off to a winning start at Wembley, which was kind of ironic as it was Klopp’s first victory at the national stadium and there was no trophy to collect, it was important that City performed more in Huddersfield fashion rather than Newcastle.
Leroy Sane also had been subjected to some media investigation. Unable to command a Premier League starting berth and leaving the unhappy campers known as Germany early, albeit for new family reasons, he too had been the victim of the “Alan Brazil” investigation, where the ex-Stretford clown suggested Bayern Munich might be a better fit for a footballer who last season, after a similar sticky start, contributed to City’s record-winning season with 10 Premier League goals and a plethora of assists.
His 2 cameos this season had been far from so far this season really didn’t ignite the fire, but Guardiola decided to select him this time in a side that was overflowing with attacking talent on the field and just as much on the bench.
Ederson, as usual, was the goaltender with Walker, Laporte, Otamendi and the restored Fabian Delph across the back. The effervescent Fernandinho was the keeper of the keys with Silva service either side and all behind the “SAS” in the shape of Sterling, Aguero and Sane.
The day got off to an incredible start as a lady supporter attained her 102nd birthday and came to the match with her 98-year-old sister together with younger family members. The class of Manchester City came to the fore as they were “mascots” for the day and entered the field with David Silva and the rest of the squad. They were looked after by the “Moon” family before receiving a warm welcome from the division’s manager of total class and quality, Pep Guardiola. These 2 astonishing ladies have been watching City since 1930 and live to tell the tale.
They certainly brought luck to proceedings with City clicking into full swing before 2 minutes had appeared on the clock. Fernandinho sniffed a poor pass in the Fulham midfield, took control, sprinted into the gap offered at inside left, before drawing the remainder of the cover and setting it on a plate for Sane to slide home. That was more or less end of story as Fulham, determined to try to take City on, were promptly relegated to second best.
The early goal signalled an almost battering for the gallant cottagers as City poured forward with Bernardo Siva in astonishing form, acting like the conductor of the orchestra delivering chances for everyone, but with just as many being wasted. Sane could have had a first-half hat-trick, as could Sterling, but it just wouldn’t fall for Aguero.
At the other end, Delph was excellent despite it being his first appearance of the season as was Otamendi. Laporte kept tabs on the runners and the general went into battle with the combative Mitrovic.
Fulham took the game to City but failed to upset Ederson, who may as well have sat with the ladies in their hospitality box.
It was kind of astonishing that it took City another 20 minutes to add to their score and when it came it was quite a scruffy goal, but they all count don’t they?
Sterling had already dragged one wide and hit the bar when Bernardo ventured into his territory, kept the ball in, recycled it to Aguero whose shot was looking wayward, but it was shouldered down by David Silva and drilled into the roof of the net as the Fulham defenders appealed in vain for handball.
The rest of the first half saw wave after wave of blue and white take apart a term from West London, whose away kit was that of their West End rivals Chelsea. I wonder if they got it from the market?
It was a litany of attack, attack, attack, attack, attack by City who at last are starting to look as though the woes of the World Cup are starting to leave them behind. The fact that there was no place in the squad for Mendy and his replacement, Delph, put in a superb performance shows exactly how competitive it is to get into Pep’s thinking and even more so to stay there. In the first half hour, Fulham could only muster a toe-ender into level 2. It might have been 27 minutes before Ederson got a touch, but he made an excellent save from Schurrle on the half-hour and another from the same player, who together with De Bruyne and Salah found himself on Mourinho’s exit chute when at Chelsea and is surely a gift as a free transfer.
It was 2-0 at the break, but when combat resumed, it was quickly a mirror image of the first half as City set off on the goal trail again.
So rapidly did they build up their attacks, the linesman must have thought he had water in his boots in his attempts to interpret the offside rule, which was at times centimetre decisions. Fulham’s back line were dealing with City getting in behind and sliding the ball along the six-yard line quite well, but within 2 minutes of the restart, Aguero found himself at inside right, went around the outside of the defenders to the byline, before slide-ruling a pass to Sterling who couldn’t and didn’t miss for 3-0. So it was not to be the “SAS” but the “SSS” -Special Striking Services in the shape of Sane, Silva and Sterling who plundered the goals for the Blues today.
With the crowd baying for a landslide, this amazingly concluded the scoring. It wouldn’t fall for Segigol who was withdrawn for de Jesus on 53 minutes with Delph and Sterling also replaced by Gundogan and Mahrez before 75 minutes had elapsed.
Nobody deserved a goal more than Bernardo, whose 90-minute contribution was brilliant. When the best chance fell for him he leaned back and skied it in similar fashion to Schurrle in the first half. It simply wouldn’t arrive for the exciting Portuguese who is already on many radars and his doing his stock no harm. It was no surprise to me that he was elected man-of-the-match.
With Liverpool and Chelsea winning, City still find themselves 2 points off the pace as the Champions League approaches. This will test squad depths and it is refreshing to see the quality of footballer that City have on the bench. No player entering the field reduces the quality of the players on the field and we still have De Bruyne to come back and Mendy to be reconsidered. Liverpool passed their first real test of the season beating Spurs and Chelsea helped themselves to four Hazard-led goals as they hopped above the Scousers to the top of the league.
I think the recovery from Champions League matches and who we play in and around them could be a determining factor this season and we start to find out the answer to that one in seven days time.