In a comfortable early afternoon of football, Manchester City dismissed Fulham 0-2 at Craven Cottage.
The win sends City back to the top of the table and puts the pressure on Liverpool to keep pace. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Bernardo Silva
Is it possible to low-key be player of the year? If so, that’s exactly what Bernardo Silva is doing. Whilst Raheem Sterling and Virgil van Dijk are hoovering up headlines – and rightly so – Bernardo Silva has been equally as dominant and impressive at the heart of City’s midfield.
Bernardo Silva's first-half by numbers vs. Fulham:
3 chances created
Just a treat to watch. ? pic.twitter.com/xZ8OoCfEOQ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 30, 2019
Remember Kevin De Bruyne, City’s most important player in their 100-point title triumph last season, has spent much of this campaign injured and playing poorly. This should have had a crippling effect on City’s title defence yet with the form of Silva, but the Citizens have carried on dominating as though nothing has happened.
On Saturday Silva was again the catalyst for City’s win. His overall play was excellent and he proved he most decisive player in the final third as well. His Messi-esque dribble and finish put City into an early lead and it was his pass that played in Sergio Aguero to thunder home the second.
Loser: Scott Parker
You have to feel for Scott Parker. He may well be a good young coach but we’ll never know it off the back of his spell with Fulham and he’ll always have this relegation on his record books. And it really does look like there was nothing he could do to avoid it.
On Saturday he set up against Manchester City with a back five. This is very smart as it allows you to man-mark their front three and yet still always have men spare to watch the flanks and prevent the overload. Yet even with this set-up, Fulham got battered from pillar to post as Parker’s men gave the ball away like they were Oprah Winfrey.
Winner: Sergio Aguero
At the start of Saturday’s games Sergio Aguero had just a one goal cushion in the Golden Boot race. He was also one of four players tied for the top for overall goal involvement on 24. And by the end of the day he had a cushion in both.
Sergio Aguero has now scored 19 Premier League goals this season, at least two more than any other player.
A cushion in the Golden Boot race. ? pic.twitter.com/k4xjHcpnfG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 30, 2019
The Argentinian got a generous assist for Bernardo Silva’s goal, but that was outshone because his stunning strike to give City a 2-0 lead and settle the match in their favour, a stunning of a movement capped by a devastating high finish, gave him his 19th goal and 26th goal involvement. The man is a machine!
When will Aguero’s relentless excellence be rewarded? He’s as absurdly consistent at scoring goals as Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry were – moreso, perhaps – and has played a huge part in three title wins. Could this season see a fourth? Would that cement his legacy?
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Loser: Timothy Fosu-Mensah
Oh Timothy, whatever happened? Once the young Dutch defender looked a can’t miss prospect for Manchester United – now he’s just as much a liability in defence as Dennis Odoi (alright maybe he’s not quite that bad) and putting out stinkers like today’s display.
To be fair, Fosu-Mensah’s actual defending wasn’t too bad; whenever he had to defend his flank he did so bravely, but his play with the ball was absolutely shocking. It was as if he was playing with a blindfold on; constantly playing team-mates into danger and giving the ball away.
It was Fosu-Mensah’s bafflingly-loose square pass which led directly to City’s opening goal of the game as Pep Guardiola’s men pounced and intercepted the loose ball before engineering the move to get Bernardo Silva a clean look at goal – though they could have scored in a more orthodox way if they had wanted. It was a massive error that set the tone just five minutes in.
Winner: Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola is a pretty good football manager. That much should be obvious. After all the doubts over his style of play, he’s brought the Premier League to heel and is very close to becoming only the third manager in history to retain the Premier League. And what’s more, they’ve done it all in style.
City were a sight to behold on Saturday. They passed with precision and poise, their movement was outrageous and the confidence with which they used the ball left Fulham looking even more useless than they usually do. The Sky Blues (well the navy blues with sky blue and green pinstripes) look the class of the Premier League still, in the first half Kyle Walker was the only outfielder who didn’t have a shot – and he cracked one off in the second period. And all this was coming off an international break where he couldn’t even train with most of his players.
The Reds are back down to second in the table before they have even kicked a ball in their massive clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
This heaps pressure back on Jurgen Klopp’s men to produce in a massive clash. Now, whilst they do relish a challenge and prefer to be chasing, this is a big mountain for them to climb.
As much as everyone would have expected City to beat Fulham, the fact that they did so in such a convincing manner ahead of such a tricky fixture for Liverpool could mean that this turns out to be a decisive weekend in the title clash.