Manchester City cruised back to the top of the Premier League as they condemned strugglers Fulham to their eighth consecutive defeat.
Pep Guardiola’s side quickly established their superiority in the west London sunshine, with Bernardo Silva’s 20-yard drive finding the bottom left corner inside five minutes.
City, who had 10 shots in the first 15 minutes, added their second when Sergio Aguero sublimely lifted the ball over home goalkeeper Sergio Rico from close range.
Some woeful defending from Fulham – who have now conceded 72 goals, the worst record in the top flight – contributed to both goals, with Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Joe Bryan both guilty of gifting the ball to City near their own goal.
Scott Parker’s side also struggled to make an impression at the other end of the pitch and failed to register a shot on target.
City, who are chasing an unprecedented quadruple, move one point above Liverpool, who host Tottenham on Sunday (16:30 BST kick-off).
The Cottagers stay second bottom, 13 points from safety with six league games remaining.
Aguero’s key contribution
By the time Aguero was substituted in the 57th minute Manchester City were well on their way to a seventh consecutive Premier League victory.
And the 30-year-old, who is the division’s top scorer with 19 goals, played as decisive role as usual in the final third.
He may have only managed 22 touches, but one of his first was seizing on to Fosu-Mensah’s mistake to assist Silva’s opening goal.
Silva then repaid the favour to provide the Argentina forward the chance to continue his own rich vein of form – and Aguero delivered his 14th goal in his past 14 appearances.
His darting run gave him the time to execute the deftest of finishes as Rico closed in to narrow an already tight angle. It was Aguero’s only shot on target but it brought him his fifth goal in eight Premier League starts against Fulham.
It also underlined his prowess against sides that come up from the Championship.
Since his arrival in England from Atletico Madrid in 2011, no player has been involved in more Premier League goals against newly promoted teams than Aguero – who has scored 29 times and provided seven assists.
Fulham toil again
While Fulham ran title challengers Liverpool close in their last outing at Craven Cottage – losing 2-1 after James Milner’s late penalty – they barely laid a glove on City.
With injury depriving the Cottagers of 10-goal top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, they started the contest with a line-up that had seven league goals between them this season.
In contrast, the visitors – who are now 14 games away from the quadruple – were able to boast a combined 22 league goals among their substitutes.
The opening half emphasised the disparity of resource and the ambitions of the two clubs, as the best attack in the division repeatedly cut open the worst defence.
Fulham were fortunate to only be two behind at the interval as City created a succession of chances and Raheem Sterling appeared to have a valid claim for a penalty turned down after Fosu-Mensah’s challenge.
And even when City eased up in the second period, the hosts were still unable to muster an effort on target.
Instead, City almost added a third goal when Kyle Walker fired a right-foot shot against the post after Sterling had laid the ball into his path.
Man of the match – Sergio Aguero (Man City).
‘The first 15-20 minutes was incredible’ – what they said
Manager Pep Guardiola, speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “The first 15-20 minutes was incredible with the way we played.
“After the international break you usually miss a bit with your rhythm, but the effort was there. This game was tricky – 12:30 on Saturday, a sunny day. That is unusual and that is why I am so satisfied.
“We are going to do everything to win. No matter the next competition, we will win the game. Fulham was a tough game for Liverpool and Chelsea so we knew it was going to be tricky.
“We don’t think too much about what people say about the quadruple. What Liverpool and Manchester City have done in the Premier League both deserve credit. That’s why we are here.”
Fulham caretaker manager Scott Parker, speaking to Match of the Day: “Anyone in my position knows the challenge I had. I thought we did all right. But you concede an early goal like that…
“I don’t know if we were too tentative [early in the match]. I thought we were brave. You need to be brave against this team. It’s the only way you can put a stamp on the game.
“You are where you are in the division. During games, there have been moments that have been pleasing. We know the predicament we are in but we need to finish the season strongly.
“I’m enjoying it immensely. The position I have is tough but I want to give the team an identity again.”
City love London – the stats
- Fulham have lost their past seven top-flight matches against Manchester City. Only once before have they suffered more consecutive top-flight defeats against one team – eight by Manchester United between 2005 and 2009.
- City have lost just one of their past 10 Premier League visits to London, winning eight.
- Fulham have conceded at least twice in their past 12 league games, the longest such sequence in the top flight since a run of 14 by Newcastle between May and October 1977.
- City are the first side to face no shots on target in two consecutive away Premier League games – against Bournemouth and Fulham – since they also achieved the feat in November 2017.
- The Cottagers failed to have an effort on target for the first time in 188 home league games.
- Parker is the first Fulham manager to lose his first four games in charge in the Premier League.
- Silva scored in three consecutive Manchester City appearances for the first time.
- Aguero has been involved in eight goals in his past five league starts against Fulham (five goals, three assists).