Haaland’s Golden Streak
When the sun set over Manchester on Tuesday, Erling Haaland had another accolade in his burgeoning cabinet: the PFA Player of the Year. By Thursday, UEFA too heralded him as one of their best. With such a week behind him, all eyes were on this Norwegian sensation when Man City hosted Fulham.
His performance? Nothing short of poetic. In a game where he not only scored but played the role of provider, Haaland’s genius was everywhere. His tally now stands at a commanding six goals for the season, but what’s more notable is how he’s redefining the role of a striker in modern football.
Juanma Lillo, Man City’s trusted deputy, was vocal about Haaland’s genius: “It’s no surprise he boasts such numbers. Beyond goals, it’s about his intelligence, his contribution to the team.” As if to prove Lillo’s point, Haaland turned provider, setting up Julian Alvarez for City’s first. By the end of the game, Alvarez reciprocated, and Haaland had another match ball to his name.
A Game of Moments
The tide seemed to turn just before half-time. Fulham had momentarily silenced the Etihad with Tim Ream’s equaliser, responding almost instantly to Alvarez’s opener. But the Video Assistant Referee’s decision surrounding Nathan Ake’s 10-yard header – and an offside Manuel Akanji – became the game’s talking point. The goal stood, much to the chagrin of Fulham’s gaffer Marco Silva. His protest saw him booked, a moment that encapsulated Fulham’s frustrations.
Beyond the Scoreline
It wasn’t all roses for City. The absence of Jack Grealish meant the baton passed to £55m debutant, Jeremy Doku. The Belgian showcased moments of brilliance, threatening with pace and guile. Yet, until Alvarez’s opener, City seemed to be missing their usual verve.
The focus shifted quickly. Ake’s header changed the game’s landscape, providing the stage for Haaland to demonstrate why he’s considered one of football’s brightest.
Lillo, ever the orchestrator from the side-lines in Guardiola’s absence, praised Haaland’s fortitude, especially when stepping up for the penalty. “In our minds, there was no doubt he’d take it. Given another chance, he’d be our man again.”
Staggeringly, at just 23, Haaland has 51 Premier League goal involvements, breaking Andy Cole’s record by a margin. Four games into the season, and he’s already set a precedent hard to match.
The Fulham Quandary
Fulham’s Silva might well feel like biting his tongue at some point over the injustices he perceives. But that day wasn’t today. The VAR decision was but a tip of the iceberg on a night Fulham would rather erase from memory. With star player Joao Palhinha absent, having missed a last-minute transfer to Bayern Munich, and captain Tom Cairney injured, the stars hardly aligned for the visitors.
However, a glimmer of positivity emerged for Fulham in the form of eighteen-year-old academy talent, Luke Harris, whose introduction to such a grand stage will be invaluable.
The Final Whistle
The match stats might lean heavily in City’s favour, but the drama, moments of magic, and tension made this fixture much more than just numbers:
Possession: Man City 68% – Fulham 32%
Shots: Man City 7 – Fulham 6 Shots
on Target: Man City 5 – Fulham 4
Corners: Man City 4 – Fulham 5
Fouls: Both teams 12
As the dust settles on a riveting night, one name remains on everyone’s lips: Erling Haaland. A force of nature, a prodigious talent, a star under the Etihad lights.