Manchester City 5-1 Fulham: Erling Haaland scores hat-trick as Pep Guardiola's side stay perfect in the Premier League
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Manchester City 5-1 Fulham: Erling Haaland scores hat-trick as Pep Guardiola’s side stay perfect in the Premier League

Manchester City breezed past Fulham 5-1 to go top of the Premier League table at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, but needed a controversial first-half VAR decision to help them on their way, something Marco Silva called a “huge mistake.”.

Julian Alvarez had opened the scoring on the half-hour mark, before Tim Ream found immediate reply at the opposite end, tapping into an empty net after Ederson had kept out an effort from Raul Jimenez.

Controversy followed, though, as Nathan Ake converted Phil Foden’s corner with a clever header in first-half stoppage time. Manuel Akanji, standing in an offside position, dummied the ball on its way through, meaning Bernd Leno’s view was obstructed as he tried and failed to stop the effort crossing the line.

Nathan Ake's goal stood after VAR review, despite Manuel Akanji interfering from an offside position

Image: Nathan Ake’s goal stood after VAR review, despite Manuel Akanji interfering from an offside position

VAR looked at the incident, but declined to intervene, with Fulham boss Silva incensed on the touchline at the perceived injustice.

“He must have put the goalkeeper off, he must be interfering with the goalkeeper,” said former referee Mike Dean on Soccer Saturday, having had the benefit of several replays. “That should be disallowed,” Michael Dawson concurred.

VAR, remarkably, disagreed.

Team news

  • Man City were without Jack Grealish, owning to a muscle strain, but handed new signing Jeremy Doku his debut.
  • Manuel Akanji and Phil Foden both started after recovering from illness, while deadline-day arrival Matheus Nunes was named on the bench after his move from Wolves.
  • Marco Silva was without Joao Palhinha following the collapse of his proposed move to Bayern Munich on Friday, and made four changes – Harrison Reed, Tom Cairney, Tim Ream and Kenny Tete all came in.
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats.
  • Stream the Premier League and more with NOW for £26 a month for 12 months.
  • Premier League table | Watch free Premier League highlights.
  • Get Sky Sports | Download the Sky Sports app.
  • Erling Haaland converts a penalty to give Manchester City a 4-1 lead against Fulham

    Image: Erling Haaland scored his seventh hat-trick for Manchester City

    City’s task was straightforward from then on, with the visitors unable to recover their composure, just at the moment Erling Haaland unearthed his. The Norwegian proceeded to find the net three times thereafter, his seventh hat-trick since joining City just over a year ago.

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    “I’m back. No problem for me. I’m always hungry. It’s a new season and I’m ready for it,” Haaland said of his treble. “We go into the international break having won four in four. Good start to the season.”.

    Player ratings

    Man City: Ederson (6), Walker (7), Dias (7), Akanji (6), Ake (7), Rodri (6), Kovacic (6), Doku (5), Alvarez (8), Foden (9), Haaland (8).

    Subs: Silva (6), Gomez (7), Phillips (n/a), Bobb (n/a), Lewis (n/a).

    Fulham: Leno (7), Robinson (7), Ream (7), Diop (8), Tete (7), Pereira (7), Reed (7), Cairney (n/a), Reid (6), Jimenez (7), Wilson (7).

    Subs: Harris (7), Castagne (6), Willian (6), Muniz (n/a), Traore (n/a).

    Player of the match: Erling Haaland.

    How City lucked out against Fulham

    City maintained their perfect start, but that didn’t tell the whole story on a day where the scoreline served to flatter the treble winners, and Haaland’s hat-trick masked over a performance far from City’s free-flowing best.

    It was a disputed VAR decision that turned the game in the hosts’ favour just before half-time, when Ake’s header was allowed to stand to make it 2-1.

    Nathan Ake celebrates after scoring to give Manchester City a 2-1 lead against Fulham

    Image: Nathan Ake celebrates after scoring to give Manchester City a 2-1 lead against Fulham

    Video assistant referee, Tony Harrington, ruled that Akanji did not interfere with play from an offside position even though he was in goalkeeper Leno’s line of sight when he jumped over the ball.

    Silva raged on the touchline at the decision, but had to keep his emotions in check having already received three yellow cards this season, serving a one-match touchline ban as a result. Fulham’s players were equally inflamed on the pitch, protesting long and hard, even after the VAR decision had concluded. But the goal stood.

    The stormy end to the first half appeared to take its toll on Fulham as City moved through the gears in the second period.

    Erling Haaland celebrates after scoring against Fulham

    Image: Erling Haaland celebrates after scoring against Fulham

    Haaland was the one to end any further resistance, becoming the fastest player in top-flight history to reach 50 goal involvements, with 42 goals and nine assists in just 39 Premier League appearances.

    He made it 3-1 just before the hour with a clinical low finish after Alvarez slipped him through, before a clumsy challenge on Alvarez from Issa Diop gifted the Norwegian the chance to convert from the penalty spot – atoning for last week’s missed spot-kick against Sheffield United.

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    Haaland then completed his treble in injury time, sweeping home substitute Sergio Gomez’s well-placed low cross.

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    Silva: Huge mistake – VAR has to disallow goal

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    Fulham manager Marco Silva:.

    “A huge, huge mistake from the linesman, but even more from the VAR. How is it possible not to disallow that goal?

    “Everyone who plays football or played football or understands football is 100 per cent sure it is offside.

    “For me, it is difficult to understand how the VAR cannot disallow the goal. The player was in a clear offside position.”.

    On the omission of midfielder Joao Palhinha, who was minutes away from completing a Deadline Day move to Bayern Munich on Friday, Silva said: “As you know, it was a tough day for Joao.

    “I know him very well. Even if I’m not feeling the same, I know how he feels right now. It wasn’t good for him, for sure.”.

    Dean confused by bizarre VAR decision

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    Former Premier League referee Mike Dean speaking on Soccer Saturday:.

    “I think Marco Silva was being generous when he said the player jumped out of the way. It’s actually gone through his legs!

    “The goalkeeper can’t go straight away because he has to wait and when he does move, it’s too late. The player has to be interfering.

    “It’s 1,000 per cent offside. It’s just offside. I just don’t understand why it wasn’t given. It’s offside in any game of football.”.

    Analysis: Do we have to talk about VAR – again?

    Referee Michael Oliver, centre, listens to VAR instructions from Stockley Park

    Image: Referee Michael Oliver, centre, listens to VAR instructions from Stockley Park

    Sky Sports’ Laura Hunter:.

    On a day Erling Haaland bagged another hat-trick – and a good one at that – the thing we continue to circle back to, the thing that hogs the headlines, is VAR. Contentious VAR. The system that was created to put an end to controversy, is actually serving to fuel it.

    Phil Foden’s corner was promptly nodded goalwards by Nathan Ake in second-half stoppage time – nothing wrong with that. But as Manuel Akanji lept over the ball, he did so from an offside position. There is no doubt Akanji was “in the line of vision” of goalkeeper Bernd Leno, which a quick scan of the rulebook will tell you is a definite infringement. The entire episode was missed by on-field referee Michael Oliver.

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    Sounds like a clear and obvious error, right? Wrong. “He must have put the goalkeeper off,” furious Mike Dean raged on Soccer Saturday. Marco Silva was incandescent. VAR took a contrasting view.

    Haaland touched the ball 17 times against Fulham. Three of those were goals. One was an assist for Julian Alvarez. It’s a truly remarkable return. Yet, all the reflections centre on an issue that isn’t going away. Haaland won’t go away either, of course, but while we celebrate his achievements, VAR continues to be a sleight on our sport.

    Lillo: Haaland born scoring goals

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    Man City assistant manager Juan Manuel Lillo joked that Haaland “was born scoring goals,” after the Norwegian took his season tally to six: “This guy was born scoring goals and he will go through his whole life scoring goals, so it will be no surprise if he manages to get the same figures as last season. But it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t.

    “Today in the first half none of the team played well. We didn’t find that freshness in our play.

    “Our opponents kept the ball well, and that made it difficult for us. So it would have been difficult for any No 9 in that game, particularly with the characteristics Erling has.”.

    On the controversial VAR decision, he added: “Today Akanji was not in the line of the ball, so that’s the explanation.”.

    Opta: Haaland keeping esteemed company

    Man City's Erling Haaland continues to break Premier League goalscoring records

    Image: Man City’s Erling Haaland continues to break Premier League goalscoring records
  • Erling Haaland reached 50 (and 51) goal involvements (42 goals, 9 assists) in just 39 appearances in the Premier League, breaking Andy Cole’s record (43 games) to become the fastest player to reach 50 goals and assists in the competition.
  • Man City have won 35 of their last 37 home games in all competitions (D1 L1), including a club-record 18 in a row since drawing 1-1 with Everton in December 2022.
  • Haaland scored his fifth Premier League hat-trick, with all five coming at the Etihad. He is the fifth player to score 5+ hat-tricks at a single ground in the competition, along with Sergio Agüero (nine at Etihad), Thierry Henry (eight at Highbury), Alan Shearer (seven at Ewood Park), and Robbie Fowler (six at Anfield).
  • What’s next?

    Manchester City’s first game after the international break is at West Ham on Saturday September 16. Kick-off 3pm.

    Fulham return to action at home to Luton on the same Saturday with kick-off at 3pm.

    Stream Premier League action on Sky Sports with NOW for just £26 a month for 12 months. Cancel anytime.