MANCHESTER: Champions Manchester City looked close to their sparkling best as they comfortably beat promoted Fulham 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday to stay within two points of early leaders Liverpool and Chelsea.
German Leroy Sané, recalled after being left out of the squad against Newcastle, scored inside two minutes with a close-range finish after Fernandinho capitalised on some sloppy passing from the visitors.
Fulham had, in contrast to many visitors to the Etihad, arrived with a clear intention to take the game to City but after that early setback, the task was beyond Slaviša Jokanović’s side.
David Silva made it 2-0 when his powerful shot crashed in off the underside of the crossbar after excellent work from the outstanding Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva.
With his ability to jiggle out of tight situations, his sharp turns, his deft touches, and clever passes, Bernardo put on a showcase of his quality.
At times last season, Bernardo appeared to be on the fringes of Pep Guardiola’s revolution, but in his second season since his move from AS Monaco, his class has been abundantly evident, and Guardiola said he was delighted.
“It is almost impossible to be more pleased as a manager with him. He deserves to play all the minutes he plays,” said Guardiola, adding that Bernardo’s attitude was exemplary during the periods when he was restricted to the bench.
“I don’t forget the behaviour he has last season. He is an example. Last season I said if I stay here, this guy will stay here because he is special,” added the City manager.
With Kevin De Bruyne sidelined by a knee injury, Bernardo has been asked to play in a more central role, and he looks comfortable with the adjustment.
“He can play three, four, five positions, but he deserves all my respect,” added Guardiola.
Raheem Sterling made it 3-0 with the most straightforward of tap-ins after Sergio Agüero had finished off a fine passing move with a burst down the right and a low cross.
There could have been many more goals but while they opened up Fulham with some ease, City were unable to fully punish the London side.
“3-0 is a good result but we create a lot of chances to score five, six, seven goals, so we have to be more clinical because goal difference is important,” said Guardiola.
City begin their Champions League campaign against Olympique Lyon at the Etihad on Wednesday.