LONDON: Manchester City moved to the top of the Premier League on Sunday as Erling Haaland shattered a 92-year goal landmark while Julian Alvarez scored a stunner to clinch a 2-1 win at Fulham.
Norway striker Haaland converted a third-minute penalty at Craven Cottage to become the first top-flight player to score 50 goals in all competitions since 1931.
“Before Winston Churchill was Prime Minister? Wow. Sounds a long time ago. Congratulations to Erling. The best goal to help us achieve what we want is still there,” City boss Pep Guardiola said.
Haaland also moved level with Alan Shearer and Andy Cole’s single-season Premier League record total.
Shearer scored 34 for Blackburn in 1995 and Cole hit the same tally for Newcastle in 1994.
Carlos Vinicius equalised for Fulham but Alvarez’s first goal in six games, a brilliant long-range effort, lifted City one point clear of second-placed Arsenal.
“The game was so tight until the end. We knew after we beat Arsenal that winning these types of games is really important. The players behaved amazingly,” added Guardiola.
“The Alvarez goal was extraordinary. We have incredible strikers.”
Treble-chasing City, on top for the first time in 10 weeks, have won their last eight league games and are unbeaten in their last 18 matches in all competitions.
Guardiola’s red-hot team, who have a game in hand on Arsenal, need to win five of their last six games to be certain of a fifth title in six seasons.
With Haaland’s goal spree showing no signs of slowing, few would bet against them taking advantage of Arsenal’s collapse.
“It’s important but on Tuesday Arsenal will play. Important is the West Ham game, it’s a game in hand. After that we’ll be top of the table and it will be more real,” Guardiola said.
Arsenal, winless in their last four games, host Chelsea on Tuesday, with City at home to West Ham on Wednesday.
In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s crucial 4-1 demolition of Arsenal, Guardiola had dismissed suggestions the title race was over.
– History-making Haaland –
Guardiola reminded his players they were held to a surprise draw at Nottingham Forest in their next match after beating Arsenal in February.
It was a warning that had the desired affect, even without Kevin De Bruyne, who was missing due to an injury.
City took just three minutes to move ahead in west London as Riyad Mahrez found Alvarez in the Fulham area and the Argentine forward was flattened by Tim Ream’s clumsy challenge.
History in his sights, Haaland took the ball with a determined look and confidently drove his penalty low past Bernd Leno.
Fulham broke out to snatch an equaliser against the run of play in the 15th minute.
Harry Wilson’s pass found Vinicius and the Brazilian took advantage of City’s sloppy marking to drill a powerful finish past Ederson from 10 yards.
Alvarez has found consistent game-time hard to come by in his first season at City due to Haaland’s excellence.
But Guardiola is a big fan of the diminutive World Cup winner and he showed exactly why he has the Spaniard’s faith in the 36th minute.
Taking possession 25 yards from goal, Alvarez held off a Fulham challenge before shifting into position to unleash a sublime strike that gave Leno no chance as it whipped into the top corner.
Ilkay Gundogan’s close-range effort was repelled moments later by Leno, who made another smart save to deny Haaland’s drive early in the second half.
A long delay following a serious injury to Fulham’s Andreas Pereira lost City some of their grip on the game.
They had a lucky escape when Ederson almost lost possession inside his area, sparking a scramble that ended with the keeper poking the ball to safety.
Fulham appealed in vain for a penalty when Kyle Walker tangled with Bobby Decordova-Reid, who fired narrowly wide soon after as City held on.
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