Pep Guardiola had a message of positivity for his Manchester City players to inspire a 13-minute goal rush that proved enough to beat Fulham.
Guardiola had made seven changes at Craven Cottage with a new, unfamiliar 3-4-3 formation on show. The first half was underwhelming, with only three tame shots testing the Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
City had no such issues after the break, though, with John Stones converting from Joao Cancelo’s free kick on 46 minutes, before Gabriel Jesus capitalised on a mistake at the back to double the lead ten minutes later. Sergio Aguero scored from the spot before the hour mark and City had won the game with half an hour to spare.
Revealing what he told his players at half time, Guardiola told BT Sport: “[I said] we are brilliant, don’t make mistakes behind, for the stadium, defend well the set pieces, make a good build up.
“The goal helps us a lot, after the brilliant actions for our pressing for second and third goals. This team concedes few and this stadium is so difficult and we did a good game.
“[It was a] great performance, with a team so physical and good ideas but we were brilliant. The beginning of the second half was so important. An important victory for us, eight games left, we are closer.”
With the forwards misfiring in the first half, City’s win was built once again on a solid defence, with Ederson collecting his 16th clean sheet of the season – equalling his tally for the whole of last season.
On his defence, Guardiola said another clean sheet bodes well for a big week with games against Borussia Monchengladbach and Everton in the cups.
He said: “It’s good, the dynamic of the season is good. We concede three goals for our throw-in in our thirds and today we didn’t concede it and it’s good.
“So satisfied, now we have three weeks off for the Premier League, now have two finals in the Champions League and FA Cup, but the team is ready to try it.
“Win helps to win the next one, of course different competition, there is no second option in the next game, we go to Budapest to prepare well and give everything to go to next stage.”