Erling Haaland saved the day for Manchester City and spared Joao Cancelo’s blushes as the striker’s last-gasp penalty secured a 2-1 win over Fulham in the Premier League.
Cancelo had left City short-handed after an embarrassing red card, which came shortly after Julian Alvarez gave the Etihad Stadium hosts a deserved early lead.
City were seeking a 13th consecutive win against Fulham across all competitions, yet their hopes nosedived soon after the opener when Cancelo was ordered off for a poor challenge on Harry Wilson, handing Fulham a spot-kick that Andreas Pereira tucked away.
Fulham were moments away from a point, but then Kevin De Bruyne was tripped by Antonee Robinson and a second penalty of the game was awarded. Substitute Haaland’s kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time was almost saved by Bernd Leno, but the ball squirmed under the goalkeeper, sending City above Arsenal at the top of the table.
Alvarez headed wide from a decent chance in the third minute after a delicious cross from De Bruyne. De Bruyne then had a typically scorching 20-yard drive tipped over the bar by Bernd Leno before Fulham gained any sort of foothold.
A mauling looked on the cards, and Alvarez thrashed in the opener off the underside of the bar in the 17th minute after Ilkay Gundogan’s pass set him clear.
John Stones had a tap-in disallowed for offside, but the game changed in the 25th minute when Cancelo was red-carded for an absurdly lazy barge in the penalty area on Wilson, with Pereira slotting the spot-kick past Ederson.
Ten-man City remained dominant, yet half-chances came and went before Pep Guardiola summoned Haaland and Phil Foden from the bench in the 64th minute.
Haaland shot wide from a difficult opportunity, but then his moment looked to have come in the 74th minute, with De Bruyne’s delivery from the left a thing of beauty and the striker’s close-range header just deadly.
Yet the substitute was marginally offside, the VAR verdict saving Fulham. Just as they looked set to cling on for a valued point, the foul on De Bruyne and Haaland’s cool head tilted the game back City’s way.