For what it was worth, Fulham didn’t totally embarrass themselves. They did not advance to the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup, but the football club can leave with their heads held high as they made it this far into the competition for the first time since 2014/15.
Manchester City might have played plenty of their second unit and academy products against what could be Fulham’s first team. However, it was a good opportunity for Slavisa Jokanovic to see how his best XI could perform, and for the most part, it could have been worse. Plenty of turnovers occurred in the opening 45 minutes and Manchester City constantly pinned the visitors all half. Eventually, they were able to break the duct off of a corner attempt that started short but found a limb of Fabian Delph inside the penalty area. From there a shot by Brahim Diaz ricocheted all off of a Fulham defender to go into the back of the net and break the deadlock. It was the 19-year old Spanish Under-21 International’s first goal for City and rumors have been flying that he could leave for Real Madrid on a free transfer if his contract were to run out. Such is the talent of Manchester City that some of the best talents in the world play for them, yet can’t get any game time at first team level.
By the end of the half, the home side had over 67% of the ball, outshot Fulham 13-3 overall and 4-1 among shots going on target.
The second half wasn’t that much different in that Diaz got another goal off of some fluky bounces, but City had more of the ball and therefore created the better chances on the whole. For Diaz’s second goal, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus did really well to beat an organized defense that Fulham were trying to implement all night. In particular, Jesus went on to beat Tim Ream and almost score if his shot wasn’t too wide enough to hit the post. Luckily, Diaz ended collecting the rebound inside the penalty area with Fulham’s defense all over the place and he slotted it home with ease.
So yeah, this would be considered a poor outing for Fulham if Manchester City were not among the best and deepest squads in world football. But the result was as expected and Fulham can at least come in to Monday’s outing versus Huddersfield full of confidence with a tactical system they have some comfort in. Now there will be concerns that Fulham’s more counter-attacking style will not spring load their attack to full effect, especially now that so much more will be relied on Andre Schürrle to collect the ball and generate shots. But a collective system isn’t spelled without “collective”. So if all 11 players can fit into it, the better they’ll be in the long run, regardless if the football club are still in the Premier League in 2020 or not.
Overall, it could be deemed a disappointing night, but it could be far far worse and focus can now be put more towards more important matters ahead.