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Bernardo’s Silva service against Fulham delights Guardiola

Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager, saw Leroy Sane make a triumphant return to his starting line-up in a 3-0 victory over Fulham at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday but reserved special praise for a man-of-the-match performance from Bernardo Silva.

The Portuguese international playmaker saw his first team starts limited as City won the Premier League title last season but he has made a strong start to the new campaign.

He was little short of magnificent as City continued an unbeaten start to their title defence against newly-promoted Fulham, with the only thing missing from his dominant display a goal.

Bernardo saw a second-half effort deflected behind and left Guardiola holding his head in his hands in mock disgust when he shot wide from 15 yards near the end but, after starting just 15 games last season, he seems guaranteed a far more pivotal role with City this term.

“It’s almost impossible to be more pleased with him as a manager,” said Guardiola. “That’s why he deserves to play all the minutes he’s playing.

“He played a lot last season, but not in the starting line-up, and I don’t forget his behaviour in front of his team-mates last season,” added the Catalan boss.

– ‘This guy is special’ –

“He was an example and that is why I said that I don’t know what will happen in the future but if I am here, this guy will stay here because he is special.”

The rout started after just 98 seconds when a poorly-placed pass from Jean Michael Seri was intercepted by Fernandinho who advanced and crossed for new father Sane to tap into an open goal.

It was the German international’s first start of the season at the end of a frustrating four months in which he was omitted from his country’s World Cup squad and, as recently as this week, criticised by Germany team-mate Toni Kroos who questioned his attitude and body language.

“In the period he didn’t play, we never doubted Leroy’s quality,” Guardiola insisted.

“He showed us many times, especially last season, and today he played so good again. We can’t forget this kind of thing can happen. 

“He is 22 and this little bit of up and down can sometimes happen at this age. But I’m delighted with his performance, a big compliment to him.”

After the opening goal, City dominated, with Raheem Sterling striking the crossbar after being played clean through by Bernardo, before Fulham bowed to the inevitable on 21 minutes after more outstanding play from Bernardo, who held off Stefan Johansen’s strong challenge and pulled the ball back for Sergio Aguero whose effort was blocked by Denis Odoi.

The ball fell kindly for David Silva who controlled it high on his chest — prompting Fulham claims for handball — before shooting huigh into the net from close range.

Andre Schurrle finally tested Ederson in the City goal with two shots from the edge of the area but Sane had a second ‘goal’ ruled out for offside before the interval and City needed just 97 seconds of the second half to extend their advantage.

Sterling broke from deep in his own half with a strong, skilful manoeuvre before David Silva’s superb cross-field ball found Aguero on the right. 

The Argentinian selflessly drove into the area before drilling the ball across an open goal-line where Sterling converted.

It was a performance that had Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic describing City as “one of the best teams in the world,” although Guardiola was left to bemoan a long string of missed chances.

“Fulham asked a lot from us because they want to play and they will cause a lot of surprises in the Premier League this season,” said Guardiola.

“That’s why I give us a lot of credit for what we have done but we created a lot of chances to score five, six, seven goals — it was clear.”

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