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Haaland takes Manchester City top after injury-time penalty against Fulham

“Championes! Championes!” rang out from the delirious Manchester City fans at the final whistle, as they serenaded a clutch of their players led by the 95th-minute game-winning hero Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian continues to write his own headlines by scoring from the spot – the kick went under Bernd Leno’s body – and denying Fulham a draw in what was a scintillating finale to a full-blooded and, at times, ill-tempered confrontation that featured a João Cancelo red card and six yellows.

Haaland said: “I don’t care how it went in. An amazing feeling. I was really nervous [for the penalty].”

When Darren England blew for time Pep Guardiola exploded with joy, the manager mindful of what this classic fighting 10-man victory showed the champions’ rivals. As Haaland said: “When you go 10 v 11 for 70 minutes it is difficult, I don’t think any team would do it as good as we did today.”

A delighted Guardiola said: “We celebrated with our people afterwards, to see the faces of the crowd, how everyone played – my emotions as a manager [are about] how after seven years here, you always have doubts: will [players] still follow you? But today shows they are still there, it makes us so proud.

My players are beyond exceptional – Bernardo [Silva], Rodri, and Kevin [De Bruyne] – he put the team on his shoulders.”

Haaland’s clinching strike came when the Belgian drew Antonee Robinson into a foul: if the decision seemed marginal – as did the contact – what followed was the peerless Norwegian’s 23rd goal of the season. He had come on just after the hour and had first appeared to be the match-winner when heading home De Bruyne’s cross in the 75th minute.

But Haaland was adjudged offside by the VAR – correctly – and Fulham escaped, though Robert Jones failed to have the same fortune regarding Guardiola, who, unhappy since before the interval, gave the fourth official a latest flea in his ear about some perceived injustice.

City had been irritable and dislocated since Cancelo’s first-half sending-off, though the defender could have no complaints about it or the penalty awarded by England, which raised the prospect of City dropping points for the first time since losing at Liverpool last month.

Guardiola’s disenchantment at how Cancelo barged Harry Wilson over in the area moved him to an impromptu scolding of the Portuguese as the left-back wandered off. Andreas Pereira’s successful kick cancelled out Julián Álvarez’s opener, which had been smashed in off Leno’s bar.

“He was last man, so a penalty,” was Guardiola’s verdict. “Hopefully my players – not just João – can learn not to give them [the opponent] something because in a knockout game we can be out.”

Before the break Silva, after being fouled, was booked for either a theatrical dive or dissent. This provoked further Guardiola haranguing of Jones. The half-time whistle was greeted by jeers and De Bruyne having to shove Silva away from England as he complained and Rúben Dias shepherding him away when trying to approach the fourth official at pitchside.

But he and City ended in broad smiles. With 26 minutes remaining and despite being a man down, Guardiola chased victory by introducing Haaland and Phil Foden. From this juncture his team dominated: before the disallowed goal Haaland missed a gilded chance when Ilkay Gündogan cushioned a header to him, the Norwegian’s right foot connecting with air only.

The hosts, via Gündogan and De Bruyne, continued to poke the ball around Fulham in search of the breakthrough – Haaland a particular menace. De Bruyne skipped down the left and lifted a delivery into the sky that had the striker launching himself, before Foden did the same when Gündogan lobbed the ball at him: each time City were inches away.

But into the last of the five added minutes and seeming to rue the dismissal that gave the visitors a lifeline, Haaland struck. He said: “Fantastic. I love it. I have been injured for a week and it is really important to win. I want to play every game. “It was difficult [to be on the sidelines] but we needed three points and that is what we got. I am so tired, but so happy. You have no idea.”