Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola felt his side had survived a stern test despite ultimately running out 4-1 winners over Fulham in the FA Cup.
The Premier League leaders were stunned when the Championship pace-setters claimed a fourth-minute lead in Saturday’s fourth-round tie at the Etihad Stadium through Fabio Carvalho.
City hit back as Ilkay Gunodgan equalized two minutes later and John Stones soon headed them ahead.
Two goals from Riyad Mahrez – the first from the penalty spot – then put the result beyond doubt early in the second half but Guardiola felt it had been a tough battle.
The Spaniard said: “I know which team we faced today and which team we beat. When a team is top of the Championship it is because they are really good.
“Marco (Silva) has created an incredible team. We knew how difficult it would be. I am not over-exaggerating.
“If they carry on playing this way we will face them again in the Premier League, I am sure.
“But in the second half we adjusted our pressing, which had not been good. It was much better and the quality of our players made the difference.”
The game got off to a blistering start as Harry Wilson broke clear down the right and whipped in a fine ball for Carvalho to turn in.
Carvalho was reportedly close to a deadline-day move to Liverpool but the collapse of that potential deal clearly had not affected him.
City responded swiftly and clinically as Gundogan leveled after being picked out by Mahrez and Stones then put City from an inswinging Kevin De Bruyne corner on 13 minutes.
The game quietened down after that frantic opening but Fulham continued to probe in the hope of getting back into the game.
Ultimately their hopes were killed off as City stepped up the tempo early in the second half.
Jack Grealish began to run at the defense more often and won a penalty when he was tripped by Joe Bryan.
Mahrez tucked home from the spot and was then on hand to make the score 4-1 after a typically dynamic run and razor-sharp ball inside from De Bruyne.
It was an impressive return to club action for Mahrez after his recent frustrations at the Africa Cup Nations, where he missed a crucial penalty against Ivory Coast as Algeria crashed out at the group stage.
Guardiola said: “He has a special quality and always has a feeling to score a goal.
“We struggled a lot in the last years to score penalties but now it is a guarantee. He has the personality to say, ‘Give me the ball, I am going to score,’ and he did it.”
Fulham boss Silva was pleased how his side acquired themselves.
The Portuguese said: “We started the game like we planned – a quick strong start, showing we are here to match them and do our best, with desire to go through.
“Our first goal was a very good moment for us but the worst thing for us was that they equalized straight away. In that moment we have to show more resilience.
“They then scored from a set-piece but our first half was really good. Unfortunately we didn’t start the second like we should and they scored two goals in the first 10 minutes, two goals that we should not concede.
“We had the possession and lost it too easily and after that they killed the game.
“But I’m really pleased to see the way we played the first half. I think everyone saw Fulham was here and we were matching them really well.”
Silva also praised Carvalho for the way he responded to any frustration over the Liverpool issue.
He said: “It is not a surprise for me. Since I arrived I have seen the quality and the talent the boy has.
“We have trust in him and he deserves this trust. He is working hard every day to improve, even with all the rumors around him and his contract with him. He has enough quality, enough talent to keep playing at this level.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.