MAN CITY 2-0 EVERTON: Erling Haaland was Manchester City’s match-winner with two second-half strikes despite some defiant defending from relegation-threatened Everton
Manchester City now sit top of the Premier League table after Erling Haaland’s second-half brace meant the reigning champions beat Everton 2-0.
Pep Guardiola’s men have not tasted defeat on their own patch in 32 games, a run spanning across 15 months, so the odds of an Everton upset were always slim. Sean Dyche was unable to watch from his technical area after serving a one-game ban from the touchline, in what was his 300th game as a manager.
The opening exchanges of the tie saw plenty of City possession, but Everton had some positive moments while trying to hurt their hosts on the counter-attack. The first-half came and went with precious little to note, with Jeremy Doku the only player for the home side who really threatened to get the better of the Toffees backline.
By the time the half-time whistle was blown, Guardiola cut a frustrated figure. Jordan Pickford was not required to make a single save in the opening 45 minutes, as City failed to muster up a shot on target in the first half for the first time since August 2022.
One clean sheet in City’s last 12 coming into the tie meant Guardiola would have been concerned the longer the game went without a goal for his side, but with 20 minutes to spare Haaland stepped up to be the saviour.
His thunderous right-footed effort from close range was enough to break Everton hearts after a spirited away performance. Soon after, he had another, this time with his left as Haaland netted his 50th Premier League goal in 50 Premier League games.
The Toffees fought tirelessly to ensure they left the Etihad with something to show for themselves, but in the end City’s brilliance told. Mirror Football has analysed five of the fixture’s main talking points.
Who else but Haaland?
He was barely involved at all. Haaland hadn’t troubled the Everton backline for the majority of the afternoon, but by now every defender in the Premier League knows he only needs half a chance to get on the scoresheet.
Just as tension started to build inside the Etihad, their sensational No. 9 was on hand to relieve some of that pressure and fire City into top spot. It was the kind of strike the former Borussia Dortmund star has made a career out of.
Everton failed to clear their lines after a City corner and by the time the ball bobbled into the path of Haaland, there was only going to be on outcome.
The league’s leading marksman and last season’s golden boot winner netted his first goal since November, lashing a fierce strike beyond the despairing dive of Pickford who had no chance. He wasn’t done there though.
Shortly after, the City striker outmuscled Jarrad Branthwaite before retaining his composure to stroke his strike past the onrushing Pickford to put the result beyond any doubt.
Doku’s stock rises
Jeremy Doku was a constant thorn in the side of Everton right-back Ben Godrey, with a number of stellar touches leaving the Toffees defender bamboozled while the City star sprinted away from his direct opponent.
Much has been made of who Guardiola opts to star on the left side of his attack, given most of the time when Doku starts, it tends to mean that £100million man Jack Grealish is benched. That was the case on this occasion, but the Belgian’s blistering pace and deft control were what the doctor ordered to break down a resilient Everton defence.
The collective gasp of excitement each time Doku picked up the ball was audible and justified, especially during the first-half when it looked like the winger was the only one who was going to unpick Everton’s lock.
Everton’s defiant defending in vain
Rarely does any team come to the home of the reigning champions and restrict them to so few chances, but Everton managed to reduce the influence of some of City’s biggest stars for longer than Guardiola would have been comfortable with.
Last season’s golden boot winner Haaland was left feeding off scraps for the bulk of the tie, while Monday night’s hat-trick hero Phil Foden also struggled to recreate the kind of performance that hurt Brentford so badly last time out.
Everton managed to restrict City to zero shots on target within the first 60 minutes of the contest – something no side has done since the start of last season. However, eventually Haaland’s mercurial ability told and reduced the Toffees to the relegation zone for another weekend.
What this means for the title race
City have been here before. They are more than comfortable when it comes to being the chaser, rather than being chased. We saw it last season, when the presence of Guardiola’s men constantly breathing down the neck of Arsenal proved too much for the Gunners to handle.
This time around, City consider both Arsenal and Liverpool as their challengers. Ahead of kick-off, the Reds sat top of the pile but after a dominant display at the Etihad, Haaland and co. have reclaimed their table-topping status for the time being with a slender one point advantage.
Though Jurgen Klopp’s side welcome Burnley to Anfield later on Saturday afternoon, by the time the full-time whistle is blown there, the Reds will have played one game more than City.
They say it is the sign of champions, when a side pick up all three points despite not being at their best. City managed it today thanks to their star striker and that should be a cause for concern for those teams around them.
Everton’s away nightmare continues
The Toffees came into this clash without a win in any of their last 12 trips to the Etihad and that winless run continues after they were beaten yet again on Saturday. Sean Dyche has earned plenty of praise for the clear improvement he has overseen since inheriting this squad from Frank Lampard.
However, Everton have now not won away from home in any competition since the win over Burnley at Turf Moor in mid-December. It is that kind of dire run that can cost a side their Premier League status, as Dyche will now from his previous reign at the aforementioned Clarets.
Without their point deduction, the Toffees would actually sit 12th in the table. In reality, they languish as low as 18th in the table one point from safety having now played two games more than Luton Town, who are one place above them.
Dyche can take plenty of positives from the way that his side performed at the home of the title favourites, but that will mean very little if they can’t pick up a win on the road sooner rather than later.
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