Everton have to pick themselves up after the devastating 95th minute loss to Wolves on Boxing Day. Now only one point above the relegation zone, Everton had to drive the 36 miles down the East Lancs Road to take on the reigning Premier League champions who have a certain striker who has already scored 8 more goals than the entire Everton team.
Everton have not beaten Manchester City away from home in 12 years and currently they have lost 10 games in a row in all competitions with a combined score of 27-6. So a result is going to be difficult. The question has to be.....how big is the bus that needs to be parked?
Frank Lampard had Dominic Calvert Lewin back on the pitch. He was close to making the Wolves game and today made his 7th appearance this season. The other obvious change was the return of Conor Coady after being unable to play against his parent club. What was not surprising was Everton playing with a back three of Coady, Tarkowski and Godfrey. In all probability that will mean that there will be a back five when the wing backs are pinned back by City. This was Godfrey’s first start since the first day of the season when he broke his leg.
The midfield three of Iwobi, Onana and Gueye remain unchanged. Demarai Gray continues up top. Frank Lampard in his pre-match comments reported that “There’s a bit of illness in the group. Anthony and Yerry are both under the weather so miss out.”
Amadou Onana looks forward to the game:
“In the Wolves game we created a lot of chances and we just have to be a bit more clinical. We have to have belief in everything we do, as well.
For me, Manchester City are the best team in the league. We know what they are about but we have prepared very well. We know all the quality they have in the team, including my international teammate Kevin [De Bruyne] and we have to be prepared.” [EFC]
Pep Guardiola made one change from their 3-1 win over Leeds on Wednesday, Bernardo Silva came in for Ilkay Gundogan in midfield.
Surprisingly, Joao Cancelo was on the bench again as Rico Lewis started with John Stones, Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake in an unchanged back four. Ruben Dias had still not recovered from a thigh injury.
Erling Haaland was flanked by Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez. Phil Foden who has scored 3 goals in his 4 games against Everton was (thankfully) on the bench again along with returning World Cup winner Julian Alvarez.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 31, 2022
XI | Ederson, Lewis, Stones, Akanji, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne (C), Bernardo, Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish
SUBS | Ortega Moreno, Walker, Phillips, Cancelo, Gundogan, Alvarez, Gomez, Foden, Palmer#ManCity | @HaysWorldwide pic.twitter.com/jYEPUiSplN
The game had only got underway for a few seconds when Ehrling Haaland had the back of his ankle stepped on by Ben Godfrey. It took him a while to get to his feet but eventually was back on the pitch. Everton’s first opportunity missed!
Everton’s plan was to park the bus with a flat back five and hope to use Calvert Lewin and Gray on the counter attack. It was a very stop/start beginning to the game with neither team able to gain control of the play. It took 9 minutes for City to finally get the ball to the edge of Everton’s box where they so often play. It was the first time that Everton were sitting deep and probably wouldn’t be the last. A great pass to Haaland from de Bruyne saw the Norwegian put the ball into the side netting.
Bernardo Silva was the first to go in the book when he chose to dive over the oncoming Nathan Patterson. A super corner from de Bruyne was met by Pickford with a thumping punch. The follow through saw Stones driven to the ground. Riyad Mahrez took the ball into the box and went down easily under the challenge from Demarai Gray. It could have been a penalty but the referee was not interested.
The deadlock was broken at the 23 minute mark when Haaland was on the mark again after a lovely move between de Bruyne, Grealish and Mahrez. One shot on target.....one goal. Everton responded by trying to get Calvert Lewin into the game with a long ball from Gray. Another corner to City from de Bruyne went to Mahrez who had the shot blocked by Gray.
A late tackle by Kevin de Bruyne on his Belgium teammate Amadou Onana saw his name enter the referee’s book. After 30 minutes, Everton had not had a touch in the City box. Nathan Patterson was then given a yellow card for his late tackle on Jack Grealish. This was not needed and would put him under pressure for the rest of the game. Everton were getting more of the ball and had their first half chance when the ball was slotted into Calvert Lewin who struggled to get control in order to get off a shot.
A ball into the box from Gray was met by Calvert Lewin who was deemed to have fouled Akanji. Everton were starting to get on the ball more but it was the final pass that was lacking. Would there be a chance for them to get back into the game.
The battle between Haaland and Godfrey was becoming one of the storylines of the game. Neither was giving anything to the other and when a foul was finally called on Godfrey, Haaland applauded the referee and tried to jeer up the crowd. Moments later it was Haaland who was in the referee’s book for a very late challenge on Mykolenko.
At the 44 minute mark it was de Bruyne again providing the cross which was met by a diving John Stones who headed the ball onto the post. Three minutes of injury time saw City put on a final push for the second goal. As the seconds ticked down there were no clear cut chances and the half ended with no more damage. The teams had fought hard and there were several flashpoints that meant that the second half was going to be competitive. City ended the half with only one shot on net. Everton had no shots but were still in it and that was the positive.
The second half started with no changes from either team. City started on the front foot and were bossing the ball. Grealish was happy to be attacking Patterson who had to play smart with the chance of a second yellow in the back of his mind. It was Mykolenko who had Everton’s first chance going forward but the cross to Calvert Lewin was easily blocked.
The game was delayed for more than five minutes as the officials tried to sort out their communication devices. Play resumed and there was another stoppage when Iwobi and Grealish had their knees hit each other and it was Grealish who remained on the ground. Another missed opportunity for Everton as Grealish got back up and returned to the game!
Amadou Onana was then given a yellow card for a tackle on Rodrigo. This means that he will miss the game against Brighton which will be an added problem for Everton.
The game was turned on it’s head with a stunning goal from Demarai Gray. This will be one of the goals of the season. He took on City players and then cut back, slipped and then gained his composure to whip the ball into the top right corner. Everton’s first shot and it was one from the heavens! Only his 2nd goal of the campaign for Gray but at this point, who cares!
The goal saw Everton push for a second and the Wolves 95th minute goal came to mind as City broke up the play and headed back down the pitch. This time, a beautiful tackle by Onana changed the outcome. Everton continued to push forward and they were rewarded with their first corner. Calvert Lewin had made it to the 70th minute and was withdrawn for Neal Maupay. At the same time, Nathan Patterson was taken off with Seamus Coleman coming on to finish up the game. Both sensible changes but would they change the flow of the game.
A cheap giveaway by Everton saw Haaland deliver a cross that was nearly met by Mahrez. Demarai Gray went down with a problem but recovered to continue. City was being outworked by Everton but Guardiola was not making any changes. The Everton resilience was showing but could they keep it up. Another sweeping move by Everton saw them lose the ball but steadfast defending prevented the ball getting to a wide open Haaland.
The final 15 minutes arrived and the pressure was mounting. Onana was on the ground and Tom Davies was stripped and ready to go but it was Idrissa Gana Gueye who was replaced. Haaland and Tarkowski were in the wars and in the end it was Tarkowski who took a blow to the face.
An incredible save by Pickford from Mahrez was the end of a frantic few seconds in the Everton box. Guardiola had seen enough and got Phil Foden ready to play. Demarai Gray was keeping the pressure on the City defenders with his incredible work rate. Everton were playing so well and were keeping the ball. It was Gray who made it to the byline and put a cross that had to be intercepted by Ederson.
With three minutes to go, a triple switch was made by City. Foden Gundogan and Alvarez were brought on to replace Grealish, Lewis and Silva. The final push.
Everton’s low block was in full swing. City passed the ball around the top of the box. It was Godfrey who then stood up for the team and blocked the ball and headed down the sideline. The exertion was too much for him and Godfrey went down. Abdoulaye Doucoure was brought on.
The board was lifted and 11 minutes was flashing in red to indicate the added time. The clock seemed to slow down. The City quality was there but they were being met by a team of players who had a plan. A blistering cross by de Bruyne was palmed away by Pickford. Gundogan had a chance but it was Gray again blocking the shot. Five minutes to go and the rain was absolutely battering down.
Phil Foden had a chance to win the game but it was Seamus Coleman there to prevent the shot. City were given a last free kick when Foden was brought down by Mykolenko but Pickford came out and cleared the free kick with a strong punch. Extra time on extra time arrived and Rodri missed the goal with his head. The whistle blew and Everton had gone into the lion’s den and ended up surviving!
This game was always going to be about resilience. The back three along with the two wing backs playing deep had to be disciplined and willing to absorb the pressure. Throughout the game they were willing to pass the ball around when they did get the ball rather than give up the ball. When the first goal was scored by Haaland it was nice to see Everton trying to get the ball back and control it which they did far more after the goal. Sitting back is a dangerous game against City and finding the balance was necessary. Everton, to their credit, found the balance and the goal from Demarai Gray was all that was needed with the defense doing their job with aplomb.
The return of Dominic Calvert Lewin was great to see. It was going to be an opportunity for him to build up his fitness. Playing up top isolated him for much of the game but it was his work that was needed to keep City honest. With the return of Ellis Simms from Sunderland there is now some support and Calvert Lewin can know that his rehabilitation can be done in a strategic way so that the injuries are a thing of the past. Fingers crossed.
Ultimately, this was a result that no one envisioned. To go to Manchester and leave with a point was a high point of the season. It was a victory for the team because they worked tirelessly as a unit. City may have not played their best game but that was because Everton did not let them dominate the game the way they usually do. They may have had nearly 75% of the ball but there was no flow to their game. Resilience got the point and it is something to build on.