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Manchester City 2-0 Everton: Match Report & Instant Reaction | Spirited Performance Falls Short

Haaland brace sinks Toffees who remain in bottom three but show the fight needed to survive

Manchester City v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Everton were once on an imperious run, stitching together a four-game winning streak. While Sean Dyche’s men were on a three-game unbeaten streak in the Premier League heading into the match and had lost only once in their last six in all competitions, it was the growing resilience and determination which was becoming the defining trait of the season. It would take that same determination to repeat last season’s 1-1 draw where Demarai Gray stunned the home fans with his spectacular goal to salvage the point.

Heading into the match, Pep Guardiola’s men were on a nine-game winning streak, with their most recent defeat coming in December. Such a run had helped them cut the gap to first place to two points as they welcomed Everton to the Etihad Stadium for the early Saturday afternoon kickoff.

Team News

Sean Dyche named an unchanged side from last week’s draw with Spurs. There was some good news, as Amadou Onana was fit and available, although he started on the bench. Ben Godfrey made the matchday squad although Dele Alli (groin), Andre Gomes (calf), Abdoulaye Doucoure (hamstring), and Arnaut Danjuma (ankle) remained on the sidelines. Everton’s entire starting 11 cost less than Jack Grealish who was on City’s bench.

Pep Guardiola did not have any new injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the game. So, against Everton on Saturday, the Manchester City manager had a full-strength squad at his disposal which means Pep roulette was on show with City making four changes from the side that beat Brentford on Monday. John Stones and Manuel Akanji replaced Kyle Walker and Josko Gvardiol at the back and, in midfield, Matheus Nunes and Jeremy Doku came in for Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.

Match Review

It took less than a minute for City to get hold of the ball and Everton to show that they were going to press the ball high up the field and then collapse back once City got the ball over the centre line. City had an early corner and Pickford was commanding in his punch to clear the ball. Everton took six minutes to settle and with some good holdup play from Calvert Lewin they were able to keep the ball in the City end. The pressure led to Godfrey going to challenge Ederson with both ending in a heap with the City keeper requiring treatment.

Manchester City v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Everton’s workrate was excellent and a poor pass from Garner had City ‘counterattacking’ with Alvarez and Doku showing pace but strong work from McNeil broke it up to snuff out the opportunity. Calvert Lewin was getting the ball but on two occasions his pass was disappointing. Ben Godfrey let Doku get to the line but Branthwaite was there to clear. A quick outlet to Calvert Lewin saw him obstructed by Dias to prevent the chance. It was Godfrey again allowing Doku to slip by and his cross was met by Haaland but his header went well over the bar.

City broke out down the right with Foden and Nunes working the ball forward but Tarkowski was there to prevent the pass to Haaland. Calvert Lewin was getting the ball but his layoff passes were connecting with nobody. It was a nice move by Ashley Young who got the ball to the line but Jack Harrison’s followup effort ended up high into the Everton supporters at that end of the ground.

As the half entered it’s last five minutes the visitors were holding the ball and nullifying the crowd who were almost silent. A late corner following a foul on Phil Foden gave City their first real chance which was easily handled by Pickford. Three minutes of added time was announced with City again controlling the play. A goal mouth scramble saw Akanji get a chance in the six yard box but Tarkowski was there again to block the shot. The half ended after a check from the VAR showed Tarkowski had his hands tight to his body.

The half started with no changes to either team although De Bruyne and Silva were warming up from the start. Calvert Lewin had the ball up front early and he was able to get a shot away but it want just wide of the post. It was clear that Pep had told his team to pick up the pace and that was what they were doing. Once again, Calvert Lewin was getting the ball and giving it away which City were happy to accept.

Ben Godfrey was on the ground and the physios came out to check on him. As he was waiting to come back on Foden broke through the middle and Gueye fouled him and was given a yellow for his efforts. Godfrey was on the ground again and this time he could not recover with Seamus Coleman taking his place.

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-EVERTON Photo by DARREN STAPLES/AFP via Getty Images

Guardiola had seen enough and it was Walker and De Bruyne coming on for Nunes and Akanji. City immediately looked like they were just waiting for the change. The Evertonians were in full voice as the hour mark arrived with not one shot on the Everton net. Spirit of the Blues was ringing around the Etihad as Haaland got the ball in the box but this time it was McNeil to clear.

De Bruyne was getting onto the ball more which was worrying and he was popping up all over the pitch which was something new for the Everton defenders. McNeil was in a heap after trying to get the ball off Stones. The crowd was getting frustrated by the pace of the game and Everton’s willingness to slow the game down.

The deadlock was finally broken when City had two consecutive corners and on the second the ball fell to Haaland who made no mistake even though Pickford got a hand to the blinder of a shot. The relief on Pep’s face was obvious. It was their first shot on goal.

Manchester City v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Everton tried to respond by getting the ball forward but there was no one able to get the ball in any dangerous areas. The City crowd regained it’s voice and there was a significant change in the feel of the game. Dyche called down from the Gods and it was Onana and Beto coming on for Calvert Lewin and Young. At the same time, Silva entered the fray for City in place of Alvarez. Dobbin was also brought on for McNeil.

Beto was put through by Onana but he was deemed to be offside. With ten minutes to go there was still lots to play for and the switches were positive from Dyche. It was that positive play that then caused them to be left short at the back as Branthwaite was pushed aside by Haaland who then slotted the ball past Pickford.

Manchester City v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Grealish was on for Doku and Chermiti was on for Gueye as the need for a goal became critical. Ten minutes of extra time was announced. Everton had the ball in the back of the net but Beto was offside again. It was a nice finish but all for nought. City then passed the ball around with confidence as the Ole’s were shouted by the City faithful. The final whistle was blown and the heads of the Everton players were held high.

Man of the Match - The plan to disrupt City was led by Gueye, Garner and Harrison. Once again it was Garner who stood out for me. From minute one he was all action and ended the game with 6 of 6 ground duels won, 2 interceptions, 5 clearances, 4 recoveries and 1 key pass. It was a team performance on the defensive end but the young midfielder showed his tenacity and his quality.

Instant Reaction

Manchester City, as always, were willing to patiently build up and move the ball from left to right although Everton were breaking up play very effectively and counter attacking from those disruptions. Dyche had set them up as he had against other teams with effectively five at the back and a high press up top and through the midfield. Garner, Gueye and Harrison formed a midfield triangle of disruption and all three worked their socks off. Holding off City for 70 minutes and that goal from Haaland was their first shot on net.

It is easy to say that Everton are struggling to get many points on the board because of the absence of Abdoulaye Doucoure. Having only been fit to play in the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa in the middle of January, the team has only scored 4 goals in the 6 matches that he has been recovering from his hamstring injury. During that period Everton have 3 losses and 2 draws. In the eight games before that, the team had six wins and one draw with only one loss. What has happened is that Dyche has decided that if we can’t score goals then we will not concede. Heading into the match, Everton had conceded fewer open play goals {15} than any team in the league. With that said, we need him back because we need goals.

Sean Dyche may have been sitting in the stands for this match because of his suspension but it still meant that the match was his 300th as a Premier League manager. Only 17 other managers/coaches have reached that milestone and shows that there is still a place in football for a hard working, determined manager who comes to each match with a plan that is defined by the players he has available and their quality. Today, Dyche was up against Pep Guardiola and it could be argued that Dyche’s strategy was executed beautifully for three quarters of the game. The problem was they were playing City who just have more and more quality to throw at you. We are a much better team under his guidance and we should be thankful, not critical of the work that he has done.

Finally, Dominic Calvert Lewin was responsible to keep hold of the ball when the outlet pass was sent to him. In the first half he did that really well but his layoff was very poor. He ended the game with only 6 of his 18 passes being successful. As the game progressed he was more and more isolated and only won 4 of 9 aerial duels. Playing City is not the benchmark to be used as a guide but he has to improve. Beto may bring power but he cannot keep himself onside. Eventually, DCL will get a goal and things will turn around for him.