Erling Haaland scored for the first time since November as the Manchester City striker’s double fired the champions to the top of the Premier League with a gritty 2-0 win against Everton on Saturday
At the tense Etihad Stadium, Pep Guardiola’s team was way below peak as they struggled to overcome resolute Everton.
However, Haaland scored twice in the latter half of the game to return to the scoresheet for the first time since his nearly two-month layoff due to a foot injury.
These goals marked the Norway international’s first in the Premier League since his November 25 match against Liverpool, and his first in five games across all competitions since his November 28 Champions League goal against Leipzig.
For the first time since November 24, City is back atop the standings, although Liverpool, who trail in second place by one point, may climb back to the top if they defeat lowly Burnley at Anfield later on Saturday.
Although Guardiola’s team has won their past ten games in all competitions, the Spanish manager may be a little alarmed by the laborious approach they took to the assignment against Everton.
Although City has won their past 22 league games at the Etihad, they were not without difficulty from Everton, who now sits in third place.
Everton hasn’t defeated City since 2017, but Guardiola had warned his players not to let their guard down after a 1-1 draw with the Merseysiders the previous season, which left him with terrible memories.
In the first thirty minutes, City controlled more than eighty percent of the ball and was unable to break through Everton’s well-organized defense.
Shots from Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez were blocked as Everton recklessly launched themselves at tackles.
When Jeremy Doku crossed the ball, Foden was lurking in a more dangerous position behind the striker, and Haaland stretched to head over.
Haaland to the fore
On the touchline, Guardiola was nervous and frequently gestured at his players, trying to persuade them to pass more quickly and accurately.
Jordan Pickford, the custodian for Everton, beat Matheus Nunes to the ball just on the boundary of the area by sprinting off his line.
Jack Harrison’s header from Ashley Young’s cross was a warning to City.
Manuel Akanji was set to break the deadlock when the ball fell nicely for him inside the Everton area, but James Tarkowski made a last-ditch block and VAR disregarded the hosts’ shouts for handball.
For the first time since August 2022, City has not had a shot on goal in the first half of a home league game.
To the sound of furious groans from home fans, Rodri’s awful long-range strike soared into the stands as City’s frustration grew.
Guardiola substituted Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne early in the second half after growing weary of City’s problems.
In the 71st minute, City finally broke through their longest wait for a shot on goal in a league game since September 2021 when they finally found some rhythm.
Everton botched a corner kick clearance, and the ball found its way to Haaland, whose powerful shot ricocheted in off Pickford’s thigh, setting off wild celebrations from the relieved Norwegian and his teammates.
Guardiola stated this week that one does not require a Harvard degree to recognize the danger that Haaland and De Bruyne pose.
Everton had not done enough homework on the matter, as De Bruyne’s accurate pass sent Haaland streaking towards goal.
Haaland celebrated his 50th Premier League start in style, overpowering Jarrad Branthwaite and leaving the Everton defender sprawled out on the ground as he raced clear to slide a crisp finish beyond Pickford.