At the Etihad on Saturday, Man City overcame a tough afternoon to defeat Everton 2-0.
This was anything but spectacular, as Pep Guardiola’s team failed to find openings against a disciplined and resilient Everton team, following some brilliant attacking performances from Man City in recent weeks. But Erling Haaland, as he so often does, provided the game’s pivotal moments, scoring twice in the second half to give City a crucial three points.
John Stones, Ruben Dias, Manuel Akanji, and Nathan Ake were the four center-backs in Guardiola’s start lineup, which surprised many by having four changes. However, the intended outcome was not nearly achieved, as City dominated possession without producing many noteworthy opportunities.
Although Everton had scored 15 goals in five games before Saturday, their strong defense did not make matters any easier. The visitors’ strict 4-4-1-1 formation proved to be a difficult nut to crack. In a first half that lacked rhythm and penetration, an irritated Guardiola frequently yelled orders at his players. Sean Dyche, who was coaching in his 300th Premier League game, and Gareth Southgate observed the action from the stands as Dyche was serving a one-game suspension following his third booking of the year last week.
Jeremy Doku had the greatest opportunity of an unimpressive first forty-five minutes when he skipped past Ben Godfrey and hung the ball up towards the back post. Haaland connected with the cross with his finest effort, but his header went over the bar. Other than that, City’s opportunities were restricted to half-tries, with attempts denied to Phil Foden, Matheus Nunes, and Ake.
After James Tarkowski blocked Akanji’s goal-bound attempt in first-half injury time, the handball accusation was overturned following a quick VAR check.
In the first half of a home game, City failed to register a shot on goal for the first time since August 2022. Following a similar start to the second half, Kyle Walker and Kevin De Bruyne were called upon from the bench. The latter was the one who gave City the motivation and creativity it required to make a breakthrough. Although De Brunye’s daring passes from behind and extra effort did not lead to the first goal, it served as the impetus for the champs to win another game.
With their first effort on goal of the afternoon, City scored the crucial first goal when Dias connected with a corner from Julian Alvarez. The ball then pinged around the area and was fiercely hammered home by Haaland’s right boot. The striker appeared to get out some of his frustration on that strong striker, but the Norwegian’s poise and composure were key factors in his second goal, which came 14 minutes later.
After dodging Jarrad Branthwaite’s block and latching onto De Bruyne’s through ball, Haaland calmly brought Jordan Pickford down and strode the ball past the Everton custodian.
After that, the awkward day gradually became less exciting as City maintained possession of the ball without really trying to find a third. With the last kick of the match, De Bruyne placed the ball on the roof of the net, but Foden did test Pickford in injury time with just the third chance on goal for the home team. The lone danger for Everton came from Beto, who was correctly signaled offside despite managing to get the ball inside the net.
With the victory, City takes the lead—at least for a few hours, until Liverpool plays Burnley. This is our rating of the players…
Received on-field treatment after an early coming together with Godfrey. But it was a quiet afternoon for the Brazilian.
John Stones- 6
Not quite back to his best but it was a good showing from Stones who rarely misplaced a pass.
Ruben Dias- 6
Found Dominic Clavert-Lewin to be a particularly tough customer and had an on-running battle with the striker.
Manuel Akanji- 6 (off 58)
Didn’t quite have the impact on the ball that Guardiola hoped, with the Swiss defender stepping into midfield. But it was still a solid showing defensively from Akanji.
Nathan Ake- 7
Ake defended well and didn’t face the same sort of expectation in terms of building attacks.
Cut a frustrated figure at times and he didn’t offer many cross-field passes, as he tends to in most City matches. But Rodri helped control the middle and linked the defense and midfield.
Matheus Nunes- 4 (off 58)
Couldn’t influence the game or provide any significant impact other than some good runs off the ball, and one blocked shot at the end of the first half.
Julian Alvarez- 5 (off 77)
Like Nunes, didn’t bring enough of an offensive threat and gave the ball away too often.
Phil Foden- 5
Didn’t carry the same sort of dynamism as he did on Monday night and found it hard to get into the game from a wide area. Foden had some nice touches and quick turns but didn’t offer much else.
Erling Haaland- 7
After a frustrating start, Haaland provided the game-changing moments as he powered the ball past Pickford and then casually slotted in after a counter.
Jeremy Doku- 7 (off 88)
Probably City’s best player and his dangerous runs down the line caused Everton repeated issues. But, ultimately, there was no end product from City’s no.11.
Kyle Walker- 6 (on 58)
Helped bring more control and attacking threats down the right.