Manchester City returned to winning ways thanks to a late winner from Phil Foden who capitalised on an unfortunate piece of Everton defending. This wasn’t the most straightforward of evenings for Pep Guardiola’s team, who escaped without being penalised for a handball in the penalty area too, but the main takeaway for the Premier League leaders was the three points.
Such was Everton’s battling first half showing that City were fortunate to have finished with a clean sheet too. Given the drama of last weekend’s 3-2 loss to Tottenham Hotspur, which brought an end to a 15-game unbeaten league run, City were content with this narrow victory.
There was as much riding on this game for Everton. Frank Lampard’s side found themselves one point above the relegation zone at kick-off and remain there due to this result, which goes some way to highlight the work that they have on their hands in the upcoming weeks and months. Yet, it is not against City that Everton will escape from the relegation mire, rather the teams around them. Nevertheless, the manner in which they lost this one will irk.
Both teams emerged ahead of the game with gestures in support of Ukraine amidst the country’s desperate situation. Everton’s players walked out draped in Ukraine flags while City wore t-shirts. Neither of the teams' Ukrainian internationals featured, however.
Story of the game
Everton’s first half display belied their pre-match position and Lampard’s side had the better of what was a cagey opening. The home side’s pressure on a City defence made up of three centre backs with John Stones in at right back ahead of Kyle Walker. The home crowd crowed as their team laid into the league leaders.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, ruled out with an abductor injury, would have surely capitalised on Everton’s front-footed start. Richarlison led the line solo and somehow managed to cut both a forlorn and highly involved figure simultaneously. It was his quick pounce following a scramble in the City area which brought a reflex save from Ederson.
Anthony Gordon was just as lively seeing one shot denied at the near post and curling a free kick just wide of the City ‘keeper’s left-hand post. Jonjo Kenny also found the side-netting when he bore down on goal after battling play from Allan. It was all very promising from Lampard’s side but there was a growing sense that they would pay for not making it on to the scoresheet.
City appeared partly distracted, for the second game running. There was little precision to their play and barring a low Kevin De Bruyne shot which Jordan Pickford easily stopped, they didn’t test a knowingly fragile defence enough. If anything it was the odd dubious piece of playing out from the back that almost cost the home side.
Guardiola’s side were an improved force after the interval and started to encircle Everton, shifting the ball this way and that. The growing influence of Phil Foden and creativity of Bernardo Silva came to a head when the Portuguese picked out Foden with a tremendous pass. The subsequent shot was parried by Pickford. When City recycled the ball, the Everton ‘keeper was equal to Joao Cancelo’s shot too.
Pickford was even more impressive with a terrific double save to deny De Bruyne and Silva in quick succession. No sooner had he been at full stretch than he was back up on his feet saving one-handed. The pressure continued, albeit slightly more askew, as Stones sent a rising shot over and Foden’s header missed the target.
The visitors’ eventually broke the deadlock eight minutes from time. It stemmed from fine work by Silva down the left, his low ball into the area took the slightest of deflections off Mason Holgate but that proved enough to unsettle Michael Keane. The Everton defender mis-kicked his clearance and Foden quickly pounced on his error. One sure first touch and then a second to dispatch past Pickford.
Everton could have had a reprieve only minutes later when it appeared that Rodri handled inside his own area. Referee Paul Tierney initially waved play on, VAR inspected the incident and rather than identify that the ball had struck the City midfielder’s upper-arm, it adjudged offside instead; rubbing salt into Everton wounds and ensuring the points were City’s.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Holgate, Keane, Kenny; Allan, Doucoure; Iwobi (El Ghazi 88), van de Beek (Dele 71), Gordon (Gray 77); Richarlison.
Subs (not used): Begovic, Patterson, Mykolenko, Branthwaite, Townsend, Rondon.
Man City: Ederson; Stones, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan (Mahrez 77); Silva, Foden, Sterling (Jesus 77).
Subs (not used): Carson, Slicker, Zinchenko, Ake, Walker, Grealish, Fernandinho.
Referee: Paul Tierney.