The Warmdown: Phil Foden Bags Late Winner As Manchester City See Off Resilient Everton
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Phil Foden of Manchester City celebrates with Bernardo Silva of Manchester City after scoring his side's first goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park on February 26, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)

The Premier League champions returned to winning ways after suffering a gut-wrenching defeat against Tottenham last week with a crucial victory over Frank Lampard's well-drilled Everton side on Saturday evening.

Despite dominating possession for a majority of the first-half, Pep Guardiola's men struggled to slice open the Toffees backline and instead were in danger of conceding themselves, as Richarlison and Jonjoe Kenny came close for the hosts.

However, Manchester City dug deep and after introducing some fresh legs in the search of a winner late on, Phil Foden pounced on an error from Michael Keane to tap the ball home and earn three crucial points for the league leaders.

Here are the key takeaways from City's narrow triumph over Everton at Goodison Park.

It seemed hard to digest why Guardiola decided against naming Riyad Mahrez in the starting XI on Saturday, a week after leaving the Algerian out from the lineup before he all but rescued a point for City against Tottenham with a sumptuous strike from 12 yards after coming off the bench.

Mahrez has led the way for City in terms of goals since the start of the campaign, having netted 18 times in 31 appearances across all competitions despite having being rotated quite often with the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling.

The three-time Premier League champion will be keen to start against Manchester United next weekend, as City look to maintain their slim lead over Liverpool at the top of the pile after giving Jurgen Klopp's side a lifeline in the title race over the past month.

City come up against Peterborough in the FA Cup in midweek, which could see Mahrez return to action from the off though it has to be stated that the 31-year-old simply has to start against Ralf Rangnick's side next weekend.

  • John Stones reigns supreme once again

With Kyle Walker dropped to the bench after City's defeat to Tottenham last week, John Stones returned to the right side of defence and playing against his former club in an atmosphere as hostile as any in England, the 27-year-old did not seem out of place at any point in the game.

Having operated at right-back a few times in recent weeks, Stones is making a stellar case for being given the nod over Walker, who has not been quite at his best over the past month.

Stones, who has been limited to 15 outings for City since August due to the consistency shown by Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte at the heart of defence, is making it more difficult week after week for Guardiola to keep looking past him in defence.

And though he looked composed as ever on the right flank at Goodison Park on Saturday, City could do with some fresh legs in central defence and the Sky Blues have looked to have dearly missed Stones' presence and distribution from the back at times since the New Year.

  • Three points nonetheless for Guardiola and City

Few were expecting City to cruise to victory after 20 minutes of the contest at Goodison Park, with Everton frustrating the visitors with a resolute defensive showing that kept Guardiola's side at bay until the 82nd minute.

However, it is easy to imagine that the Manchester City boss would have had no complaints with the result as the Sky Blues bounced back from a disappointing outing against Tottenham and came away with all three points regardless of the nature of the goal and how it came about.

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Moreover, City's defence proved their metal after being put to the sword by Harry Kane and co last week, with the likes of John Stones and Aymeric Laporte being at their solid best ahead of a crucial few weeks for the reigning champions.

Ahead of an FA Cup tie against Peterborough and a derby clash with Manchester United, it was all about getting the job done and lifting the mood in the camp, and what better way to achieve the same that a late goal in Merseyside for the Manchester outfit.