Erling Haaland’s second-half brace fired Manchester City to a hard-fought 2-0 win at home to Everton on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s simple,” Pep Guardiola shrugged ahead of the match. “They are players that win games by themselves.” Haaland didn’t quite overhaul Everton singlehandedly but provided the inspiration City needed to break through their admirably stubborn visitors.
A victory on Saturday lunchtime sent City top of the Premier League table for the first time since November – the same month that last brought a goal for Haaland in any competition – ahead of Liverpool’s meeting with Burnley this weekend.
How the game unfolded
The suspended Sean Dyche may have been shackled to the stands on Saturday but his players could not have been more disciplined off the ball if the Everton boss was barking out orders from within the centre circle.
Out of hope more than expectation, Dyche reminded everyone of City’s sporadic fallibilities. “Now and again they might have a soft performance,” he warned, “not too many but they might do.” Yet, City‘s lack of a single shot on target, let alone a goal, throughout the opening 45 minutes owed more to Everton’s excellence rather than any dip from the hosts.
The closest City came to piercing Everton’s staunch resolve before the break arrived from a corner in first-half stoppage time, but James Tarkowski – as ever – was there to block Manuel Akanji’s effort.
City didn’t force Jordan Pickford into a single save throughout the opening 70 minutes. By that time, Guardiola had turned to his star-studded bench. Kevin De Bruyne naturally drew the spotlight but Kyle Walker’s arrival proved crucial. City’s only natural full-back in the squad finally allowed the hosts to outnumber Everton’s rigid rearguard with some rare width down the right flank and gave Phil Foden licence to stroll in off the touchline. Foden and Walker combined to win the sequence of corners that led to City’s belated breakthrough.
Ruben Dias rose to meet the initial delivery but a crowd of pink shirts took up a familiar position; namely in the way. Everton had benefitted from the previous sequences of pinball but possession dropped to Haaland on this occasion. Unleashing an instinctive swipe with his weaker right foot, Haaland battered City into the lead with his first goal in three months.
Everton pushed forward in desperate search of an equaliser, leaving yawning chasms between the lines of midfield and defence that had been so tightly stitched for so much of the…