Your move, Liverpool! Jesus & Sane shine to send City top – now any chance of a favour, Jose?!
Posted On March 22, 2019
Pep Guardiola finds himself in the thick of a title race and his side moved two clear of the Reds thanks to a fine display from Gabriel Jesus
A week on from their first and only defeat of the Premier League season, Manchester City might have looked at this fixture with a little trepidation.
Everton were – until today – the only team Pep Guardiola had played against here at the Etihad Stadium in the league and not beaten. Last season Wayne Rooney scored in a 1-1 draw and the season before saw City miss an almost farcical number of chances and again earn only a point.
Throw in the fact that City have been struggling with the length of their injury list in the past couple of weeks and this had some of the makings of an upset.
Marco Silva – the Everton manager – deployed a three-man central defensive system which would seek to make use of the pace of Bernardo on the break. And for the first few minutes Everton competed well.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, somewhat surprisingly chosen at centre forward instead of the in-form Richarlison, forced a good save from Ederson albeit from an offside position. Then – from the Everton perspective – a key moment. Richarlison had an opportunity to turn a volley goalward but his attempt flew over.
With the BDO World Darts Championship on currently, it is easy to draw parallels to what’s going on at Alexandra Palace. And passing up a chance like that – at 0-0 in the Etihad – is like missing a double against Gary Anderson. You’re asking to be punished.
City’s injuries make them no less threatening on the break. Even without David Silva – who might not play at all during this hectic festive programme – as well as Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, who were all on the bench, City had far too much firepower.
City fans were delighted to see their influential Belgian playmaker return to the fold for the first time since November 1. He got the last 15 minutes in the bitter cold and icy rain of Manchester.
But Pep Guardiola’s side’s interplay is fluid no matter the composition of the attack and here they were playing without arguably four of their five first-choice attacking players.
Gabriel Jesus had only one league goal before today’s fixture and that came in a six-goal demolition of Huddersfield back when the weather was a touch less arctic.
But the Brazilian is nothing if not eager. His running without the ball – whether chasing for possession or calling for passes – is usually to Guardiola’s liking. And today he got the reward his recent hard work had merited.
It is now clear that Leroy Sane is currently every bit as influential in this team as the man who replaced him later on, Sterling, and he is as lethal in setting up goals these days as he is scoring them.
He piled on two more assists; firstly sliding a delicate pass into the feet of Jesus who finished nicely. That goal owed plenty to Jesus’s ex-Palmeiras team-mate Yerry Mina, however. Everton insisted on playing their goal-kicks out short and from inside his own area the Colombian coughed up a loose pass to Ilkay Gundogan. He then played Jesus onside for good measure.
The second assist was a beautifully lofted cross for the head of his striker. And Jordan Pickford would be beaten by another header before the game was out – Sterling’s first touch of the ball.
In between, the lively Calvert-Lewin scored one of his own; a goal that Everton worked hard for but scarcely deserved.
A potentially tricky fixture is overcome and Guardiola might now hope for – but never expect – a favour from Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho tomorrow. He takes his stuttering Red Devils to Anfield with Liverpool now two points behind City.
If United can take anything from the red side of Liverpool then Guardiola would no doubt be grateful. Equally, Jurgen Klopp might have ringed this fixture and pondered whether Everton might be good enough to add to the smash-and-grabs that they got here in seasons past.
That is beyond every Premier League team at the minute and so tomorrow’s game is nicely poised. Two points behind with United in town. Your move Jurgen.