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Manchester City show title-winning experience in win over Everton
Manchester City moved above Liverpool with a 2-0 win over Everton
Last Updated: 07/02/19 12:16pm
It is only a week ago that Liverpool were preparing to face Leicester at Anfield with an opportunity to move seven points clear at the top of the Premier League. But a week is a long time in football.
It's now Manchester City who are looking down from the summit. Liverpool's draws against Leicester and West Ham opened the door, and Pep Guardiola's side seized their chance. They destroyed Arsenal with a brilliant attacking display on Sunday, but Wednesday's victory over Everton was a reminder that they possess steel as well as style.
It was also, perhaps, a reminder of the title-winning experience that separates them from their rivals. Liverpool can reclaim their place at the top against Bournemouth on Saturday, but right now the momentum is back with the reigning champions. They have handled the pressure and responded to their shock defeat by Newcastle in the best possible way.
Perhaps that game was the wake-up call they needed. Against Everton, certainly, there was little sign of complacency. Instead, they looked confident and composed right from the start, with Leroy Sane, restored to City's starting line-up after being dropped against Arsenal, looking particularly dangerous on the left.
Time and again he found space there, at one point slipping the ball through to David Silva, whose cut-back was struck against the bar by Ilkay Gundogan. On another occasion, he set up Gundogan himself for a shot which was deflected past the post. From the resulting corner, Aymeric Laporte headed wastefully wide.
City continued to target that area, perhaps seeing weakness in Everton right-back Jonjoe Kenny, but for all the intricate build-up play it was a routine set-piece which gave them the breakthrough. Silva took it, curling the ball into the box from the left, with Laporte this time capitalising on Everton's slack marking to power his header beyond Jordan Pickford.
It was Manchester City's 113th goal of the season in all competitions, but from then to the moment Gabriel Jesus made the result safe in the dying seconds of the game, their performance was about other qualities.
Indeed, City went from having 68 per cent of the possession in the first half to just 53 per cent in the second, but it is a measure of their determination and defensive resilience that they never really looked like conceding. In fact, Everton only mustered two shots in the second half. The closest they came to scoring was a Kurt Zouma header which bounced harmlessly wide.
Man City's next four PL games
- Feb 10: Chelsea (h)
- Feb 27: West Ham (h)
- Mar 2: Bournemouth (a)
- Mar 9: Watford (h)
City's attack did not click fully - although they still had chances to kill the game off before their late second - but in a defensive sense they rarely erred. There was one slack pass from John Stones which went straight to Theo Walcott deep in City territory in the second half, but even then they recovered easily.
Liverpool's next four PL games
- Feb 9: Bournemouth (h)
- Feb 24: Man Utd (a)
- Feb 27: Watford (h)
- Mar 3: Everton (a)
It was the same story when Kyle Walker gave the ball away in similar circumstances later in the game. Richarlison's through ball between Nicolas Otamendi and Laporte sent Cenk Tosun through on goal, but despite having little to do all night, Ederson was still alert to rush off his line and clear the danger.
"Goodison Park, 0-2, we have to be happy," said Guardiola afterwards.
"We had problems in the second half but it was a good game. In terms of consistency, we didn't concede one shot on target. To score in the last minute of the first half helped us a lot. I don't know how far we will get, maybe we will die on the road, but we are trying. We could have been seven points behind, it is a lesson to never give up."
City's perseverance has been impressive and they have also been helped by their squad depth. The second goal, a combination between substitutes Kevin De Bruyne and Jesus, was a testament to that.
While Jurgen Klopp could only call on Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi in Liverpool's game against West Ham, Guardiola could send on Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne and Jesus while still having Riyad Mahrez in reserve. That quality, combined with their steel, spirit and experience, could make the difference in a thrilling title race which continues this weekend.