Two superb second half strikes from Erling Haaland helped deliver a 10th successive win for City over a stubborn Everton at the Etihad.

For more than 70 minutes the Toffees had proved obdurate opponents with City searching in vain for a breakthrough.

But with 19 minutes left, Haaland – as so often – made the all-important difference, rifling home a stunning shot for what was his first goal since late November.

And five minutes from time the big man - on what was his 50th Premier League start - struck once again after being put through clean on goal by substitute Kevin De Bruyne to further reinforce his importance to the City cause.

It was no less that City deserved, even though Everton had made life difficult for us on an afternoon when patience and composure were key.

But, in the manner befitting the reigning champions, thanks to our Norwegian super striker we found a way to navigate the visitors’ road block and so maintain a sense of momentum and sent us top for a few hours at least before later Liverpool regained pole spot.

What happened

The meeting promised to be a contrast of both styles and current fortunes with City seeking to claim pole position while Everton were desperate for points to try and climb out of the Premier League bottom three.

With this week’s February’s deluge having thankfully finally abated, conditions were cold but clear when the day’s early kick-off got under way.

ONE OF OUR OWN: Phil Foden takes the fight to Everton.
ONE OF OUR OWN: Phil Foden takes the fight to Everton.

There may have been four changes in the startling line-up but from the off City immediately sought to settle into our trademark familiar rhythm of possession, precision and pace on the ball.

However, the visitors – as with any Sean Dyche side – were well drilled, compact and a serious threat on the break and it was Everton who carved out the game’s first real opportunity on seven minutes.

A dangerous corner found the advancing Ben Godfrey on the right edge of the box, and it needed a brave smother from Ederson to deny the Everton defender with the Brazilian hurting himself in the process.

And with the Toffees adept at squeezing space, harrying City at every opportunity and packing men behind the ball it made for a game of patience for Pep Guardiola’s side.

The ever-dangerous Jeremy Doku threatened to create the all-important breakthrough on 28 minutes after skinning both Godfrey and James Tarkowski but his cross into the waiting Haaland was a fraction too high.

Matheus Nunes was the next to almost seek out the advancing Haaland after a quickfire move down the right flank, but Jarrad Branthwaite was there to force the block. 

However, the Toffees were still a threat on the counter and City were grateful when former Blue Jack Harrison blazed over an inviting 38th minute opportunity after the ball had fallen invitingly for him on the right central segment of the box.

There was more frustration for City just before the break when Julian Alvarez robbed Tarkowski on the left flank with Haaland free in the area but, for once, the Argentine’s delivery was too strong.

Right on the stroke of half-time, a stop-start first 45 minutes, a VAR check for a possible City penalty was rejected after Tarkowski had flung his body in the way of a goal bound Manuel Akanji shot with VAR official Michael Oliver adjudging there was no handball offence. 

There was an increased intensity and tempo to our work after the break with Alvarez sending a 50th minute effort wide of the target.

But with the visitors proving obdurate opponents, Guardiola summoned Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker from the bench just before the hour to try and provide fresh impetus.

It was now wave after wave of City pressure with Everton effectively camped in their half as the intensity stepped up.

And finally the all-important breakthrough arrived on 71 minutes from, of course, that man Haaland.

A deep Alavrez corner was initially half cleared before the ball ricocheted to the lurking Norwegian on the left edge of the box.

THE BOSS: Pep Guardiola ponders on proceedings.
THE BOSS: Pep Guardiola ponders on proceedings.

He needed no second invitation to rifle home an unstoppable shot which nearly lifted the roof off the Everton net and Etihad with the relief and joy palpable.

And his special afternoon then got even better five minutes from time when a brilliant De Bruyne ball put the Norwegian clean through and he finished in clinical fashion, striking a precise finish past Pickford.

KDB then almost rounded things off with an injury time lob that landed on the roof of the net but the points were safe with Erling back in harness.


CITY XI: Ederson, Akanji (Walker 58) , Dias (c), Stones, Ake, Rodrigo, Nunes (De Bruyne 58), Foden, Alvarez (Bernardo 78), Doku (Grealish 86), Haaland

Subs: Ortega, Gvardiol, Lewis, Bobb, Wright

EVERTON XI: Pickford, Godfrey (Coleman 53), Tarkowski (C), Branthwaite, Mykolenko, Young (Onana 78), Garner, Gana (Chermiti 89), McNeil (Dobbin 88), Harrison, Calvert-Lewin (Beto 78)

Subs: Virginia, Patterson, Keane, Hunt

MOTION PICTURE: Julian Alvarez plots a route past the Everton defence.
MOTION PICTURE: Julian Alvarez plots a route past the Everton defence.

Man of the match

It has to be Erling Haaland.

Here he was back to doing what he does best, scoring goals and winning matches for Manchester City.

He has been missed but this was a glorious reminder of his talismanic game-changing quality and just how vital he will be over the next few defining months.

And not a bad way to celebrate your 50th Premier League start!

Back in the goal routine

After a near two month injury lay-off, Haaland could have been forgiven for taking his time to get motoring back to full operational duty.

But the Norwegian doesn’t do half measures.

Right from the off he was eager and hungry – even if the service line through to him wasn’t always as accurate as he would have liked.

But like the very best of strikers all it takes is one opportunity – and he took his opener with aplomb.

And having followed that up with a sweetly struck second, one wouldn’t be surprised if what were his 15th and 16th Premier League goals of the season were not the precursor to a scoring spree moving forward.

After all, it has been known!

OH YES: Erling gets the celebrations underway.
OH YES: Erling gets the celebrations underway.

Pep’s reaction

“I love to win this type of game. The difficulty is there, we knew it. 

“Everton at home is always complicated. We lost a lot of points over many years. What I am happy with the most was the shape and the body language in the second half was much better. 

“The first half we were complaining, 12:30 is more difficult but the body language was not good. The chemistry between the players, we have to better, in the second half we were better.

“We read better the space we should attack. Kyle [Walker], Kevin [De Bruyne], Bernardo [Silva] and Jack [Grealish] made an incredible contribution. 

“Especially Jack in the last minutes to keep the ball. I like to win these games, suffering. How difficult it is in the Premier League. Nothing is for granted.

“The way they celebrate shows how difficult it was and how pleased they are.” 

HAALAND reaction

“Yeah it’s a good feeling and even better to win.

“We always work hard as a team, so a fantastic performance, it was a difficult game and a good win. 

“A lot of games people will try and destroy our game, but we are a good team so it is difficult to destroy our game. A good win.

“We’ve been on a good run, I think that’s 10 in a row in all competitions. We’re doing quite well. It’s a good thing.”

SITTING PRETTY: Haaland is a picture of joy after his opener.
SITTING PRETTY: Haaland is a picture of joy after his opener.

What it means

City moved above Liverpool and into top spot in the Premier League table for a few hours at least before the Anfield side regained top spot with a win against Burnley.

The results mean its as you were at the top with Liverpool top but second-placed City only two points behind with a game in hand and maintaining our own march for an unprecedented fourth straight league title.

What’s next

City are back in action on Tuesday evening when we resume our Champions League campaign with a last-16 first leg trip to tackle FC Copenhagen of Denmark.

Kick-off in the Danish capital is slated for 20:00 (UK).

YOU LOVE TO SEE IT: The City players salute Erling.
YOU LOVE TO SEE IT: The City players salute Erling.

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