Manchester City march on after narrow victory at Everton
Phil Foden’s goal settled matters.
Everton were controversially denied a late penalty as Manchester City narrowly avoided another slip up in the title race with a 1-0 win at Goodison Park.
Having laboured to take an 82nd minute lead through Phil Foden VAR was asked to rule on a ball which struck the arm of midfielder Rodri.
Referee Paul Tierney had not given a decision on the pitch and the off-field official said there was no reason to change that – much to the fury of home fans who had the old stadium bouncing again after watching an encouragingly hearty performance from their team.
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It was a huge escape for Pep Guardiola’s side, who extended their lead over Sunday’s Carabao Cup finalists Liverpool back to six points having played one match more, and harsh on opponents who worked incredibly hard in the face of increased relegation pressure.
Everton, without striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin after he failed a late fitness test on a minor groin problem, started the match just a point above the bottom three.
The club dispensed with the now traditional air raid siren which precludes the playing of Z-Cars in light of the conflict in Ukraine but the atmosphere was actually probably even more emotionally charged.
Manchester City’s Ukrainian defender Oleksandr Zinchenko and fellow countryman Vitalii Mykolenko, of Everton, were in tears on their respective benches as the home side emerged from the tunnel draped in Ukraine flags with City’s players wearing T-shirts bearing the flag of their homeland and the words ‘No War’ as ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ was played in the stadium.
A reaction was expected from City after their defeat to Tottenham last weekend but Pep Guardiola’s side were poor in the first half as the home side raised their game from their previous defeat at Southampton which had left them in so much trouble.
Strengthened by the return of midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure after more than a month out injured Everton snapped into tackles, chased their opponents relentlessly and then countered when they had the chance.
The best first-half chances all fell to Frank Lampard’s side with Jonjoe Kenny rifling a shot into the side-netting, Richarlison shooting straight at Ederson and Anthony Gordon landing a free-kick on the roof of the net.
City’s greatest threat came from a three-on-two charge which was halted by the rapidly back-tracking Donny Van De Beek.
Everton’s midfield three of Doucoure, Allan – who looked a different player to the one who was withdrawn at half-time last weekend – and Van De Beek were excellent in both aspects of their job but the concern was what would happen when Doucoure inevitably tired and City unleashed their star-studded substitutes.
Bernardo Silva’s vision saw him pick out Phil Foden with a low pass across the penalty area as Jordan Pickford forced into his first serious save in the 56th minute as City’s pressure began to build.
Former Everton defender John Stones was next to test the England goalkeeper from distance, although his reaction save from Silva after initially blocking Kevin De Bruyne’s shot showed a touch of brilliance.
Dele Alli replaced Van De Beek, who had put in a commendable defensive effort, and Gray came on for Anthony Gordon but Guardiola did not make changes until the final 15 minutes when he sent on Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez.
The pressure finally told eight minutes from time when Michael Keane crucially missed a deflected cross on the edge of his own six-yard area and Foden took full advantage.
There was still time for the penalty controversy but Lampard will take great heart from this performance.
Guardiola, however, will have been grateful with a return to winning ways and escape with three points.
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