The first goal might have won the game but it was the second that came to define it, one of those occasions when Erling Haaland runs through a defender rather than around him – which has become a trademark of this great goalscoring phenomenon.
This was Haaland at his most formidable – scarcely noticeable in the first 70 minutes of the game and then deadly in the 15 minutes that mattered. The 51st goal of his Premier League career broke the Everton resistance, but the 52nd reasserted the Haaland mythology just three days before the Champions League anthem strikes up again and the season’s finale begins.
He had accumulated those 52 goals in just 53 appearances, and these two were the first in five games. “It’s been horrible” was how he later described his injury absence over most of December and January. “It makes you appreciate more going into training every day, meeting up to games – and being a bit nervous before.” His last goal in the Premier League was November 25 which in the fast-forward world of the Nordic prodigy feels like a lifetime ago.
This was not even a bad Everton performance, and certainly not a bad performance from the fine young English centre-half Jarrad Branthwaite who was the other protagonist in the game’s most memorable moment. In one instant, the 21-year-old went up against Haaland in pursuit of Kevin De Bruyne’s delicious throughball, and in the next Branthwaite was on the deck watching as Haaland continued to goal like a rhino through a garden fence.
In truth it was, as Sean Dyche would say, an unfortunate tangle of legs for Branthwaite that sent him down, although the symbolism was strong. Here was Haaland back in the goals and City’s tenth straight win in all competitions. They are undefeated since Aston Villa on Dec 6. John Stones returned to the team after injury and it hardly needs to be said what his impact along with that of De Bruyne and Haaland represents.
Guardiola has long been of the opinion that everything he saw in this team convinced him they were not about to be satisfied with memories of the historic season that preceded this one. Yet in his longest answer post-match there were some interesting lessons to be drawn – especially for those many famous international players in the City squad who find themselves outside the starting XI.
“How is your positivity?” he asked, as if addressing his players, “How is your body language? We [squad and staff] talked about this a lot the last two days. One player misses a game. He starts to complain ‘Argh, I miss a game’. Miss a game. [The team-mate relationship is] I do it for you, you do it for me. In the sporting life positivity here makes you perform better. You complain and feel sorry for yourself. ‘Oh what has happened?’ People don’t come to feel sorry for you, my friend. They come here to watch the game and to win. Let’s be positive.”
De Bruyne, Guardiola said, is as fresh as he could be after five months out and there was no doubt that his second half introduction along with that of Kyle Walker electrified the game. Dyche’s players had pressed aggressively and tried to get Jack Harrison up to support Dominic Calvert-Lewin when they did get possession but, in the words of their manager, they lacked that “final moment of truth”. In other words, the kind of killer touch that Haaland would later demonstrate.
The first goal was an attacking corner on 71 minutes that Everton did not clear and Haaland dispatched with a fierce right foot volley. There was a part of Dyche, with his well-documented admiration for the simple beauty of even the most prosaic gardening accessories, that seemed to admire the first Haaland goal even more than the second.
“I must say his finish for the first one,” Dyche said, “I have been speaking to the players recently about this. This thing about footballers scoring trendy goals – whippers, dippers, clippers. He [Haaland] doesn’t think about that. Just score a goal. That’s the trendiest thing you’ll ever do. And he showed that today, a good technique. Just smash it and don’t worry about anything else.”
This was a 106-minute game in all and it is hard to go that long without City finding a way although Guardiola went through his options, four substitutes in all, until he got what he wanted. For the likes of Julian Alvarez and Matheus Nunes, both of whom started, it was a frustrating day. City play FC Copenhagen in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday and this first XI was perhaps designed with that in mind.
Guardiola mocked what he sees as the short-term assessments of his team. “‘Oh City is back. Oh, Haaland is back’” he said. “No, the reality is Everton. Last season when we did the treble, we couldn’t win. With Ronald Koeman [in charge] I couldn’t beat them. With Frank Lampard, we drew here. We knew it would be tough. 12.30pm [kick-off]. 8pm: no problem. 1230pm: problem. For sure.”
He says that he has never been worried about the form of his side, even in what was admittedly a very modest drop in results before Christmas. One has to say that, on the strength of what has come since then, he has to be right – and with the players City have returning they are only getting stronger.
Manchester City 2 Everton 0: how match unfolded:
02:34 PM GMT
FT: Man City 2 Everton 0
City make in 10 wins in a row in all competitions and they have Erling Haaland to thank for this one. The champions were not at their best against an obdurate Everton team, but Haaland’s instinctive finish broke the game open just after the 70th minute before he sealed the points on the break. A Champions League game in Copenhagen and Chelsea at the Etihad await this week, but City continue to look strong in three competitions.
02:32 PM GMT
90 minutes+9: Man City 2 Everton 0
De Bruyne with a late chance to make it three with Pickford stranded, but he lifted his shot on to the roof of the net.
02:28 PM GMT
90 minutes+7: Man City 2 Everton 0
James Garner picks up a late yellow card for a foul on Grealish. Moments before, Foden’s shot from the edge of the box was easily kept out by Pickford.
02:25 PM GMT
90 minutes+4: Man City 2 Everton 0
City’s fans have started with the ‘oles’. They have improved in the second half, I think Guardiola will reflect that the balance of his starting XI was wrong.
02:23 PM GMT
There will be TEN added minutes
That feels excessive, but there have been a couple of players treated for injuries on the pitch, as well as several substitutions.
02:22 PM GMT
90 minutes: Man City 2 Everton 0
Everton have the ball in then net, but the flag goes up for offside against Beto. Rather like his previous run off the shoulder, he went far too early and was a couple of yards off.
02:20 PM GMT
87 minutes: Man City 2 Everton 0
Manchester City home and hosed now. This will be 10 consecutive wins in all competitions and for the time being, they will be above Liverpool and top of the league. You would not expect it to stay that way with Liverpool hosting Burnley this afternoon.
02:17 PM GMT
GOOOOAAALLL! Haaland makes the game safe
Now the game is over. De Bruyne and Haaland combining to devastating effect on the counter-attack after Ake defended well in the left-back area. De Bruyne played the ball into space with his left foot for Haaland to chase, and he was too quick and strong for Branthwaite. The City striker leaves him on the turf before passing the ball beyond Pickford.
02:15 PM GMT
83 minutes: Man City 1 Everton 0
Everton try to drill a pass over the top for Beto chase, and Ederson is called upon to leave his area and clear for a throw. Then Walker blocks McNeil’s cross after good play in midfield from Onana. This game not done and dusted just yet.
02:13 PM GMT
81 minutes: Man City 1 Everton 0
Neat Everton build-up play to work the ball into Onana in midfield, but Beto went far too early and was offside by a couple of yards. Positive football though.
02:11 PM GMT
79 minutes: Man City 1 Everton 0
Ederson with a slightly mis-cued kick, but it sneaks through Everton shirts and Haaland wins a free-kick for the home team on halfway. Everton have to keep believing they will get one big chance in the closing stages.
02:08 PM GMT
76 minutes: Man City 1 Everton 0
Everton do now have a throw in the City half. Bernardo is replacing Julian Alvarez. Everton are also rolling the dice with a double sub: Young and Calvert-Lewin coming off, replaced by Beto and Onana.
02:06 PM GMT
74 minutes: Man City 1 Everton 0
Everton try to respond quickly but Walker snuffs out the danger against Mykolenko. After all that hard work, Dyche will be disappointed that Everton conceded from a set-piece. Bernardo Silva about to come on for City.
02:05 PM GMT
Haaland is back
Everton are not able to get forward with any speed or numbers so we are now effectively watching a game of attack vs defence and as I write this Haaland finally gets the breakthrough after the visitors struggle to clear a corner. The Norwegian has done very little all game but that is a wonderful finish, hit with remarkable power through a crowded area.
02:02 PM GMT
GOOOOOOAAALL! Haaland with the breakthrough
Everton defended the first City corner, but not the second. Everton are claiming that it should have been a goal kick. Dias’ header down into the six-yard box was not dealt with, pinball in the box, and it sat up for Haaland to power a volley through Pickford from close range.
02:01 PM GMT
70 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
De Bruyne swaying away from Everton challenges but Coleman gets back at him. City then attack down the right with Foden feeding Walker on the overlap, but Garner is there to clear the low cross on the stretch.
01:59 PM GMT
68 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Everton have another defender down, with Tarkowski caught on the top of the foot by De Bruyne. City’s fans feel Everton are trying to run the clock down. It will all be added on at the end of the game. Crunching challenge from Stones on McNeil, but Rodri scooped a shot from distance well over the bar. Rodri is capable, but Everton will be heartened to see City shoot from there.
01:56 PM GMT
65 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
City enjoying a near-complete monopoly of possession now, but are still searching for the opening. Doku gets the better of Coleman on the edge of the box, but the Everton full-back stuck to his task and hooked a leg around to win the ball cleanly. De Bruyne playing in an inside left position near Doku since coming on.
01:54 PM GMT
62 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
That is the type of cross City want Haaland on the end of. The striker pulled out to the left a teased a cross right across the six-yard box, but no City player could make contact and Everton cleared for a corner. Calvert-Lewin heads away before Gueye wins a soft free-kick to earn Everton a breather. Just inside their own half but Pickford is going forward to launch it.
01:51 PM GMT
60 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
A sense of excitement in the City crowd for the first time this afternoon. Branthwaite outstanding again to snuff out the run of Alavrez, and then turn and pass his way out of pressure in his own penalty area. Doku continues to look dangerous but City yet to manage a shot on target.
01:49 PM GMT
57 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
City making a double sub: Akanji and Nunes off, Walker and De Bruyne on. That will mean Stones moving back to centre-back alongside Dias. A more familiar look to City.
01:47 PM GMT
55 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Play is yet to resume, and Godfrey is unable to continue which is a blow. Seamus Coleman replaces him. A more natural full-back, but his legs are about to be tested by Doku.
Guardiola has seen enough: De Bruyne is ready to come on.
01:42 PM GMT
51 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Doku isolated against Godfrey again after a threaded pass from Rodri, but yet again Branthwaite was in the right place on the six-yard line to clear the cross. Everton’s two centre-backs have been superb so far. Godfrey is down and receiving some treatment.
01:40 PM GMT
48 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
It might well be a case of Guardiola giving this City XI a chance to improve on their first-half efforts. City starting the half camped outside the Everton box, but after a Doku cross into the area Tarkowski wins himself a free-kick. Then Alvarez lets fly from distance but his shot is always swerving wide.
01:37 PM GMT
No changes from either side
City have a super strong bench today though, and they will surely use it. Everton are a little threadbare and have relied on this group of players repeatedly in recent weeks.
01:30 PM GMT
A flat half from the champions
It’s fair to say Manchester City are looking a little off colour this Saturday lunchtime. They look strangely subdued in fact and the home crowd are starting to get a little restless. As I type this, the stadium is almost silent and you can hear the players shouting to each other on the pitch.
Everton have created the best chance of the game so far, missed by Jack Harrison.
01:22 PM GMT
HT: Man City 0 Everton 0
A highly commendable effort from Everton, who have delivered a textbook away performance for a bottom half team playing against a title contender. Doku has been City’s most dangerous player, and looked like punishing Everton during a five-minute storm of pressure in the middle of the half, but Guardiola will not be best pleased. Alvarez and Nunes struggling to make an impression, surely a question of when not if De Bruyne is introduced.
01:20 PM GMT
45 minutes+3: Man City 0 Everton 0
City probing around the Everton box and they will finish the half with a corner. Haaland contests the first ball and Everton cannot clear their lines, and Akanji gets a clear sight of goal around eight yards out. What a block from Tarkowski! Kept his arm tucked in so no penalty despite the VAR check.
City then win another corner, but Alvarez and Foden get the short one wrong.
01:17 PM GMT
45 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
That was really poor from Julian Alvarez. He did well to catch Tarkowski on the ball in a dangerous position, and it looked a relatively straightforward pass to give Haaland a one-on-one against Pickford, but he got it all wrong. Groans from the home fans.
There will be three minutes of added time.
01:16 PM GMT
44 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
City have a free-kick near the right-hand corner of the box, after Mykolenko trips Foden. City have plenty of height in their team today with Ake, Dias, Stones, Akanji, Haaland, Rodri and Nunes. Dangerous delivery from Foden to the back post, but Everton win first contact, and the ball spoons up for Pickford to claim.,
01:14 PM GMT
42 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Lovely City move with Stones spraying a pass out to Nunes on the right, but Branthwaite times his challenge perfectly to hook clear. The Everton defender celebrates the tackle with a first pump.
01:12 PM GMT
40 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Nunes with a stray pass that runs out for an Everton throw, and it sounds like the City crowd are getting frustrated with their summer signing. Dyche, watching on from the stands, will be delighted with his team so far.
01:09 PM GMT
37 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
In the end, that was a good piece of sweeping from Pickford, but could Nunes have thrown himself at it? At one stage the City midfielder looked the favourite to get there and nick it round the goalkeeper. Harrison fires a low cross into the City box, but it cannot find Calvert-Lewin. Then Everton deliver a cross from the other wing through Young. Calvert-Lewin’s near-post flick is blocked, it sits up lovely for Harrison to strike on the volley but he skews horribly over the bar.
01:06 PM GMT
34 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Everton hanging on a bit now, they can barely contain Doku. Does Godfrey need to ask Young to come back and play outside him as a wing-back to try and create a two-on-one? Harrison looks for Calvert-Lewin with a chipped pass forward but it is misdirected.
01:03 PM GMT
31 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
City looking dangerous again, they are starting to find Doku and Foden earlier so they are isolated against their opponent. Foden fed Nunes who had made an underlapping run forward, and he looked to poised to lay the ball on a plate for Haaland but Branthwaite made a crucial block. Another impressive showing from the young centre-half so far.
12:59 PM GMT
28 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Ben Godfrey started the game soundly, but he is starting to struggle at right-back against Doku. The Belgian wingers skips through the challenges to dink a dangerous cross up to Haaland, but he never got over the header at the back post and it looped over. Bit more cut and thrust in the game in the last few minutes.
12:58 PM GMT
26 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
That was City’s best moment so far and no surprise that Doku was the player who provided it. Lovely first touch to move beyond Godfrey but Branthwaite read the low cross really well to clear. Then Calvert-Lewin has a wrestle with Dias to win Everton a free-kick to launch into the area, but it comes to nothing.
12:56 PM GMT
Everton providing strong resistance so far
Everton have started very well and have managed to get in behind City far more than you would have expected before kick off. City’s high defensive line can be broken if you have pace at wide and midfielders who can play long, diagonal balls over the heads of the defenders. It’s all about timing – of both the pass and run – but it can be done.
City, though, are starting to do what City do. Pinning Everton back, refusing to let them out of their half. Everton are now defending the edge of their own box. If you feel like you have seen this movie before that’s because you have.
12:54 PM GMT
22 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Doku is once again the outlet for City wide left, but Godfrey does well to stand up and block his cross. Everton’s organisation and discipline is impressive so far, not allowing their distances to get too big.
12:52 PM GMT
20 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
City starting to look more dangerous through Doku down their left, with Everton producing two key defensive blocks. Calvert-Lewin goes down and believes he should have a free-kick on halfway, but nothing doing. Guardiola does not look very impressed with this opening period.
12:50 PM GMT
18 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Guardiola is now up on his feet on the touchline. The Etihad is very quiet – a combination of the early kick-off and a fixture in which they are heavy odds-on favourities. Rodri tries to dribble through midfield by Gueye halts him with an outstretched leg.
12:47 PM GMT
15 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Pickford’s clearance is picked up by Doku who drives infield and wins a free-kick from Gueye. Akanji tries to find Foden with a diagonal pass but Mykolenko was well-positioned to head clear.
Harrison then forces Akanji into a loose pass in midfield, but Calvert-Lewin went for a chip over Ederson rather than looking for the pass. A wasted opportunity for Everton, who have had some bright attacking moments so far.
12:44 PM GMT
12 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Play has resumed after a two-minute stoppage for Ederson to receive treatment after the City ‘keeper received a blow to the face in that Godfrey challenge. City have seen a lot of the ball so far, but I wouldn’t say they are fully in rhythm.
12:42 PM GMT
Everton winning the fashion stakes
Not my usual area of expertise but surely Everton’s “shrimp” coloured away shirt is the best in the Premier League this season. Bright, mildly offensive on the eyes, memorable and distinctive. Call me old fashioned ( a child of the 90s) but that’s what a change strip should be.
12:40 PM GMT
7 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
It actually looks like both of Stones and Aknaji are going into midfield on the same line as Rodri, with Dias and Ake left behind them as a back two. City can afford to take that gamble with Calvert-Lewin generally up front on his own. Decent piece of hold-up play from the Everton striker, and they switch play with a diagonal to Mykolenko.
The ball is set back for McNeil to whip in a dangerous cross, which runs for Young on the right whose low cross is blocked. Then Godfrey and Ederson scrap for a ball in the penalty box after a disguises through ball. Promising from the visitors.
12:37 PM GMT
4 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Pickford beats the corner away, but City re-establish possession quickly and keep Everton penned in. City then loft a pass into Haaland in the box who tries to find Foden with a lay-off, but Foden ran out of room and the ball ran out of play for a goal kick. Everton defending in a 4-4-2 and are trying not to sink too deep.
12:34 PM GMT
2 minutes: Man City 0 Everton 0
Branthwaite heads his team-mate McNeil in the back of the head within the opening seconds. Everton try to apply the squeeze on City, but Ederson threads a pass beyond the sliding Harrison on the edge of the box. It looks like Stones is playing at right-back with Akanji performing his centre-back/central midfield role of last season.
Doku with a foray down the left and he wins City a corner.
12:32 PM GMT
Manchester City get the game started.
12:31 PM GMT
Everton have won the toss and have turned Man City around
Everton have won 70 per cent of their kick-off tosses away from home this season, if that kind of thing interests you.
12:28 PM GMT
The players are in the tunnel
Everton are not the same proposition without Amadou Onana and Abdoulaye Doucoure in midfield, and you sense this could be a long afternoon. The face Pep Guardiola feels able to keep De Bruyne, Bernardo and Walker on the bench speaks volumes. City have the chance to play first this weekend and lay down the gauntlet to Arsenal and Liverpool.
12:19 PM GMT
Dyche not on the touchline today
The staff have known me for a long time and I think the team are aware of the challenge in front of them. But yeah, it will mainly be through the microphone.
Our away record has been good this season, our clean sheet record has been good, which is what you need when you come to these top sides.
11:55 AM GMT
300 up for Dyche
It’s a milestone game for Everton boss Sean Dyche today – his 300th Premier League match as manager. Although there will be no sign of him on the touchline, as three yellow cards already this season means he must serve his one-game ban for this one and sit things out in the stands.
Across his career, he’s taken on City 19 times as a manager in all competitions, winning just once, drawing twice and losing the remaining 16.
11:50 AM GMT
Visitors unchanged from Spurs draw
11:48 AM GMT
Your City squad!
XI | Ederson, Stones, Akanji, Dias (C), Ake, Rodrigo, Nunes, Foden, Alvarez, Doku, Haaland
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 10, 2024
11:46 AM GMT
Taking a punt?
Having a bet on today’s match? First take a look at these free bets and betting offers.
11:35 AM GMT
Guardiola: City have 0.1% chance of winning the Treble
By Mike McGrath
Pep Guardiola insists his Manchester City team have just 0.01% chance of winning back-to-back Trebles despite their winning streak heading into the business end of the campaign.
City head into today’s fixture against Everton on the back of nine consecutive victories and they last tasted defeat at the start of December. After their clean sweep of titles last season, their defence of the Champions League also continues next week against FC Copenhagen in the last-16.
“We have 99.99 possibility that we are not going to win the treble because never, never, ever, ever, ever, has anyone done it,” said Guardiola. “The chances to do it again are tiny. This was a fairy tale and it’s more complicated than that.
“If it was easy, another team – United in that time – would do it again. It’s not easy, not even winning at Brentford (is easy). What I like is the satisfaction when in Luton Town when we’re in trouble and we won and the celebration in the locker room, this is what I like in my team.
“What I like is that we are still there. We are close to top of the league and other competitions we are there and qualified. This is what I like at this stage, and hopefully we arrive in March and April with the same feeling to fight for the titles in May. This is the target.”
Guardiola has spoken of Jack Grealish needing to reach the same levels of last season’s Treble win to earn a place back in his team. The England forward has been on the bench for the last four games, although he was ill for the win at Newcastle when he was an unused substitute.
“This season was not like last season, but he’s getting better. This season lately he is getting better and we’re looking forward,” said Guardiola.
“He’s doing the steps to get to his best level and now is competing with players at a high level. This is the only reason why. He has to demand himself to get back where he was especially last season and all the time in Villa. I’m looking forward to give him minutes.”
Guardiola admits that Grealish has been impacted by the break-in at his house while playing in the fixture against Everton at Goodison Park, which occurred while his family were in the property.
“Hopefully he forgot it but I am pretty sure (it did). I would have been affected too It’s not easy what happened with him, his girlfriend and his family,” said Guardiola. “I think he handled it really well. He’s an incredible person with his humanity and here with the security people at the club and the people at his disposal they tried to help him. It happened. Lately he didn’t speak about that subject so hopefully he’s fine.
“It’s not a big, big problem, completely the opposite. Now he is making steps to get his best and that’s all. We need him, we need everyone and we need Jack. I am looking forward to him being back to his best and giving him minutes.”