Tuesday 25 April 2017

Everton bask in glow of youth as lifeless City's title hopes get derailed

Tom Davies clips the ball over Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to score for Everton. Photo: Reuters / Lee Smith
Tom Davies clips the ball over Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to score for Everton. Photo: Reuters / Lee Smith

Chris Bascombe

The Everton DJ knew what he was doing when he played 'Teenage Kicks' at half-time.

Everton 4 Manchester City 0

It was an afternoon for Goodison Park to bask in the glow of their promising future, effervescent youngsters Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman punishing Manchester City who, not for the first time this season, played as if they were showing their age.

David Beckham kicks Diego Simeone during the World Cup on June 30, 1998 – the same day that yesterday’s Everton’s hero Tom Davies was born. Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images
David Beckham kicks Diego Simeone during the World Cup on June 30, 1998 – the same day that yesterday’s Everton’s hero Tom Davies was born. Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images

Lookman, the 19-year-old signed for an initial £7.5 million from Charlton last week, was on the pitch for only two minutes before drilling his first Everton goal - his team's fourth in an emphatic win - past the exposed Claudio Bravo.

But it was Davies, the 18-year-old from Everton's Academy, who had spent the afternoon outrunning and outmanoeuvring Pep Guardiola's side.

For all Guardiola's problems, and they are plentiful, even he must have grudgingly admired the splendour and vigour of Davies' technically brilliant display, especially Everton's third goal.

It was the kind of finish Guardiola has seen often, but usually at the Nou Camp and the trademark of Lionel Messi.

Everton's Romelu Lukaku clashes with Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi. Photo: Reuters / Lee Smith
Everton's Romelu Lukaku clashes with Manchester City's Nicolas Otamendi. Photo: Reuters / Lee Smith

This was a moment of exquisite individual beauty, made all the more memorable that his delicate chip over Claudio Bravo on 80 minutes followed a 70-yard run during which he had taken out the entire Manchester City midfield and defence, back-heeling to escape the attention of Yaya Toure, prior to exchanging passes with Ross Barkley.

There was moment's pause inside the stadium to digest what just happened and pandemonium followed.

"He's playing on a high level from the time when he came into the team," said Koeman.

"He has an impact on the team. You don't expect Tom will score every weekend, but the level he showed - and real composure on the ball and aggression - we need that.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (left) tangles with Everton's Tom Davies. Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (left) tangles with Everton's Tom Davies. Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

"It's not all about young players, but they are for the future. If they bring the performance and the level then I will be the first to put them on the list."

Guardiola has a habit of responding to every Manchester City setback by slumping into the dugout and taking huge swigs from his bottle of water.

It's fair to say he is no danger of suffering from dehydration during his first year in English football.

This defeat means the gap to Chelsea remains at 10 points, but Guardiola's problems extend much further than a title challenge which, in truth, has been fading for a while. This was a lifeless, predictable City performance of the type we have seen too often.

He suggested ill-fortune was playing its part, his side failing to take advantage when in control as they were in the early stages, but his team is curiously easy to play against in this plodding mood.

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero shoots at goal. Photo: Reuters / Darren Staples
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero shoots at goal. Photo: Reuters / Darren Staples

Let them knock the ball around 60 yards from goal, wait a bit, nick possession, and take your opportunities on the break.

Everton did so initially through their Belgians - Romelu Lukaku in the first half and Kevin Mirallas in the second - before Davies and Lookman made the result look more comfortable than the balance of play had earlier suggested.

The truth is City's midfielders took a grand tour of Merseyside's culs-de-sac.

So often they will exchange passes with minimal pace, threat or imagination. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne could have been mistaken for holding midfielders as they received possession in least damaging zones.

It is no surprise they were so regularly punished on the counter-attack, with John Stones - moderately booed on his return - familiarised with a City performance that had more in common with the latter Goodison days of Roberto Martinez.

When Everton broke through, it was courtesy of the kind of incisive contribution City craved. Davies' ability to instantly pick out Mirallas freed the Belgian on 34 minutes, and he cut back the cross for Lukaku. The striker's finish was brutal, first time from just inside the penalty area - Bravo beaten by the pace.

On those occasions City did get beyond Everton's three centre-halves, ruthlessness was missing. Raheem Sterling was most culpable, seeking an early penalty when he delayed shooting with Joel Robles to beat, and also volleying cleverly but tame at the Everton keeper after a wonderful De Bruyne pass.

Aguero was an inch from converting De Bruyne's cross, and City's best moment of the first half came on 45 minutes, when Sagna's header was cleared off the line by Davies. The visitors deteriorated from there.

A minute into the second half Everton doubled their lead, Mirallas firing across Bravo as City looked for an offside flag.

City pushed on but Robles was rarely tested, so it was left to Davies to show Guardiola what his own team was lacking before Lookman offered another tantasling glimpse of what is to come under Koeman.

"It was a perfect afternoon," said the Dutch coach. "Maybe, in the total team performance, it was our best of the season. It is difficult to say 'no' about it if you win 4-0 against City but I think the whole team performance was outstanding." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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