Saturday 3 December 2016

Stekelenburg heroics leave City to rue spot-kick failures

Manchester City 1 Everton 1

Ian Herbert

Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30

Everton's Yannick Bolasie and Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan challenge for the ball. Picture: PA
Everton's Yannick Bolasie and Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan challenge for the ball. Picture: PA

Ronald Koeman taught Pep Guardiola a few tricks at Barcelona, and this was the day when he contributed once again to the younger man's education. The lesson was about the brutal challenge of the Premier League - a division in which you can dominate, excel, express yourself and still be wounded.

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The panic was setting in and two penalties had come and gone before Manchester City finally found the goal that saved them against a goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, who repelled everything they threw at the task.

Everton's Yannick Bolasie and Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan challenge for the ball. Picture: PA
Everton's Yannick Bolasie and Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan challenge for the ball. Picture: PA

The statistics told the story of City's first half fluidity and superiority: 150 passes in the attacking third for the home side (119 successful); 25 for Everton (nine successful). The challenge, though, was to convert the dominance into chances and for at least an hour that did not happen nearly enough. Guardiola had thrown every available resource into the effort, deploying a three-man defence and allowing Leroy Sane the full width of the pitch to mount much of their attacking intent.

Guardiola had opted to keep Sergio Aguero on the bench, with the ultimate challenge of Barcelona awaiting on Wednesday, and in his place Kelechi Iheanacho offered little threat.

Bryan Oviedo, who had both Sane and Kevin de Bruyne attacking his channel, did most to demonstrate the new defensive muscle which Koeman has brought to his team.

The second half was 15 minutes old when City were taught what attacking pace looked like. Romelu Lukaku took on a long pass that Yannick Bolasie had flicked on, accelerated past Gael Clichy and firing beyond Claudio Bravo before the goalkeeper could blink.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline. Picture: PA
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline. Picture: PA

There happened to be a defensive weak link for City exploit. On two occasions, Phil Jagielka simply did not possess the speed of response to deal with the quick feet of the forwards and he justifiably paid with penalties.

Raheem Sterling was the first to draw a poorly timed tackle out of the 34-year-old, who extended a leg which the forward toppled over on the edge of the six-yard box, two minutes before the break. Stekelenburg made his first significant contribution to what would become a big afternoon when he dived left to save De Bruyne's penalty.

Aguero had arrived for Iheanacho when the second penalty came. It was the Argentine whom Jagielka's trailing leg caught on 69 minutes. Aguero stepped up and Stekelenburg saved again. It was City's fourth penalty miss from eight this season.

City had Nolito to thank for saving them from a defeat they did not deserve. It was he who leapt to meet David Silva's 72nd minute cross to equalise with a fine header.

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