Tuesday 22 October 2019

Mahrez magic extricates City from a sticky situation against the Toffees

Everton 1 Manchester City 3

Raheem Sterling scores City’s thid goal despite the efforts of Everton’s Séamus Coleman. Photo: Reuters/Jon Super
Raheem Sterling scores City’s thid goal despite the efforts of Everton’s Séamus Coleman. Photo: Reuters/Jon Super

Paul Wilson

Manchester City kept up the pressure on Liverpool with a hard-fought victory over dogged opponents that was not quite as straightforward as the final scoreline might suggest. Everton have still not managed to come from behind to win a game under Marco Silva, though a much-improved display almost earned them a point against the defending champions.

A draw would have done their neighbours a favour by opening up a seven-point gap at the top of the table, and Everton were on course until Riyad Mahrez struck from a set-piece with 20 minutes remaining.

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That was slightly ironic since Everton's chief second-half threat had come from Gylfi Sigurdsson's delivery of free-kicks and corners, with Yerry Mina in particular using his height to his advantage, yet on the balance of chances created from open play the visitors deserved the victory even before Raheem Sterling made sure of it with a late left-foot volley.

The game got off to an eventful start. First Theo Walcott departed on a stretcher after being knocked out by taking the ball in the face. Then Ilkay Gündogan hit the bar while practically standing on the Everton goalline, Mahrez's fierce cross reaching him too quickly to adjust his feet in time, and when Jordan Pickford made his second save of the afternoon from the industrious Mahrez barely five minutes of play had taken place.

Once the contest settled down a little a well-worked Everton move ended with Sigurdsson seeing a shot blocked by Fernandinho, before City took the lead midway through the first half.

Again Mahrez was involved, breaking down the right to set up Kevin De Bruyne for a cross to Gabriel Jesus who twisted his body impressively to score with a close-range header.

Everton equalised after half an hour with Ireland captain Séamus Coleman delicately lifting a shot over Nicolás Otamendi and Ederson from a narrow angle after the ball had broken free from Alex Iwobi. It seemed almost a shame that Dominic Calvert-Lewin got the final touch on the line to claim the goal, as the ball was going in anyway.

Gündogan had the final attempt of the first half with a shot from the edge of the area that Pickford comfortably dealt with and the home side departed to warm applause at the break.

There were chances for Gündogan and De Bruyne at the start of the second half and a decent one for Richarlison too, who headed wastefully high when Sigurdsson picked him out with a free-kick.

The Brazilian sensibly left the next set-piece opportunity to Michael Keane and Mina, who combined to bring a first-class save from Ederson.

City produced a stunning opening on the hour when an exquisite through-ball from Mahrez played Sterling in behind a square Everton defence, yet from close to the penalty spot, with only Pickford to beat, the winger slid his first-time shot the wrong side of an upright.

The travelling support took up a chant of "Sergio. Sergio" almost immediately, and five minutes later the Argentinian was introduced, though it was Mahrez, whose performance deserved a goal, who made the breakthrough.

City had a range of options when De Bruyne was fouled by Mina on the edge of the area, but Mahrez took the free-kick and cleared the wall with a shot that beat Pickford low to his right.

City were indebted to Ederson for keeping out Calvin-Lewin after Sigurdsson carved out a chance, though the home side pushing forward in search of an equaliser left gaps at the rear.

After Mahrez had accelerated into one gap, Agüero arrived at his shoulder to take over and drive the ball across goal, where Sterling was able to fasten on to a rebound and steer the ball over the line. The goal had to be confirmed by technology, but the City fans in the Bullens Road stand had the perfect view and were already celebrating.

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