Brief Summary…A display of power, grit, aggression, hunger and some sublime skill saw Everton overpower and crush Manchester City, and send John Stones home from his return wondering what the heck hit his side of the visitors defence.
Ahead of the kick-off, Goodison gave up a minute’s applause for Graham Taylor and Jim Greenwood who both passed away this week, and an especially warm welcome to Bradley Lowery, resplendent in his Sunderland shirt and cradled onto the pitch in the arms of Romelu Lukaku, a truly lovely moment.
With two new signings already completed and more pending, Ronald Koeman picked a starting line-up of: Robles, Baines, Williams, Funes Mori, Coleman, Holgate, Barry, Davies, Barkley, Mirallas and Lukaku.
Pep Guardiola selected thus from his expensively assembled squad: Bravo, Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, Zabaleta, Toure, De Bruyne, Silva, Clichy, Sterling and Aguero.
Refereeing this Sunday lunchtime feast was the ever popular Mark Clattenburg.
A bright start by both sides saw John Stones receive some boos on his early touches as Everton set about City eager to close them down and deny them the chance to get into any kind of rhythm.
Everton were first to hit the netting on nine minutes, but the slick move involving Davies, Lukaku, Coleman and finished by Mirallas was ruled out for offside, but the nature of the move bode well for the rest of the game.
City responded with Aguero finding Sterling in the area but the combination challenge of RFM and Joel Robles saw the ex-RS go sprawling and crying for a penalty.
A lovely feint in midfield by Mirallas left Clichy rooted to the spot and his pass to the right flank found Lukaku only for his cross to be just too strong for Barkley to get a telling finish to.
It had been a good opening twenty minutes with all those in blue working hard, closing City down and biting hard into the tackle. City won a free kick on the left edge of the area when Holgate was somewhat harshly adjudged to have fouled Aguero, but the home defence dealt with it easily.
Stones was then called upon to show his skills as a long ball out of defence from Baines looked to release Mirallas as Everton seemed determined to keep their former player busy all afternoon.
City had a glorious chance to open the scoring when De Bruyne found Silva in space, but Joel Robles denied his fellow Spaniard staying on his fit and making a large obstacle to beat.
City paid the price for this as Everton put together a beautifully incisive move with Davies finding Mirallas on the right flank and his inch perfect cross into the box to the feet of Romelu Lukaku saw an instant and ice-cool finish into the bottom corner on 33 minutes.
Everton had their tails up and after another De Bruyne cross from the left for Silva was cleared, another fine move ensued involving Mirallas, Lukaku, and Barkley before a disappointing right wing cross from Coleman fell nicely for Bravo.
Davies, who’d had an impressive opening half alongside Barry in the midfield engine room, sent Everton into the half time break ahead thanks to a goal line clearing header that denied a looping header from Clichy.
Half Time 1-0.
No changes by either manager at half time, and Everton hit the front foot with immediate and devastating effect. A midfield tackle by Barry gained possession and a neat pass from Barkley found Kevin Mirallas bursting into the right hand side of the box and his clinical shot across the face of goal gave Everton their second with just over a minute played.
Mason Holgate was unlucky to be booked after Sterling went to ground for the umpteenth time and Goodison held its breath for a moment when Mirallas went down clutching his hamstring, but he was okay to continue after a slight delay.
City withdrew Zabaleta for Iheanacho on 61 minutes and Ronald Koeman countered three minutes later sending Morgan Schneiderlin on for Mirallas to prevent any injury, with the Belgian getting a standing ovation for a fine all-round effort and well taken goal.
City for all their star-studded and expensively assembled squad were not making any real headway against an Everton side now playing confidently and the expansive, flowery football championed by Pep Gladioli was nowhere to be seen.
James McCarthy replaced Gareth Barry on 73 minutes, the veteran midfielder having rolled back the years with a fine showing against his former club that earned him a standing ovation.
Silva was next to see yellow for felling Tom Davies who understandably was annoyed at the challenge and reacted.
A 30-yard free kick from YaYa Toure looked destined for the top corner until Joel Robles coolly plucked it from the air and this timely boost to his confidence saw Everton look to cement the points with a third goal.
It came and how, on 78 minutes, as Holgate found Tom Davies deep in our half and the blond-haired midfield set off upfield. He ran and beat a man, cut inside and beat another and continued on. Approaching the edge of the City area, he laid the ball inside to Barkley, collided with Stones but got up quickly enough to take the return pass from Ross and superbly chip over the advancing Bravo into the Gwladys Street goal.
Goodison was exultant and Robles completed his fine afternoon with a full-length dive to turn an Aguero shot away for a corner as City sought a consolation.
Ronald Koeman gave Ross Barkley his standing ovation by bringing him off on 90 minutes with Ademola Lookman getting a couple of minutes to savour. The former Charlton forward though was to put the cherry on the icing of a glorious Everton cake as Seamus Coleman put the beleaguered Stones under pressure and the ball fell to Lookman who took one touch before crashing his second touch beyond Bravo for a superb debut goal.
Full Time 4-0.
Everton were magnificent today giving a performance that was quintessential Everton. Hard work in abundance from every single player, great teamwork especially on the few occasions when City did threaten, and no shortage of skill, passion and pace.
Some of the passing was sublime, some of the link-up play was outstanding, but the overwhelming qualities on show were self-belief and a ravenous hunger to succeed, and the delight in the body language of Ronald Koeman as the goals went in and at the final whistle spoke volumes.
Even funnier was his dialogue in the closing moments with Otamendi after the City player went down after walking into Romelu Lukaku right in front of the dugouts. I couldn’t hear what Koeman said, but it certainly left Otamendi under no illusion that Koeman thought he was nought but a big girl’s blouse.
Picking an Everton Man of the Match will be hard as every player put in a full shift today in what has to be the best performance of the season so far, but if I have to single out one man, it would be Tom Davies – absolutely superb !
And one final thought…
For Bradley Lowery, who had played on the pitch at half time wearing an Everton shirt, we can but hope he and his family thoroughly enjoyed the day as part of our football family.
Bill Kenwright gets a lot of bad press from many Evertonians for aspects of his reign and tenure as Chairman of our club, but when it comes to representing the club at events such as the Hillsborough memorials, the funerals of our heroes who have passed away, and others, his mastery of oratory and of how to deliver a speech with passion and true feeling is unsurpassed.
In taking up the cause of Bradley Lowery, not just in purely financial terms, but in being there for the family in a compassionate capacity whilst avoiding the limelight, Bill Kenwright has again demonstrated what we mean when we refer to things being done in “The Everton Way”… with dignity, compassion and class.