Manchester City can claim this season’s Premier League title in the Manchester derby next weekend following this dominant and comprehensive victory over Everton.
City put on a masterclass, particularly in the first half, of the style of football espoused by Pep Guardiola, possession, passing, movement and pace, that demands respect and is at odds with the conventional British style as coached by lesser mortals.
Saturday’s late fixture saw champions elect Manchester City visit Goodison Park with Pep Guardiola still looking for his first victory over the Toffees since taking the reins at the Etihad.
Everton had a number of injuries to contend with in the lead up to the match, most notably the loss of Idrissa Gana Gueye and doubts over Tom Davies, potentially offering opportunities for Morgan Schneiderlin to redeem himself after a largely miserable season, or for Beni Baningime or Davy Klaassen to link in midfield with Wayne Rooney. Manager Sam Allardyce looking for his first victory over Guardiola eventually named his starting line up: Pickford, Baines, Keane, Jagielka (c), Coleman, Schneiderlin, Rooney, Walcott, Bolasie, Calvert-Lewin and Tosun.
Knowing a win would put his side just one more victory away from lifting the title, but with a Champions League quarterfinal tie against the RS on Wednesday to take into account, Pep Guardiola left out both Aguerro and the concussed John Stones but was still able to select a strong City side: Ederson, Laporte, Kompany (c), Otamendi, Walker, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Jesus, and Sané.
On a rather cool Easter Saturday evening, our referee was Paul Tierney.
What can you say about the first half display from City that hasn’t already been said this season?
Their confidence in each other, their movement, their patience, their pace and their clinical finishing was actually a joy to watch… if you’re a City fan or a neutral.
It took City just four minutes to open up the Blues defence with Silva dancing through the left side of the defence before lofting a perfect cross to the right for Sane to smash home.
Everton could and should have been level on eleven minutes when Coleman sent DCL away on the right and his excellent cross to the six yard box was inexplicably headed over by Bolasie with the Gwladys Street goal yawning in front of him.
City showed, less than sixty seconds later, how to do it properly as De Bruyne scampered away down their right to cross for Jesus who gave Pickford no chance. Two attacks, two goals, things were looking ugly already.
Possibly with one eye on next weeks game across the park, City appeared to take the foot off the gas, but whilst their build-up play was patient and calm, the threat of an injection of pace from Sane, Sterling, Jesus and Silva was an ever present threat for the remainder of a half that the visitors dominated thoroughly.
Introducing the Everton Mishmash!
And as if to illustrate that they could almost score at will, when Ederson held onto a speculative cross from the left by Bolasie, City broke at lightning pace with Silva crossing from the left for Sterling to fire home their third marker on 36 minutes of a one-sided half.
Half Time: 0-3
The second half continued as the first had ended with City enjoying so much more of the possession and restricting Everton rare forays forward.
De Bruyne found Walker with a raking ball and his cut back found Silva whose shot was blocked and the ball cleared. Fernandinho tried his luck from 25 yards with the shot taking a deflection and Pickford adjusting well to push the shot away for a corner.
Tom Davies replaced Wayne Rooney on 56 minutes, the former England captain looking dejected as he left the pitch to jeers from the City fans.
On 62 minutes, Yannick Bolasie took a pass from DCL to beat Kompany and fire a low shot that beat Ederson to hit both posts and cross the line.
City replaced Sterling with Bernardo Silva a minute later, and Everton with renewed faith forced Laporte into an error to win a rare corner that Keane met but put his header wide.
City weathered the short resurgence by Everton and were soon back to their patient midfield pass and move build-up attempting to draw Everton forward and then hit them at pace and width.
Beni Baningime replaced DCL on 74 minutes and two minutes later, City replaced De Bruyne with Gundogan, with Oumar Niasse replacing Tosun a further two minutes later.
The game had long since ceased to be a contest as even a sweet cross from Walcott that saw Niasse power in a header that Ederson saved was adjudged offside.
Danilo replaced Laporte with four minutes left as City continued their midfield and possession dominance that has seen them take this season’s title race by the scruff of the neck such has been their superiority in every department of the game.