Goals from Laporte and Jesus in added on time at the end of each half saw City take three points from Goodison on Wednesday night but oh boy, did Everton make them work for them.
Going into this Wednesday night clash of the northwest Blues, Everton were licking their wounds after a desperately disappointing loss to Wolves last Saturday while City had bounced back from a rare defeat to Newcastle by comprehensively beating Arsenal on Sunday
Marco Silva, under pressure from many Evertonians, went into the game looking for a dramatic improvement from his team and in his pre-game media gathering, defending his use of younger players. “We took a decision to make some young players part of our squad at the start of the season, a decision we took as a club.”
Addressing the pressure on himself personally Silva noted calmly, “when you are winning games the things people say it is good. When you are not [winning], this type of situation is normal. It is nothing new in our club, but it is about the now.”
With Lucas Digne available again after serving a one game suspension and a shoe-in for selection, Silva still had selection issues in midfield where Idrissa Gana Gueye was expected to return.
The Everton team sheet was submitted reading: Pickford, Digne, Zouma, Keane, Kenny, Gana Gueye, Gomes, Davies (c), Walcott, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin.
The reigning champions arrived at Goodison looking for a victory to leapfrog them back into pole position in the race for the Premier League title and with a galaxy of stars for Pep Guardiola to choose from.
City won here 3-1 last season, but Guardiola needed no reminding that his first game at the Grand Old Lady saw Everton thrash him and City 4-0. But this City team are even stronger this season than they were last in lifting the title.
Guardiola was suitably focussed when he spoke ahead of the game, “Goodison Park is always a tough game for us, but the approach is the same – going there to try to win the game and of course, we have the chance to go top.”
City duly named their starting eleven: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Laporte, Fernandinho, Gundogan, Silva (c), Sane, Bernardo and Aguero.
On a cool, breezy evening, Craig Pawson was our referee for a game massively important to both clubs.
A good competitive first half saw City have more possession, but Everton match them every inch of the way effort until right on the break, the defensive frailty that has blighted the Blues all season struck again.
A decent start by the Blues saw DCL intercept and get away from Laporte to cross only for the ref to blow for a foul in the area. City countered to win a corner on the right that was only part cleared to Sane who controlled and drilled a low shot just wide.
City were settling into their passing game, but Everton were closing down well in midfield and not giving them the kind of time on the ball the visitors like to enjoy.
Some good defensive work from Kenny and Keane saw them snuff out a threat from Aguero. A quick header forward then by Aguero set Sane going in a foot race with Keane and despite a bit of a miskick , the Everton defender prevailed to work the ball clear.
Bernardo was next to try and open Everton up with a ball from right to left for Sane but Zouma was quick to get to his cut back cross and clear at the expense of a corner, which Gundogan fired to the back post where Laporte climbed for a free header that went wide.
Fernandinho found Sane again in space and his quick pass to Silva saw his quick cross find Gundogan, but his close range shot came back off the crossbar.
Everton having got through the opening twenty minutes then began to press forward themselves with DCL and Kenny combining to get the ball into the area for Walcott, but Stones was able to head clear. A fine tackle by Gomes won possession back as City tried to break out and he fed Davies whose first touch sadly let him down.
Evertons’ best move saw Kenny and Davies combine to find Walcott for a cross that was met by the head of Bernard, Ederson tipping his effort away for a corner.
Digne from the left found DCL and a nice turn saw him get away from Stones and cross for Davies with City happy to concede another corner.
Sane with a quick breaks as the Blues defence in a bit of a scramble but they didn’t panic and got the ball clear. But with one added minute signalled, a rash tackle by Gana Gueye on Fernandinho on the right gave City a free kick that Silva floated to the back post where Laporte climbed again the plant a firm header back across goal and beyond Pickford.
It was tough on Everton who had far from disgraced themselves in an entertaining first half.
Half Time: 0-1
An early cross field ball from Gana Gueye saw Laporte clatter into Walcott, both players needing attention while the Bullens Road fans howled for a yellow card for the City player. From the free kick, Everton won a corner that was cleared out to Gana Gueye to hit a powerful 25-yard shot straight at Ederson.
Evertons’ next attack saw Fernandinho somewhat agriculturally take down Davies with no yellow card from referee Pawson, Digne hitting the wall with the free kick.
City really should have increased their lead in the 58th minute as a Bernardo cross came out to Walker whose shot bounced up nicely for Aguero but his put his bicycle kick wide. City made their first change bring Sterling on for Sane while Everton took the goal kick.
Stones over elaborating played a poor ball across his own area that Walcott got to but his cross was poor and City survived. Davies again turned to get away from Fernandinho who again took him out and again, no yellow card.
Everton swapped Gylfi Sigurdsson for Andre Gomes on 63 minutes.
City got forward through Sterling and the Blues defence worked overtime to block shots from Sterling and Silva to eventually clear only for City to come again with Gundogan finding Silva with Tom Davies making an excellent block to clear the threat.
On 72 minutes, referee Pawson finally showed Fernandinho a yellow card for a foul on Gana Gueye and Everton withdrew Bernsrd in favour of Richarlison.
Everton were battling for every ball and no giving City any time on the ball with excellent showings from Kenny and Davies, the enthusiasm of youth shining through.
Changes on 78 minutes saw Jesus replace Aguero and Cenk Tosun replace Theo Walcott.
A quick ball out from Pickford saw Richarlison beat Walker and send the ball towards Tosun, but Ederson was very quick off his line to gather and deny the Turk a shooting opportunity.
A high, hopeful ball into the City saw Ederson gather as Tosun and Otamendi collided, both needing some brief attention.
City made their final chance on 88 minutes, de Bruyne replacing David Silva.
Many of the 39,000 plus crowd were surprised when seven added minutes were signalled before a quick break by Tosun to feed Richarlison saw his cross deflected nicely for Ederson to gather.
And cruelly, City wrapped up the victory in the dying seconds as a ball into the box saw Jesus loop a header over Pickford to settle into the corner of the Park End goal.
City may well go on to successfully defend their title, but Everton made them work for their victory and will take a lot of heart from their own performance against arguably the best side in the country and possibly Europe.