Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Haaland double puts Man City in familiar position

The first goal won it but it was the second that was breath-taking, one of those occasions when Erling Haaland runs through a defender rather than around him – which has become a trademark of this great goalscorer, reports The

The two goals were the first Haaland has scored in five, and the first in the Premier League since Nov 25, although it was the manner in which they came that carried the punch. Haaland had done little else before his first against an Everton team that fought the champions well, and then suddenly the City striker was everywhere. The last 20 minutes of games, when the opposition have given everything, tend to be the period in which the chances arrive and he can thrive.

It helps when Pep Guardiola can bring on two of the best players in the world in Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker in order to change a game in the balance, but in the end it requires a goalscorer of the highest order to win a game.

Haaland was certainly that for both goals, starting with the second in which he left the fine young centre-half Jarrad Branthwaite in a heap on the floor en route to goal. De Bruyne’s through ball on 70 minutes, shaped through what remained of the Everton back line, was weighted nicely enough for it to be an even race between striker and defender. Seconds later it was Haaland tucking the ball past Jordan Pickford.

Branthwaite watched the end of it from the ground. He had been excellent, in the first half in particular, in his partnership with James Tarkowski in keeping City without a single attempt on the Everton goal. Having fallen one behind, and with the team stretched, he converged with Haaland for the ball and just seemed to bounce off. It was perhaps a case of an unlucky strike of ankles – either way the symbolism of the moment was strong, with a defender on the ground and Haaland heading to goal.

He had scored his first earlier with a fierce volley from a corner that Everton never got clear. Even without Sean Dyche patrolling the touchline, a ban meant he was in the directors’ box, the away side had been impressive in what was at times a difficult first half to watch. Everton had pressed high at times and used Dominic Calvert-Lewin as a useful way out. They had defended with concentration and City had been less than impressive.

But this was a 104-minute game in all and it is hard not to go that long without City finding a way. Guardiola went through his options, four substitutes in all, until he got what he wanted. For the likes of Julian Alvarez and Matheu Nunes, both of whom started, it was a frustrating day.

City play FC Copenhagen in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday and this first XI was perhaps designed with that in mind. Ten wins in a row for City now, going back to the start of the Fifa Club World Cup in December and they are unbeaten since the Aston Villa defeat on Dec 6. City are back in a familiar position: top of the Premier League.


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