Another Erling Haaland goal not enough as Man City are held by Everton

Man City 1-1 Everton: Demarai Gray curled in a brilliant equaliser to end a three-game losing streak for the Toffees

Richard Jolly
Etihad Stadium
Saturday 31 December 2022 17:47 GMT
(Getty Images)

Over a season, a great goalscorer will prove more prolific than the scorer of great goals. Over 90 minutes, however, the inevitable was cancelled out by the memorable. Erling Haaland got his seemingly mandatory strike, but Demarai Gray delivered a magnificent one.

Manchester City encountered unexpected resistance and Frank Lampard grasped at a lifeline to end Everton’s losing run. This was only a draw but there is a case for anointing it his best result of the season, as well as perhaps his most needed.

Certainly it seemed the most improbable. Everton had not taken a point from their previous nine league games against City. A goal down, facing up to a fifth successive defeat in all competitions, their fears of relegation mounting, they did not muster a shot of any description until Gray sprang a surprise. What they lacked in quantity, however, they provided in quality.

Just Everton’s third strike in six games may be a contender for their goal of the season. After checking infield, Gray almost lost his footing before showing an altogether surer touch to curl a shot into the top corner. There had scarcely been a sign it was coming. Yet City had only turned 71 percent of possession in the opening hour into one shot on target. Which, as Haaland had it, threatened to be all they needed.

Instead, City dropped points for a second successive league game at the Etihad Stadium. Meetings with Brentford and Everton sandwiched the World Cup. They promised six points, but brought just one. Should they lose their grip on the title, such seemingly winnable fixtures could assume a greater importance.

For Everton, it took more than a wonder goal to halt their downward slide. There was no sense a committed group of players had given up on a seemingly beleaguered manager. Lampard had adopted a policy of safety in numbers, incorporating Ben Godfrey as a third centre back. His team defended with concentration and organisation and if they felt passive at times, they remained in the game, permitting Gray to equalise.

As City pressed for a winner, Everton further showed their resolve. It was a fine response to the defeat to Wolves and proof of the resilience of characters such as James Tarkowski and Conor Coady. There were bodies strewn across the box in a rearguard action, Tarkowski blocking a Kevin de Bruyne shot before Jordan Pickford clawed away an effort from Riyad Mahrez. Pickford excelled, too, to repel a drive from De Bruyne, City’s most menacing player.

Gray felt an auxiliary right back at times, trying to halt Phil Foden. An actual right back, captain Seamus Coleman, made a vital challenge on Foden in the 101st minute, though it took a 102nd-minute miss from Rodri for Everton to be sure of their point.

At stages, City felt Everton were wasting time, though there was too much of that for the visitors’ liking. The addition of 11 minutes of injury time was an unwanted throwback to the World Cup, partly caused by a ludicrous five-minute stoppage to attach a few wires to a linesman.

Everton managed to frustrate City and claim a crucial point in their relegation battle
Everton managed to frustrate City and claim a crucial point in their relegation battle (Getty Images)

And Everton had to hold off a World Cup-winning forward on a day when City’s most decorated and most destructive forwards both took the field. Julian Alvarez’s first appearance was with his medal around his neck and Haaland’s goal suggested the Argentinian might have a watching brief thereafter. Instead, he was summoned along with Ilkay Gundogan and Foden in the quest for a winner. Yet the closest City came to a second goal was on the stroke of half-time when the former Everton defender John Stones headed De Bruyne’s free kick against Pickford’s post.

They had trailed after Haaland tucked in a shot, Pickford’s touch beating Coady on the line, but it was telling Bernardo Silva headed for Riyad Mahrez in the celebrations to ruffle the Algerian’s hair. Mahrez had twisted past Vitalii Mykolenko before picking out Haaland in a crowded penalty box.

Everton had been given false hope when Haaland appeared to be injured in the opening minute. Unfortunately for them, he was able to continue. He then shot into the side netting from an acute angle and, in a bad-tempered affair, was booked for a lunge at Mykolenko just before the break.

Yet Everton restricted him to two shots in the game, which was a fine effort from their reinforced defence. Lampard had revealed he tried to sign Haaland for Chelsea; instead, the Norwegian has scored more than Chelsea in the Premier League this season. More than Everton, too, who trail far behind him. Yet over the course of an increasingly defiant effort from Lampard’s team, Everton finished level with Haaland.

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