Man City bounce back with Everton win as Gabriel Jesus breaks goal drought
MANCHESTER, England -- Three quick thoughts as Manchester City went back to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Everton.
1. Man City bounce back
Manchester City are back on top of the Premier League, until Sunday afternoon at least, and their powers of recovery were firmly in evidence once again. Each of their three previous top-flight defeats had quickly been followed up with a victory, and they repeated the trick here.
A brace from Gabriel Jesus and a clincher from Raheem Sterling, the latter coming straight after Dominic Calvert-Lewin had given Everton hope, ensured the ghosts of their defeat at Chelsea were banished -- and all eyes will now be on Manchester United's visit to second-place Liverpool.
City probed early on without looking particularly likely to score, and it was Everton who should have gone ahead on the quarter-hour, but Richarlison crashed his volley over when a goal seemed certain.
It was the shot in the arm City needed. Jordan Pickford, plunging low to his left, did brilliantly to prevent an own goal from Michael Keane, but they would not be denied for much longer. Jesus' 22nd-minute goal, clinically slotted past the Everton keeper from inside the left of the area, came after City had ruthlessly capitalised on a poor Yerry Mina clearance. Ilkay Gundogan collected it and passed to Leroy Sane, who saw the Brazilian's run and laid the chance on a plate.
City could not add to the score before the interval, but they put that right within five minutes of the restart, and it was the same combination putting Everton to the sword again. This time, Sane chipped an accurate delivery over Keane's head from the left, and Jesus thumped an unstoppable header past Pickford.
That seemed to be that. A third City goal looked far more likely than an Everton riposte, but midway through the half, the Toffees grabbed a lifeline. It came via Calvert-Lewin, who met another Lucas Digne delivery by nodding past Ederson via a deflection off Fabian Delph, and a grandstand finish seemed possible.
But City, showing the hallmark of champions, wrapped things up almost instantly. Sterling had only been on the pitch four minutes when he converted a near-carbon copy of Jesus's header and, despite further chances for Richarlison and Theo Walcott, they did not let Everton back in this time.
2. Gabriel Jesus breaks drought with fine display
Gabriel Jesus needed an afternoon like this. At Stamford Bridge, he had been left on the bench for the first 53 minutes, with Pep Guardiola preferring to operate without a recognised centre-forward, and it summed up a difficult half-season for the 21-year-old.
He had not scored in the league since Aug. 19, faring only marginally better in the cups, and a career that seemed destined for greatness in his first 18 months at City seemed mired in its first genuine sticky patch. More performances of this standard will make those tough times a distant memory soon enough.
Jesus was switched on from the start here, his movement electric from the first whistle, and there was no hint of any confidence issues in his willingness to take opponents on and show for the ball in difficult positions. Both of his goals were taken emphatically and suggested that Guardiola was right in voicing faith in him before the game.
Jesus repaid his manager's confidence and showed off the other facets of his game too. On the hour he drew warm applause after chasing Pickford down from a backpass, forcing a sliced clearance out of play, and laid on a half-chance for Gundogan shortly afterward. These were instances of the unselfish play that, according to Guardiola, had been evident even during his drought.
Strikers are ultimately measured by goals, and City need Jesus to be firing like this. Sergio Aguero, who returned to the bench here but was not required, is now 30 and will need rest over a long season. Kevin De Bruyne's return to midfield for the final 15 minutes was encouraging too, but, with an on-form Jesus, City have a lethal weapon who can shoulder some of his more-experienced teammates' burden.
3. Sloppy Everton fall short in both boxes
Marco Silva would have been satisfied with Everton's first 20 minutes, perhaps only regretting the fact that they were not ahead, but City's opener was the most avoidable of concessions.
Pickford had passed the ball short to Mina at a tight angle near the byline and, spooked by City's high press, the defender had launched an aimless ball into the middle to hand over possession. Pickford should have been more pragmatic -- playing from the back is all very well, but, done slavishly, it can cause more harm than good -- though Mina, deemed good enough for Barcelona less than a year ago, would have been expected to show greater composure in a tight area.
It was not the only pass Mina and his defensive partners fluffed in that opening period. Everton are clearly an improving side, significantly better to watch under Silva this season, but this was another afternoon that showed they still have some way to go. Periods of sloppiness have been common across their games, and they do not look lethal enough, either, to cause top-six opponents serious trouble in their own grounds just yet.
Had Richarlison converted that early chance, things might have looked very different, and there were opportunities to give City a tricky last 15 minutes, too. Between the boxes they look slick and composed: The major improvement must come in either penalty area.