John Stones apart, City`s footballers returned from the corners of the globe comparatively unscathed as yet another set of useless friendly internationals interrupted the progress of the Premier League`s finest in their bid to secure the title at the earlies possible opportunity.
With Liverpool having delivered a stuttering 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace at lunchtime, would City be affected in the same way as they rolled up at Goodison Park, the site of Pep Guardiola`s biggest ever defeat as a club manager, when City were trounced 4-0 by what amounted to a pub team? The Reds were certainly set about by the South London outfit, who became only the second team to take point off City at Christmas, when the Blues were lucky to get out of the door with a 0-0 draw as Ederson had to perform late penalty heroics. The Liverpudlians, with City in their Champions League sights on Wednesday were relieved to see Mo Salah`s late effort hit the back of the net, meaning they could return to Melwood with a veritable victory ahead of UEFA`s “hot-ball” tie of the round. At least Sue managed to get the ironing done after Palace went ahead.
Guardiola was in no mood to initiate any post-international slacking as he sent out, Aguero apart, probably his best team. Ederson was restored to net minding duty behind Walker, Kompany Otamendi and Laporte. This gave him a lot of flexibility to execute various plans during the match. Fernandinho was on guard duty with Silva, De Bruyne, Sane and Sterling providing the pace and power. De Jesus, fresh from his international goal in midweek played up top.
And this proved to be a side bursting with mastery, wizardry and goals as we saw the match unfold.
The signals were despatched from minute one as Sane stretched Everton and with speed and efficiency blitzed the right side of the Toffee`s defence. It became abundantly clear almost within seconds of the kick off that there was to be no embarrassment this time around. The rapid German was on a mission. He appeared left, right, left again, rather like an advert for road safety on the continent, leaving Everton`s ageing defenders rooted to many spots.
With El Mago, David Silva back to his majestic best, things were happening all over the field and the game was less than five minutes old when one of those “City Team Goals” took place. It began with Rooney surrendering possession in City`s half. The ball was quickly processed to Silva who seemed to have an age to survey his options. He selected Laporte on the left and scooted into the inside left position to receive the one-two. He had already spotted that Sane had shifted to the right and was present, unattended twelve yards out. Silva delivered a sensational cross right onto the laces of Sane, who volleyed it into the back of the net. Pickford, supposed first-choice for England`s World Cup bid was once again visiting the back of his net.
This settled the nerves of those with visions of the title, but it wasn`t long before another extraordinary piece of football was to adorn the Goodison turf. Again, you couldn`t make it up.
Everton got some joy down City`s left. Calvert-Lewin got clear and crossed into the six yard box, where Bolasie had the simplest of headers to level the scores. However he headed over leaving Ederson with a goal kick. Knowing that you cannot be offside from this type of restart Ederson for once sent a long punt up top. Shrewdly, Sane had anticipated it and ran 30 yards from his wing to receive the kick in midfield. First time, he spotted De Bruyne`s run and first time, the Belgian saw de Jesus ten yards out in the centre. The Brazilian did the rest with a bullet header to rest the scoreboard at 0-2. Awesome!
Everton struggled to get any kind of toe hold in the game as the City swarm enveloped them from all sides and corners. It wouldn`t be long before once again the Blues, today in purple, were sending their travelling supporters into raptures with more total football.
Silva and Sane developed play down the left with a neat one-two with Silva escaping the offside trap. A quick look across saw de Jesus and Sterling in the queue. Once again, Silva`s precision pass evaded de Jesus but located Sterling who drove home to conclude City`s scoring for the day and with little more than half an hour gone, whatever plans Allardyce had sent his side out with had been dismantled meaning City could take more or less an hour`s in-match break.
Bolasie did get himself a tidy goal with the help of Walker and two posts in the middle of the second half, but despite a five-minute flurry which saw the possession stats almost balance, for those five minutes at least, the second half was a City masterclass where their “ineffective” possession became ” effective” as it kept Everton off the ball and unable to add to their consolation goal.
By the end of the match City were at 82% possession, a record for an away team in the Premier League. It was particularly interesting when the television pundit was asked to nominate his man-of-the-match and declared it could have been one of seven. Has the Pedmachine not been saying this for months? Almost everyone was in the frame. Silva manufactured virtually everything positive on the field and Sane was a total menace all afternoon and it was maybe his goal and the run he made for the second goal that tipped the scales so slightly in his favour.
So, leg one of a five match killer run is out of the way. The Ghost of Goodison is exorcised for another year as City gear themselves up for Liverpool away in the Champions League. Could they make it a Merseyside one-two for the first time ever? The Blues cannot seem to master getting a victory at Anfield, and this is designed to be another of those famous Anfield midweek nights, under the floodlights in Europe. May, just maybe Pep will have something up his sleeve.
After that the Stagecoachers of Stretford appear in Manchester for the first time this season in the knowledge that a City win would see them win the title. Moaning Maureen will not be looking forward to this. Does he send them out to park the bus or to take City on as he did in the recent match against Liverpool. We all know that the Matic`s of this world will be sharpening their studs to inflict whatever pain they can in total disregard of the ball. If City were to be successful next Saturday, would this eclipse “Aguerooooo” day?