Pep Guardiola hails Manchester City 'quality' after easy win over Everton

Spanish manager pleased with team's performance after 3-0 defeat of Merseysiders at Etihad Stadium

The real drama may have come elsewhere in Manchester but the beauty was supplied at the Etihad Stadium. While Bernardo Silva’s late third was not in the same class, Manchester City scored two glorious, and two gloriously different, goals.

Raheem Sterling’s sweet half-volley and Rodri’s howitzer both felt goal-of-the-month contenders. If Everton had the misfortune to concede both on the same afternoon, they were reward for City’s superiority.

As in the Manchester derby, possession and domination were perhaps not reflected in the scoreline. Rafa Benitez configured Everton to defend in numbers but organisation was defeated courtesy of inspiration, to the delight of the City manager. “I am very pleased,” said Pep Guardiola. “The last times we play against Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, always we struggle a lot but the quality of the players we have made the difference.”

City’s opener was a case in point, fashioned by two perfect touches. The first came from Joao Cancelo, who chipped a pass over the Everton defence into the path of Sterling. He had sprung the offside trap and connected sweetly with a half-volley that sailed past Jordan Pickford. “He did a great job,” said Guardiola. “He has to perform like he performed today and I am happy for him.”

For Sterling, it was a return to form, for Cancelo, a continuation of it. The winger now has two goals in his last two games, a welcome change after only getting two in the previous 30. The full-back has five assists in three matches as he carries on creating at a remarkable rate.

Then Rodri’s thunderbolt from 25 yards flew past Pickford. Latching on to Allan’s misplaced pass, he let fly. Often the man to keep City’s passing game ticking over, he displayed the full repertoire of his skills. “The strike was amazing. Great goal,” enthused Guardiola.

And as Everton’s injury problems deepened, with the in-form Demarai Gray limping off, City demonstrated their strength in depth. With Kevin de Bruyne and Jack Grealish topping the list of absentees, Sterling and Cole Palmer took their places in a new-look front three, with the teenager exuding promise on his first Premier League start.

There was a glimpse of his talent when Palmer, acting as the false nine, darted into midfield to release the onrushing Bernardo Silva. Pickford came swiftly off his line to block his shot, but Ilkay Gundogan headed the rebound on to the bar.

Palmer was denied by Pickford, who parried a low shot. When his late shot was deflected into Silva’s path, the Portuguese reacted swiftly to score and while it did not earn Palmer an assist, it was nevertheless a reflection of his contribution. “He is an incredible investment for the future,” Guardiola said.

On a fine day for City’s youth system, a second 19-year-old, James McAtee, emerged for the final moments. “We have exceptional players in the academy,” Guardiola added. “We have a good generation of four, five or six players and I am not shy to use them.”

But it amounted to a tough occasion for Everton. After a fine start, Benitez now only has two points from the last 18. His side had 23 per cent of possession and, with a Merseyside derby on the horizon, are in desperate need of victory at Brentford next week and Richarlison is suspended for it.

Updated: November 21st 2021, 5:05 PM
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