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Key talking points as Haaland brace helps City sink Toffees
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Matthew Hill
Erling Haaland was back among the goals against Everton
Erling Haaland was back among the goals against Everton

Erling Haaland's brilliant brace helped Manchester City to a 2-0 win over a dogged Everton at the Etihad.

We round up the key talking points as the reigning champions returned — perhaps only briefly — to the top of the Premier League table.

Sluggish start

All the pre-match statistics pointed towards a stroll in the park for Pep Guardiola's hosts but Everton were in no mood to roll over. 

The struggling Toffees showcased the kind of rigid defensive structure their boss Sean Dyche is renowned for, making for a cagey and forgettable opening period that suited them to a tee.

With the mercurial Kevin De Bruyne watching on from the bench, City were woefully short of ideas with their most promising avenue of attack looking to square Jeremy Doku up against Ashley Young.

However, while the Belgian frequently had the beating of his veteran opponent, he offered precious little in terms of final ball.

Changing it up

Pep Guardiola opted to change his side early in the second half
Pep Guardiola opted to change his side early in the second half

After seeing out the first 10 minutes of the second period with no significant improvement, Guardiola opted to ring the changes.

Matheus Nunes and Manuel Akanji were withdrawn for Kyle Walker and De Bruyne, with the latter receiving vocal acclaim from his adoring fans.

Suddenly, the visitors found themselves sitting five yards deeper with City noticeably lifting the tempo and the mood around the Etihad following suit.

Bernardo Silva's introduction later in the half only serves further to illustrate the sensational squad depth Guardiola has at his disposal.

Haal of a guy

Erling Haaland was anonymous for the bulk of this contest but as all football fans know, that rarely stops him from scoring.

However, the Norwegian was enduring a relative drought by his own ludicrous standards, without a goal in four Premier League appearances.

That ended in emphatic fashion when a half-cleared corner fell into his path, Haaland drilling a brutal strike through Jordan Pickford's outstretched hand to open the scoring.

And the No9 doubled his tally shortly after when effortlessly brushing off Jarrad Branthwaite before calmly sliding into the far corner. 

Positives for Dyche

Everton remain rooted in the relegation zone and without a league win since December 17 — yet the Merseysiders will not leave Manchester too downbeat.

Dyche's men turned in a stellar performance in defeat, defending doggedly and offering an occasional threat going forward in what always appeared a devilish fixture.

And though he was bullied for the second goal, it was another hugely encouraging performance from young Branthwaite who must be making a strong case for inclusion in Gareth Southgate's Euro 2024 squad.

If the Toffees can compete to this standard in their remaining games, survival is well within reach. 

Jarrad Branthwaite impressed despite Everton's defeat
Jarrad Branthwaite impressed despite Everton's defeat

Back on top

Victory saw City return to the Premier League summit for the first time since November 24, 2023 — a whopping 77 days.

While Liverpool will likely regain top spot when they face Burnley later this afternoon, it is an ominous return to the frame for a side who traditionally finish seasons so strongly.

The Citizens have now won 10 straight in all competitions and can take satisfaction from getting the job done on a day they were some way off their best.

While Guardiola claims there is next to no chance of another Treble being won this term, it would be a brave person to bet against this star-studded squad.


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