Merseyside misery for Man City
City's title hopes have taken another blow after a 4-0 hammering at Everton. There was little to suggest what was to come as City picked up where they'd left off against the Hammers, playing slick, stylish football for the first half-hour, but the failure to turn dominance into goals cost the Blues dearly with Everton scoring either side of half-time and then added two more late on to rub salt in the wounds. What happened?
Pep Guardiola made just one change from the side that dismantled West Ham nine days before with Claudio Bravo replacing Willy Caballero in goal.
The pressure was on the Blues before a ball had even been kicked with Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs all winning handsomely 24 hours earlier - the pace at the top continues to be relentless.
City started confidently and before long were dominating possession with some excellent movement, particularly from David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
The first real talking point of the game came on 13 minutes when Sterling raced onto a De Bruyne cross but as he tapped it past Joel Robles, a combination of the Everton keeper and a sliding Leighton Baines challenge felled the City winger. TV replays proved he’d been caught, but referee Mark Clattenburg saw no offence and play was waved on.
With Everton gradually sinking further and further back, it looked like a matter of time before City went ahead, but a combination of hesitancy and occasional over-elaboration meant all the Blues’ excellent build-up often fizzled out where it mattered most.
De Bruyne spotted Silva in acres of space in the box on 27 minutes but the Spaniard was closed down quickly by Robles when a first-time volley might have been the better option.
After 34 minutes of near complete domination, it was Everton who broke forward and opened the scoring – not the first time City have dominated without scoring and then paid the price.
Gael Clichy’s pass was cut out by Tom Davies on the halfway line and his ball to Kevin Mirallas whose cutback was driven into the back of the net by Romelu Lukaku.
It was cruel and against the run of play, but it is the price for profligacy in front of goal.
De Bruyne continued driving City forward and his low cross almost saw Sergio Aguero slide home the equaliser on 37 minutes and then Sterling sent a 20-yard shot inches past the post – but still the Toffees held on.
The half ended with Bacary Sagna’s header cleared virtually off the line – the next presentable chance that cane to the Blues had to be converted if Pep’s team were to turn this game around.
As it was, within two minutes of the re-start, Everton had doubled their lead with their second shot of the game.
A series of mistakes allowed the ball to eventually find its way to Mirallas on the edge of the box and his low shot beat Bravo to make it 2-0.
It was always going to be a long way back for City from that moment on and the Blues, looking like the stuffing had been knocked out of them, struggled to resume the dominance and style they'd had in the opening period.
Everton added a third on 79 minutes when Tom Davies clipped the ball over Bravo to put a slightly flattering look on the scoreline.
But there was even worse to come as debutant Ademola Lookman added a fourth with virtually the last kick of the game as John Stones' clearance to a free deflection into the debutant's path to complete a miserable afternoon for Guardiola's side.
All in all, a day to forget. Key moment:
The decision not to award City a penalty on 13 minutes proved costly - in fairness it wasn't a clear foul by Robles - bit it was a foul nonetheless and had it been given, this would surely have been a different outcome. Star man: Kevin De Bruyne
KDB seemed to have a much freer role and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side, though even he faded after the break. The Belgian created chance after chance and was at the heart of everything good City did on an otherwise disappointing afternoon on Merseyside. Next up:
It doesn’t get any easier for City with Tottenham next up at the Etihad.
The North Londoners are in red-hot form with six wins on the bounce and will be looking to put clear daylight between themselves and the Blues in the race for the title.
MATCH DETAILS: Everton (4): Robles, Baines, Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Holgate, Davies, Barry (McCarthy 72), Mirallas (Schneiderlin 64), Barkley (Lookman 89), Lukaku Manchester City (0): Bravo, Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, Clichy, Yaya Touré, Zabaleta (Iheanacho 60), De Bruyne, Sterling, Silva, Agüero
Goals: Lukaku 34', Mirallas 47', Davies 79', Lookman 90+4' Referee: Mark Clattenburg. Bookings: Holgate 55, Silva 74, Otamendi 90, , Lukaku 90