Phil Foden is congratulated by his teammates after lashing in City’s equaliser. Photograph: James Gill/Danehouse/Getty Images
The Club World Cup appears to have done Manchester City the world of good. Pep Guardiola’s team returned from Saudi Arabia with their fifth trophy of 2023 in the bag and confidence, a fragile asset even among a group of serial winners, renewed. The champions’ belief and class ultimately overwhelmed Everton as they restarted their Premier League title defence in impressive style.
Guardiola led the post-match celebrations in front of City’s jubilant away support, seizing the opportunity not only to share their latest success together but to highlight Phil Foden’s immense contribution at Goodison Park. Foden, operating in the No 10 role, was instrumental in City’s recovery after they had fallen behind to Jack Harrison’s opener and lost John Stones to injury in the first half.
The playmaker atoned for gifting Crystal Palace a penalty before the trip to Saudi Arabia with a stunning equaliser as Everton’s and Jordan Pickford’s solidity evaporated after half-time. Julián Álvarez edged City ahead with a controversial penalty before Bernardo Silva capitalised on a Pickford error to seal victory with another fine finish. Sean Dyche’s side contained and hurt the champions before the break but toiled when Guardiola instructed the visitors to go more direct.
City had found it harder to conquer Premier League opposition than “the world” of late. The champions had won once in six league games prior to the visit to Goodison and were again without Erling Haaland, who has been absent since the defeat at Aston Villa on 6 December with a foot injury. His finishing prowess and physical presence were sorely missed by the visitors as they controlled proceedings before they fell behind, but lacked the cutting edge to make it count.
Pickford reflected his team’s performance: initially resilient but eventually careless. The goalkeeper denied Álvarez, Matheus Nunes, Álvarez again and Jack Grealish with the game goalless. Everton had barely tested City before grabbing an unexpected lead.
The willing Beto, in for the rested Dominic Calvert-Lewin, was given the often thankless task of pursuing hopeful punts deep into City’s half with precious little back-up. The home crowd had to entertain themselves with fits of laughter in response to City supporters singing “you cheating bastards, you know what you are”, following Everton’s 10-point deduction for one breach of Premier League financial rules. The hearing into City’s 115 charges remains sitting in an extremely long pipeline.
Goodison roused itself, however, when Dyche’s team took the lead from their first attempt on goal. It was a calamity for the usually imperious Rodri. The defensive midfielder was in the process of clearing an Everton attack when, under pressure from Beto on the edge of his area, he slipped and inadvertently released Dwight McNeil to the byline. With the visiting defence caught out, McNeil pulled a simple cross along the face of goal for Harrison, the former City winger, to beat Ederson with a precise, close-range finish.
Harrison went close to doubling Everton’s lead when an André Gomes corner dropped at his feet via the head of James Tarkowski. The on-loan Leeds midfielder swept a shot towards the top corner with the outside of his left foot. A second beckoned but Ederson produced an outstanding save to flick the ball away with his fingertips.
City’s problems mounted when Stones sustained what appeared to be a serious injury. The defender rolled his ankle while dispossessing Beto with a superb challenge, although the striker was offside; the incident highlighted the danger of allowing play to continue. The former Everton player’s attempt to continue was in vain, and he was sportingly applauded off by both sets of supporters.
Guardiola’s team were being tested on all fronts. And, like any good champion, they dug deep to deliver a convincing response. The second half brought a vast improvement in City’s movement, intensity and directness, along with the reward of a swift equaliser. Silva and Nunes served notice of the visitors’ improved threat when combining to prise open Everton’s defence on the right.
Tarkowski cut out the midfielder’s dangerous low cross at the expense of a corner, that City worked from one side of the Everton box to the other and back again. When Silva laid the ball back for Foden he unleashed a stunning 25-yard drive that flew over the outstretched leg of Beto and inside Pickford’s left-hand post. The keeper was soundly beaten by the pace and accuracy of the shot.
Pickford did well to prevent Álvarez’s free kick finding the top corner but was beaten again when City were awarded a penalty after Nathan Aké’s shot struck Amadou Onana’s hand. There was no question Onana’s arm was raised but Dyche argued the midfielder was in close proximity to the City defender when he turned to shoot inside the area.
John Brooks, the referee, initially ignored City’s appeals before pointing to the spot on the advice of his assistant. VAR backed up the decision and Álvarez fired the spot kick down the middle of Pickford’s goal and just under the keeper’s feet.
Silva sealed the victory following a poor mistake by Pickford, who delayed a clearance before striking it against Álvarez and Jarrad Branthwaite. Silva pounced on the loose ball to curl an excellent finish around the stranded goalkeeper and into the unguarded net.