Manchester City 1-1 Everton: Stekelenburg rescues point for Toffees

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Maarten Stekelenburg of Everton (R) saves Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (L) penalty during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton at Etihad Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Maarten Stekelenburg saved two Manchester City penalties to earn a draw for his travelling Everton side.

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero each had their effort from the spot saved by the Dutchman. The Everton ‘keeper again denied the pair late on with two outstanding saves.

It was Everton who took the lead through Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian stormed past Gael Clichy on the counter attack and fired past Claudio Bravo to put the visitors ahead. But moments after Stekelenburg’s second penalty save, Nolito drew City level. David Silva, City’s best player on the day, crossed for his fellow Spaniard to head home.

City stalk but fail to take advantage

Unsurprisingly, it was Pep Guardiola’s team who got their foot on the ball first. From the first minute to the 45th, they dictated proceedings, building patiently but regularly cutting through the Everton defence.

The returning De Bruyne fired a couple of shots high and wide, while Stekelenburg was forced into saves by Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane. Silva was the architect behind much of City’s offensive play and Sane continually exposed Bryan Oviedo down the right. The German international pulled Oviedo out of position and constantly looked a threat.

When Idrissa Gueye doubled up on the winger towards the end of the first half, Everton might have thought they had weathered the storm. They had finally managed to get out of their half but their passes were often rushed and wasted. A Lukaku free kick that missed the target was their only recorded effort.

But then a mazy Silva run wasn’t dealt with. Phil Jagielka clumsily tripping the Spaniard as Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. De Bruyne stepped up, but aiming his effort to the right and at a good height, Stekelenburg pushed it round the post.

City finished the half with over 70% of the ball and ten efforts on goal but they failed to convert.

Heroic Stekelenburg saves Jagielka’s blushes

Their first half wastefulness would prove costly, but not before more City dominance of the ball. Both Guardiola and Ronald Koeman made slight tactical alterations entering the second half. The former switching Sane and Sterling to opposite wings. While the latter pushed Gerard Deulofeu further up the pitch to leave Yannick Bolasie in a central role behind the front two. 

As City continued their measure and patient offence, a quick fire breakaway saw them undone. Bolasie was able to find Lukaku wide on the left in space. One-on-one with Clichy, he took the ball in his stride, passed the Frenchman as if he wasn’t there and finished smartly into Claudio Bravo’s bottom corner. 

Koeman’s men, who had posed almost no threat, had edged ahead. City swiftly resumed their position camped around the Everton box, and when Aguero controlled the ball just inside the area, another calamitous Jagielka challenge resulted in a second penalty. 

Ageuro stepped up himself, placing the ball to the same side as De Bruyne did in the first half, to find the same result. A strong Stekelenberg palm pushed away the shot to safety. 

The lead wouldn’t last much longer. City remained on top and Silva was found on the left-hand side in acres of space. His inch perfect, and unchallenged, delivery was nodded back across goal by Nolito. The ball nestled into the bottom corner to draw City level. 

But from there on it became clear the day belonged to one man. It was neither Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman, whose friendship this week turned into rivalry for the first time, but Maarten Stekelenburg. 

After being equal to two penalty kicks, the Dutchman pulled off two world class saves. First from Aguero, whose left-footed effort was tipped over the bar. Then, De Bruyne, who flashed a fierce, swerving drive into the far corner, only to have Stekelenburg push it on to the post. 

Points shared as form stabilises

City would continue to push for a winner, but could not muster another clear cut chance. Stekelenburg’s triumphant performance, just as it did on the opening day against Spurs, had salvaged a point for Everton.

Undoubtedly, Koeman will be the manager most satisfied with a point. Tottenham’s failure to overcome West Brom means Guardiola’s men remain top of the table. But Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Swansea means City are no longer alone. Liverpool could also join them both on 19 points with a win over Manchester United on Monday.

After both teams endured a stutter in form prior to the international break, a point apiece can be looked upon positively. Next up for City is Southampton at home, while Everton travel to Burnley.

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