Player ratings as Citizens held to home draw
A sluggish Manchester City were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Everton on Saturday afternoon.
Erling Haaland gave the hosts a deserved first-half lead but the reigning champions, consciously or otherwise, dialled down the tempo once ahead. Demarai Gray levelled the match shortly after the hour mark on a rare foray forward for the passive Toffees, earning Everton a famous point at the Etihad.
Frank Lampard warned of the “huge challenge” Everton faced in travelling to the home of the champions who “possibly have the greatest coach in the world”. Everton’s manager flexed his tactical nous by lining his side up in a reactive 5-3-2 shell. To underline the visitors’ approach, Jordan Pickford was warned about time-wasting in the 13th minute.
When Nathan Ake carried the ball into Everton’s half, the visiting rearguard of five pink shirts was in an organised line. A dizzying, dazzling interchange of passes as City weaved into the area left the quintet in a tangled knot of baffled limbs. Riyad Mahrez played the final pass, squaring for Haaland to stab in the game’s opening goal from the middle of the box after 24 minutes.
In celebration, Haaland let out more than one primal roar in the direction of Ben Godfrey. Everton’s centre-back had left Haaland in a heap with a heavy tackle in the opening minute which clearly played on the mind of a forward who scarcely needs additional motivation.
John Stones hit the post from a set piece on the cusp of half-time but a combination of injuries, fouls and faulty equipment for the referee’s assistant concocted a staccato, almost soporific 40 minutes after Haaland’s opener.
Gray certainly woke up a sodden, sleepy crowd. Leading a one-man counter-attack which started inside his own half, Gray was forced to slow down as City flooded players back, before slipping in the corner of the box. Yet, Gray had time to not only regain his footing but stuff a sumptuous strike into the top corner, hauling Everton level in the 64th minute with his team’s first shot of the match.
Pep Guardiola had hinted at “distraction” as “everyone’s thinking of New Year’s Eve” before the match. While Gray’s equaliser sharpened City’s focus, the hosts struggled to pick their way through an encouraged set of stubborn visitors. Mahrez and Rodri were denied in a penalty box scramble in the final ten minutes as City failed to find a winner.
Newcastle’s draw with Leeds United kept City in second place but it represents the second successive home league game in which the reigning champions have dropped points after losing to Brentford before the international break.
GK: Ederson – 4/10 – Given precious little to do other than take the ball out of his own net.
RB: Rico Lewis – 7/10 – Tucked in so centrally, Lewis scarcely pretended to be a full back.
CB: John Stones – 6/10 – Unfortunate to be denied by the upright against his former employers.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 4/10 – Far too easily dumfounded by a faint waggle of Gray’s hips as he afforded the winger far too much time to shoot.
LB: Nathan Ake – 6/10 – Sure-footed when carrying the ball forward but reluctant to charge too far up the pitch.
CM: Rodri – 5/10 – A rare turnover from the normally metronomic midfielder was emphatically punished.
CM: Bernardo Silva – 6/10 – Popping up all over the pitch, tracking back into his own box while also offering an overlapping option on the left wing.
AM: Kevin De Bruyne – 6/10 – Roaming around in constant search of the ball and space, De Bruyne struggled to pick apart Everton’s blockade.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 7/10 – Left Vitalii Mykolenko with twisted blood he turned him so viciously before teeing up Haaland’s opener.
ST: Erling Haaland – 7/10 – Seemingly angered by an early challenge that left him writhing in agony, Haaland dusted himself off to inflict some damage of his own (via the scoresheet and brute force).
LW: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Driving in off the left onto his stronger right foot regularly but not always effectively.
Phil Foden (87′ for Grealish) – N/A
Ilkay Gundogan (87′ for Lewis) – N/A
Julian Alvarez (87′ for Bernardo) – N/A
Pep Guardiola – 3/10 – Waited until the 87th minute to make any substitutions after watching his side ambivalently coast through the middle third of the match.
GK: Jordan Pickford – 5/10 – Got a few fingers to Haaland’s opener but only succeeded in tipping the ball away from Conor Coady waiting on the goal line.
CB: Ben Godfrey – 3/10 – Following the old-school rules of “letting them know you’re there”, Godfrey inserted himself a little too far forward in Haaland’s focus as the goal-guzzling number nine took every opportunity to torment him.
CB: Conor Coady – 6/10 – Couldn’t marshal Everton into a rigid shape when City’s passing clicked into top gear but kept a tight ship for large swathes.
CB: James Tarkowski – 6/10 – Got his body, specifically his head, in the way of numerous balls into the box – but not enough to preserve a clean sheet that scarcely looked likely.
RWB: Nathan Patterson – 5/10 – Constantly faced with a one-on-one duel, Patterson was hardly embarrassed but did get beaten more than once.
CM: Alex Iwobi – 5/10 – On his 100th Premier League appearance, Iwobi was reduced to a shuttling role on the right of a midfield three.
CM: Andre Onana – 4/10 – Only intermittently looked forward when the ball was rarely at his feet.
CM: Idrissa Gana Gueye – 7/10 – A constant spoke in City’s wheel as he frequently inserted his slight frame into the opening stages of a developing attack.
LWB: Vitalii Mykolenko – 4/10 – Struggled to contain the wriggling menace of Mahrez.
ST: Dominic Calvert-Lewin – 4/10 – Guardiola may have described him as “dangerous” but Everton’s number nine didn’t have many opportunities to live up to that billing.
ST: Demarai Gray – 7/10 – Buzzed around energetically throughout the match, eventually earning his reward with a moment of real quality.
Seamus Coleman (70′ for Patterson) – 5/10
Neal Maupay (70′ for Calvert-Lewin) – 5/10
Tom Davies (78′ for Gueye) – N/A
Abdoulaye Doucoure (90+1′ for Godfrey) – N/A
Frank Lampard – 6/10 – Theoretically the plan of sitting back and counter-attacking worked but it’s not the most repeatable formula if you have to rely upon Gray delivering a wonder strike like that every time.
Player of the Match – Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton)
Jonas Eidevall hails dominant Stina Blackstenius performance in north London derby victory
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall has heaped praise on forward Stina Blackstenius after her sensational showing in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Tottenham.
The Swede opened the scoring after just a few minutes and continued to lead the line with real dominance all game, creating plenty of chances for those around her in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.
Blackstenius’ performance did not go unnoticed by Eidevall, who took the time to praise the forward after the game.
“Every game poses different challenges, but Stina gave exactly what we needed at the start of the game by posing a threat from balls in-behind against a very compact Spurs’ team,” Eidevall told Sky Sports.
“I think it was very nice to see her take the first finish on her first touch when she first spots the goalkeeper a little bit out of position.”
On the wider performance, Eidevall continued: “I was very pleased with the performance. There are still some aspects of our game we need to get better at compared to the first half. I think our players were brilliant and were very well positioned in the second half. I think we could have controlled the game right from the start.
“I think it starts with the way we attack. We were well positioned. I think we constantly overloaded them out in the wide areas and set up players that can play forward with the ball. We are good at arriving into the box with pace. In the first half and the last ten minutes, we got a little bit complacent and a bit of standing still which suits Spurs’ really well. We didn’t get into that trap in the second-half and that was pleasing.”
The win keeps Arsenal in the WSL title race, moving the Gunners up to 35 points, two behind leaders Chelsea having played a game more.
Emma Hayes’ Blues are in action on Sunday against fellow title hopefuls Manchester City, who can blow the title race wide open with a win.
Why do Liverpool fans boo the England national anthem?
Few managers of the modern era have developed a bond with their club’s fanbase as strong as the link between Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.
A rapidly stacked trophy cabinet has obviously helped Klopp win over Merseyside but the humble and honest German coach has forged such a deep connection with the people of Liverpool by taking time to understand the history and beliefs of the city.
However, even Klopp was left a little perplexed by the deafening swell of boos which his supporters delivered in response to the English national anthem ahead of the 2022 FA Cup final.
“I know our people that well that they wouldn’t do it if there was no reason for it,” Klopp reasoned, before admitting: “And I’m not here surely not long enough to understand the reason for it.”
Don’t worry, Jurgen, we’ve got you covered.
As a port city which has welcomed countless immigrants over the years, many Liverpudlians have an ancestral reason to not consider themselves English. The xenophobia and racism which remains a plague on these shores are not exactly a set of welcoming, open arms.
The term ‘Scouse’, which is a traditional stew, was originally used as a derogatory term for Irish immigrants that could only afford to frequent soup kitchens. But the city’s inhabitants have harnessed the slur and the sense of otherness it was meant to hold.
Engraved in in the wall of the Museum of Liverpool is a quote from the former Gronby councillor Margaret Simey in 1999 which reads: “The magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.”
Liverpool’s port points west, which was particularly unhelpful during the 1980s when trade with Europe on the other side of the Isles was being prioritised. Naturally, this only stoked the flames of a dire relationship between Liverpool and the British government.
“Never Trust A Tory” is another common banner which can been seen circulating the Liverpool end on trips to Wembley.
This distrust has only festered over the last decade of Conservative rule. Labour – the more left-wing opposition in England to the Conservatives – have not had a prime minister in power since Gordon Brown in 2010.
Unlike the rest of the country, Liverpool have not given in to the blue invasion. The Labour Party has received more than 50% of the city’s votes in every general election between 1992 and 2019.
This unwavering favouring of Labour came immediately after Margaret Thatcher’s unpopular reign as Conservative party leader and prime minister. Thatcher’s Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe argued that Liverpool should be left to “managed decline”, as revealed by cabinet papers from the era which fed the distrust of that regime on Merseyside. In the wake of the Toxteth Riots, Howe urged Thatcher “not to over-commit scarce resources to Liverpool”.
The Conservatives and Thatcher were also in power at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and their handling of the situation, over a course of a decades-long quest for justice, also enraged a wounded city and its people.
The Tory hatred wasn’t always so suffocating. When the Iron Lady became prime minister in 1979, Sir Malcolm Thornton was first elected as Conservative MP for Liverpool Garston.
However, the distrust very much extends to the modern era as Boris Johnson, when prime minister, was asked to apologise for publishing an article in the Spectator which accused Liverpudlians of “wallowing” in their “victim status” while he was the publication’s editor in 2004. Shockingly, he did not offer a sorry amid his blustering response.
At Liverpool’s first FA Cup final triumph in 1965, the travelling Merseyside support belted out “God Save Our Gracious Team”. For many reasons, Liverpool fans have opted for a blunter approach over the subsequent years.
Reece James withdraws from England squad due to ‘ongoing issue’
Reece James has left the England camp and returned to Chelsea due to an ‘ongoing issue’.
The right-back was expected to start Sunday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley after Kyle Walker played all 90 minutes of Thursday’s 2-1 win away at Italy. But James has failed to prove his fitness and will reconvene with Chelsea at their Cobham training base.
A statement from England read: “Reece James has withdrawn from the England squad and will not feature against Ukraine on Sunday.
“The full-back has returned to Chelsea for assessment on an ongoing issue.
“No replacements are planned as Gareth Southgate’s squad, including the suspended Luke Shaw, continue their preparations at Tottenham Hotspur Training Ground.”
Though James’ fitness record is patchy and he was suffering with a hamstring injury earlier this month, he joined up with the England squad this week having played 90 minutes in two of Chelsea’s final three games before the international break and was expected to be fit and healthy.
He came on as an 85th-minute substitute on Thursday for Bukayo Saka as 10-man England sought to hold onto their lead.
James missed England’s 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign after sustaining a knee injury in the autumn.
Chelsea will be hoping that James’ problem isn’t serious ahead of a busy month that sees them face the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid.
James has already missed 17 games for Chelsea this season – 15 for his knee problem, one for a hamstring issue and one because of illness.
Prior to this season, James has been reported as to having nine other injuries during his time in the Chelsea senior setup, missing a total of 51 matches for the Blues.
On this edition of Son of Chelsea, part of the 90min podcast network, Daniel Childs reviews Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Everton & Graham Potter’s performance. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
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