The first Monday Night Game of the season started with fireworks before kick off leading to a hazy smog around the Etihad Stadium. But the expected fireworks on the pitch gave way to a tactical chess match between ex Barca teammates Guardiola & Koeman, City as expected dominated possession with Guardiola bravely opting for Leroy Sane at left wingback.
Meanwhile Koeaman shrewdly opted for a fiesty midfield dropping playmaker Davy Klaassen for the more energetic Tom Davies and relying on the pace of Dominic Calvert Lewin to break, often down City’s left in the space vacated by Sane.
Within 25 minutes both Davies and Morgan Schniederlin had picked up bookings, setting the tone for a feisty encounter. City’s first big chance came when Jordan Pickford saved a Nicolas Otamendi effort only to paw the ball into the path of Sergio Aguero who couldn’t finish clinically and Phil Jagielka tidied up.
City started to build momentum on the half hour mark and a De Bruyne break put Aguero through but Jagielka managed to keep him at bay, moments later David Silva struck a thunderous drive against the foot of the post. But Everton broke and an awful attempt at back tracking from Sane gave Calvert-Lewin space to pick out Rooney from the edge of the area, the Man United legend smacked the ball against the legs of Ederson and into the City net 0-1.
But just as the watching Gareth Southgate was preparing his Rooney recall speech for next week, Rooney gave the ball away in midfield and Silva forced a smart stop from Pickford.
With a few minutes left in the half City were preparing for a siege of the Everton box when Kyle Walker was harshly sent off for a second yellow. Walker backed into Calvert-Lewin, it was soft but not the smartest move from a man who’d been booked minutes earlier.
For the second half Guardiola brought on Raheem Sterling for the ineffective Gabriel Jesus. Despite their numerical disadvantage City gradually built momentum with Everton keeping them at arms length for the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Seeing his side dropping off too much Koeman took off Davies & Ashley Williams for the more dynamic Klaassen and record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson for his debut, Guardiola countered with the introduction of Danilo & Bernardo Silva.
For all the doubts over Ederson’s command of his penalty area his distribution is first class and a long clearance on 70 minutes ended in a clear sight of goal for Bernardo, 4 minutes later Sterling showed his usual composure in the box to blast over from 15 yards. Sterling almost made amends 2 minutes later with beautiful bended ball for Danilo who forced a great save from Pickford. Then On 82 minutes Sterling found his shooting range as the otherwise excellent Mason Colgate’s tame defensive header fell for Sterling who volleyed home from the edge of the box 1-1.
On 88 minutes the heated temperature saw Schneidlerlin sent off for a challenge on Aguero. Earlier City players felt Calvert-Lewin had made a meal of the Waker challenge, if that was the case Aguero made a 5 course banquet of this clutching is leg theatrically ensuring the referee reached for his cards. As the minutes ticked down Everton almost got Calvert-Lewin clean through whilst a touch from Klaassen denied Silva a clear cut chance for City.
1-1 was ultimately a fair result that showcased City’s slick attacking play but raised other concerns for Guardiola. Ederson remains a worry in goal with City facing greater defensive examinations on the road. Another surprisingly is Aguero who continues to look short of his usual confidence in the box. One big plus for City remains the return to fitness of Kompany, Otamendi & Stones looked more secure with the club captain in the backline although the back 3 is clearly still a work in progress, whilst Guardiola will be counting the days until Benjamin Mendy is fit to take over the left back position.
As for Everton the result confirms they are a coming force likely to challenge for the top 6 and a cup rather than the title itself. Rooney was magnetic in the first half but his powers faded in the second, the England recall debate will fill plenty of column inches this week although the pacey Calvert-Lewin might have made a stronger case for inclusion.
The fact City’s opening game lead to more talk about Guardiola’s chinos than anything that happened on the pitch spoke volumes about the routine nature of that win. This match was hardly a disaster for City but with with Mourinho’s thunderous start to the season across town there’s plenty for Pep to ponder.
Football fan, follower of England, Leeds and will watch any game possible (between raising twins!)