Erling Haaland scored for the first time since November as the Manchester City striker sent the champions top of the Premier League with a stunning 2-0 win against Everton on Saturday. Pep Guardiola's side were well below their best as they had to work hard to overcome stubborn Everton at a suffocating Etihad Stadium. But Haaland struck twice late in the second half to get on the scoresheet for the first time since returning from a nearly two-month absence due to a foot injury.
These were the Norway star's first Premier League goals since scoring against Liverpool on 25 November and his first goals in five matches in all competitions since scoring against Leipzig in the Champions League on 28 November.
“Of course Erling is back. This player, when the ball comes from a corner, the finishing was amazing,” Guardiola said.
City are back at the top of the table for the first time since November 24 but Liverpool, who are one point behind in second, will move back to the summit if they beat vulnerable Burnley at Anfield later on Saturday.
Guardiola's side have won their last 10 games in all competitions, but the Spaniard may be a little worried about the tough task at hand against struggling Everton.
“Obviously Everton are incredibly well organised. In the first half our body language wasn't good, we were always complaining. In the second half they were more positive,” he said.
“Body language has to be on point if you want to give your best. In the end we considered three important points.”
City are unbeaten in their last 22 league games at the Etihad, but third-placed Everton didn't make it easy for them.
Everton have not beaten City since 2017, but Guardiola had painful memories of the 1-1 draw against the Merseysiders last season and urged his players not to let their guard down.
City monopolized over 80 percent of the possession in the first half hour, finding it impossible to reward Everton's towering defence.
Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden had shots blocked as Everton threw themselves into tackles with abandon.
With Foden hidden in a more dangerous position behind the striker, Haaland headed the ball forward from Jeremy Doku's cross.
Holland to the rescue
Guardiola was concerned about the touchline and constantly directed his players so that they could pass faster and more accurately.
The City defenders looked certain to have their deadlock broken when the ball fell to Manuel Akanji inside the Everton area, but James Tarkowski made a last ditch effort as VAR ignored the hosts' appeal for handball.
It was the first time City had failed to have a shot on target in the first half of a home league game since August 2022. As City's anger grew, Rodri's long-range strike went home into the stands with a frustrated groan. fan.
Guardiola had seen enough of City's struggles and sent on Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker early in the second half.
City found some rhythm late on and their longest wait for a shot on target in a league game since September 2021 finally ended in the 71st minute.
Everton made a hash of clearing a corner and the ball broke for Haaland, whose fierce strike hit the foot of Jordan Pickford, prompting wild celebrations from the Norwegian and his relieved teammates.
Guardiola said this week that you don't need a Harvard education to understand the threat posed by Haaland and De Bruyne.
Everton clearly didn't work hard enough on that subject as De Bruyne's precise pass headed Haaland through on goal.
Dominating Jarrad Branthwaite, Haaland left the Everton defender tumbling on the turf as he fired a superb finish past Pickford as he marked his 50th Premier League start in style.
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