ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Manchester City 1 Everton 1
Manchester City were surging and now they are stumbling. Pep Guardiola was frustrated by a friend in Ronald Koeman and his side were stopped by an extraordinary display of goalkeeping. Everton emerged from the Etihad Stadium with a point that owed much to the athleticism of Maarten Stekelenburg.
City won their first 10 games in all competitions this season but none of the last three. As they visit Barcelona on Wednesday, that run could easily be extended to a fourth match without victory. Everton have gone four without a win themselves, but this draw counted as a triumph nonetheless.
They prospered in adversity. City could have had three penalties. They got two. They scored neither. That was due to Stekelenburg, who made identikit saves from Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero.
Both spot kicks were conceded by Everton captain Phil Jagielka, for lunges at David Silva and Aguero. Each was aimed to Stekelenburg's left, both at a height that suited him. He palmed both to safety. If City had been aggrieved that Leroy Sane had not won a penalty when the German's speed and skill proved too much for Bryan Oviedo, the chances are the 34-year-old would have saved that too.
It is pertinent to rewind to August when, as Joe Hart fell from favour at City, he was linked with a move to Everton. Koeman was swift to insist he was not interested. Stekelenburg has rewarded his faith. At £750,000 (S$1.3 million) he has proved a bargain.
Factor in other brilliant saves from Kelechi Iheanacho, Aguero and de Bruyne and the Dutchman deserved to finish on the winning side. It was not to be, however, with Nolito cancelling out Everton's lead. It was the substitute's first touch, the Spaniard heading in his compatriot Silva's cross.
Everton's goal was a smash-and- grab raid but it was brilliantly executed. Yannick Bolasie supplied a flick, Romelu Lukaku raced away and slotted a shot past Claudio Bravo. It was a clinical finish, born of high-class counter-attacking.
The trend was of City pressure and possession. In the first half, the had 72 per cent of the ball but scored no goals. City played 3-2-4-1, with wingers rather than wing-backs. Everton's attack-minded players will rarely see so little of the ball. Yet it was testament to them that, with so little service, they proved devastating once.
It was a sign of Koeman's pragmatism that he sacrificed Ross Barkley, once a £50 million target for City, who did not command a place in the team. It was an indication of Guardiola's priorities that he held Aguero back with Barcelona in mind. Yet that moved backfired. After 55 minutes, he sent for the striker. But even he could not beat Stekelenburg, leaving City grateful for another replacement, in Nolito.