Ederson's contribution to Manchester City's cause is immeasurable
The Brazilian goalkeeper saved a Mertens penalty, thwarted Napoli teammates on several other occasions, and started attacks with his distribution in 2-1 Champions League win
In one respect, the change from the recent past was an unwelcome one. When Amadou Diawara slotted a spot kick past Ederson, it ended an extraordinary run. The previous six penalties Manchester City had conceded in the Uefa Champions League had all been saved: three by Joe Hart, two by Willy Caballero and one by Ederson.
In another, it mattered not. The decisive spot kick was the one that did not go in, taken by Napoli’s prolific top scorer, Dries Mertens, and repelled by Ederson. City’s 10th successive win was also the hardest to secure, against a side that Pep Guardiola believes may be the best he has faced in his managerial career.
It came courtesy of a newcomer to highlight the goalkeeping upgrade City have had in the summer.
“Ederson kept us in it,” said right-back Kyle Walker who, after conceding the first penalty, was particularly relieved.
Kevin de Bruyne elaborated: “He came in with big expectations, and he’s doing really well. He kept us controlling the game stopping the first penalty. But even the way he passes the ball around helps us to control the game more. He’s doing a great job.”
The demoted Claudio Bravo had the lowest save percentage in the Premier League last season and was a reason why the quality of City’s passing was not reflected in some scorelines.
Ederson has the fourth best save percentage in England’s top flight and has only let in one goal in the Champions League. And yet save percentages do not show the scope of his contribution. Two minutes after Raheem Sterling put City ahead, the Brazilian charged off his line to head clear when Mertens threatened to score.
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That willingness to leave his penalty box is what Guardiola demands from a man who is part sweeper, part keeper. It also, indirectly, led to Sadio Mane’s crucial red card when Liverpool lost 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola was mocked in some quarters for wanting a goalkeeper who can pass the ball like a midfielder. Ederson boasts a 90 per cent success rate with his distribution in the Champions League, which should be the envy of a many an outfield player.
De Bruyne, meanwhile, is forging a reputation as City’s classiest passer. The Belgian added to his collection of glorious assists with a whipped low cross that Gabriel Jesus converted for what proved the winner, but refuted suggestions he is doing anything differently.
“I think if you check my assists what I did before in Germany and Belgium, a lot of times it’s the same,” he said. City hope he can carry on doing it for some time. De Bruyne has three-and-a-half years left on his contract, but an extension is planned.
“My agent went already one time to [director of football] Txiki [Begiristain],” added De Bruyne. “Talks are coming. I’m patient anyway, I don’t stress it.”
And City have rather less pressure on them. They have only won their Champions League pool once before, may only need four points to remain at the summit of Group F. Thanks, in part, to Ederson.
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Updated: October 18, 2017 02:56 PM