Gabriel Jesus back among the goals for Manchester City as Brazilian's double sees off Everton
Striker ends 11-game Premier League goal drought as Everton dispatched 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium
Eleven games. Or 118 days. However it was measured, Gabriel Jesus’ wait for a Premier League goal was a lengthy one. He was the anomaly in a prolific team, the one man experiencing a drought while others savoured a flood. Outscored by seven teammates, out of the strongest side, he ranked as Manchester City’s nearly man, forever almost scoring but rarely with cause to unveil his trademark celebration.
On Saturday, he could place his hand to his ear again, in the manner of a man making a phone call. That said, he scarcely needed to ring his loved ones. “My confidence is back because my family is here,” smiled the Brazilian. They could witness his news being made: for the first time since August, when he struck in the rout of Huddersfield Town, Jesus had a league goal. Two, in fact, and it would have been three had an emphatic finish not been ruled out for offside. “It is so important for him,” said Pep Guardiola. “Strikers need to score goals.”
Jesus was clinical, rifling a shot past Jordan Pickford and burying a header. It helped that he had the supply line of Leroy Sane, who continued his scintillating form by adding to goals against Hoffenheim with a pair of assists. But while the striker demonstrated the movement, the relentless running and the selflessness that so endear him to Guardiola, he also finished in the manner of Sergio Aguero. “He has done the same today as he has done in other games but the difference is he has scored goals,” added his manager.
If, with Aguero fit again, it was a timely return to the scoresheet, Jesus ended another wait. Guardiola had not beaten Everton at home but “a dangerous, dangerous team” were dispatched, with the aid of a reinforcement. Three minutes after coming on Raheem Sterling headed in Fernandinho’s cross to seal a ninth straight home league win this season.
“When Raheem does not have time to think in front of the keeper, it is always a goal,” Guardiola said. “The problem is when he has time to think.” In a trying week, Sterling nevertheless showed another kind of composure in the eye of a storm. “He was so calm,” explained Guardiola.
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Victory was all the more admirable as City began without four of their first-choice front five. Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne came on, the Belgian making a first appearance in six weeks, Aguero was an unused substitute and David Silva remains sidelined. If the catalytic Sane completes a famous five, this was nonetheless proof of strength in depth.
Everton had arrived with ambition and leftfield ideas. They departed lamenting lapses. “We had to be almost perfect in our defensive organisation,” said their manager, Marco Silva. He fielded three supersized centre-backs. “They are massively tall,” noted Guardiola. “We are not the tallest team in the world.”
Nevertheless, two of City’s shorter players still scored headed goals. Everton’s policy of playing out from the back backfired when Yerry Mina coughed up possession for Jesus’ opener. Perhaps the absence of the injured Idrissa Gueye meant that, without a defensive midfielder, that augmented rearguard was afforded less protection.
Their attacking efforts stemmed from the flanks. The excellent crosser Lucas Digne picked out Richarlison, who volleyed wildly over the bar. “A big, big chance,” rued Silva. “We changed our strategy and did well until the 1-0.”
He had relocated Richarlison to the right as Dominic Calvert-Lewin came into the side and the striker justified his selection by heading in another teasing Digne centre. It went in via Fabian Delph, but the Englishman had still risen highest. “After [that], we have three clear chances,” noted Silva and Calvert-Lewin almost scored another with an imaginative backheel flick as Everton caused City more problems than most.
Yet it was a game decided in both boxes and an uncomplaining Silva concluded: “City deserved the three points. They were more effective than us.”
Updated: December 15, 2018 08:11 PM