May 3, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT
Manchester City beat Everton 3-2 at Goodison Park on Saturday as the Citizens took a huge step towards lifting the Premier League title with a nervy win.
Ross Barkley‘s wondergoal put Everton ahead as the home side looked to be springing a shock in a slightly subdued atmosphere (an Everton win would hand the initiative in the PL title race to their fierce rivals Liverpool) at Goodison.
However City were soon level as Sergioo Aguero equalized, then Edin Dzeko headed home just before half time to put City 2-1 up at the break. Moments after the interval Dzeko bagged another as City looked to be cruising but Romelu Lukaku‘s powerful header midway through the second half made it a nervy finish for City.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men held on and are top of the PL standings on 80 points with Liverpool and Chelsea still to play this weekend. City, crucially, have a game in hand over their title rivals as they host Aston Villa on Wednesday before the face West Ham on the final day of the season. If they win their final two games, City win the league regardless of what Liverpool or Chelsea do, due to their vastly superior goal difference. As for Everton, their top four challenge is now officially as Roberto Martinez‘s men will finish fifth.
Early on Everton started well and in the fifth minute they engineered a move down their left flank which found Steven Naismith but he dragged his shot wide of the post, then at the other end Javi Garcia rose highest but headed straight at Tim Howard as City felt their way into the game. After 10 minutes Everton were ahead through Barkley’s moment of individual brilliance. The youngster latched onto a layoff from Naismith and curled a stunning strike into the far corner as Joe Hart‘s despairing dive got nowhere near Barkley’s effort. Everton had thrown a spanner in the works of City’s title charge.
However in the 22nd minute Aguero broke free and smashed home at the near post past Tim Howard to make it 1-1 midway through the first half as City didn’t take long to hit back. Although Aguero didn’t last much longer as the Argentine forward limped off after hurting himself in the process of scoring the goal. City pushed to go ahead before the break as Yaya Toure surged into the box but his cross was cleared by Everton skipper Phil Jagielka. It was all City for the remaining moments of the first half and Dzeko headed home in the 43rd minute to turn the game on its head and give City a 2-1 lead at the break.
Following the interval Everton almost drew level within seconds of the restart as yet another surging Barkley run from midfield played in Naismith who curled his shot towards the bottom corner but Hart made a crucial fingertip save to preserve City’s one-goal advantage. That saved looked even more pivotal soon after as City went 3-1 ahead in the 48th minute. Samir Nasri sent his cross past John Stones on the left side of the box and Dzeko pounced to bag his second and City’s third of the match as the away side cruised at Goodison.
After that City took their foot off the gas and Everton had plenty of play in and around the box as the Citizens sat back. Eventually that pressure paid off for the home side as Leighton Baines was allowed to tee the ball up and cross in an inch-perfect delivery which Lukaku headed in off the post with 25 minutes to go. Suddenly, much to City’s displeasure, it was game on at Goodison.
City edged towards the win as Everton controlled the closing stages, which included six minutes of stoppage time after Dzeko went down injured, but failed to break through and grab an all-important equalizer.
The Citizens did the job they need to do.
Everton: Howard, Baines, Stones, Jagielka (Deulofeu, 66′), Alcaraz, Coleman, McCarthy, Osman (McGeady, 83′), Barkley, Naismith, Lukaku
Goals: Barkley (10′), Lukaku (65′)
Manchester City:Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Garcia, Toure (Kolarov, 68′), Milner, Nasri (Silva, 74′), Dzeko, Aguero (Fernandinho, 27′)
Goal: Aguero (22′), Dzeko (43′, 48′)
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