BEVERLY HILLS, March 21, (THEWILL) – The Champions-Elect of the English Premier League Manchester City kept their dreams for an unprecedented quadruple alive by turning in two late goals to charge into the FA Cup semi finals courtesy of a 2-0 win at Goodison Park against Everton on Saturday.
Kevin De Bruyne came into the tie as a late substitute and engineered a champions-worthy finish to contribute to the opener from the buzzing Ilkay Gundogan and net a late one himself to break Everton’s spirited defensive plan and earn city another hard-fought victory.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side packed men behind the ball in an attempt to nullify City’s attacking threat, which, combined with the defending chops of the visitors, meant that chances were rare for both sides, but with the introduction of de Bruyne, City broke through to reach the FA Cup semi-finals for the third consecutive season for the first time since doing so between the 1931/1932 and 1933/1934 seasons.
Guardiola’s pattern of defending from the midfield gave City domination of proceedings against the Toffees. The hosts were restricted to a possession figure of 26 per cent, which is Ancelotti’s side’s lowest in all competitions since March 2018. Yet, such was the counteractive defending of Everton that City could not find a way through until the 84th minute.
When Gundogan scored to give City the lead, it was his 12th goal in all competitions since the turn of the year, which is more than any other Premier League player and marked Manchester City vastly improved form over the past four months. The victory set a new club record of 17 consecutive away matches unbeaten, breaking the record previously set between January and September in the 1998/1999 campaign.
The last time the Blues from Manchester tasted defeat away from home was on Saturday, November 21, a 2-0 loss to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur, at a time when Guardiola’s side appeared careening off course and in a nose dive. However, since then, they have won 29 of their 33 matches across all competitions, losing just once, to neighbours Manchester United in the Premier League only recently.
Guardiola has tweaked the club’s formation and style of play to an advance format that is imbued with the ability to adjust to different challenges. This has helped them in their pursuit of an unprecedented clean sweep of trophies, even if the City boss has banned talk of a quadruple within the ranks of the club.
It goes without saying, all the same. They have opened up a 14-points gap at the summit of the EPL table, they will face Tottenham in the EFL Cup final on Sunday, April 25 and Borussia Dortmund awaits in the Champions League quarter-finals while scaling over the Everton challenge places them on a path to Wembley in the last four of the FA Cup.
One key performer that has helped to bring them this far is German international Gundogan. His 12 goals in 2021, which is the most of any Premier League player in all competitions this calendar year, illustrates how the 30-year-old is proving a crucial cog for the Cityzens wheel of progress as they head into the business end of the 2020/2021 campaign.
That diving header with which he broke the deadlock at Goodison Park highlighted the midfielder’s knack for being in the right place at the right time to deliver the goods. It was also his first headed goal for City since against Crystal Palace in December 2018.
The German has become a hero in his own right in this Man City team, which had seen him become the top goal-scorer for the top team as his header took his tally this season to 16 goals. It is easy to forget that he is a midfielder in a side with proper forwards. But, he has found a partner for goal-scoring shenanigans in the Belgian playmaker de Bruyne, which has unlocked his hidden netting potentials in the most timely manner for City.
Together, Gundogan and De Bruyne have directly contributed to 41 goals for Manchester City from the most creative midfield of the division this season, a tally which has seen them stroll to the top of the Premier League, reach the Carabao Cup final, the FA Cup semi-final, and the Champions League quarter-final.
In fact, in just four days, their goals have sent Pep Guardiola’s side to the last eight of the Champions League and the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Guardiola may not have his players chat about the quadruple, but with such impressive numbers and football being played each time by City, it is only right to say how they are doing their chances at making history a world of good.