Nolito eases City’s penalty pain

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Nolito’s header saved a point for a dom­i­nant Manch­ester City side as the Premier League lead­ers had two penal­ties saved in a 1-1 draw at home to Ever­ton yes­ter­day.

Ever­ton’s Romelu Lukaku scored on the break 19 min­utes into the sec­ond half af­ter Ron­ald Koe­man’s vis­i­tors had ab­sorbed sus­tained pres­sure Ever­ton goal­keeper Maarten Steke­len­burg, who had saved a firsthalf penalty from Kevin De Bruyne, then blocked an­other from Ser­gio Aguero.

But the goal­keeper was fi­nally beaten as Nolito, on as a sub­sti­tute for only a minute, headed in David Silva’s cross in the 72nd minute. The match promised to be a fas­ci­nat­ing con­test be­tween Koe­man and City man­ager Pep Guardiola, who were room-mates and close friends when they played to­gether in Barcelona’s 1992 Euro­pean Cup-win­ning side.

How­ever, it was a frus­trat­ing first half for most of those in­side the sta­dium, and quite a few out­side it too. Sev­eral hun­dred home sup­port­ers were still stream­ing into the ground more than 20 min­utes af­ter kick-off, as a re­sult of in­creased se­cu­rity checks at the turn­stiles by Showsec, the com­pany which man­ages City’s match­day se­cu­rity. Those who got to their seats late missed lit­tle, as the home side failed to make a sig­nif­i­cantly larger share of pos­ses­sion count.

Leroy Sane, play­ing as a right-wing-back, made a cou­ple of im­pres­sive early runs that stretched Ever­ton, forc­ing Steke­len­burg to beat away a shot at the near post, and see­ing a penalty ap­peal re­jected af­ter he tum­bled over Bryan Oviedo’s trail­ing leg.

Guardiola’s de­ci­sion to field three cen­tre-halves and two wing-backs seemed de­signed to give his team added width, but they found it dif­fi­cult to break down the vis­i­tors.

The open­ing pe­riod saw Ever­ton right-back Sea­mus Cole­man some­how es­cap­ing a yel­low card when he clat­tered into Ra­heem Ster­ling, get­ting some of the ball and a lot of his op­po­nent’s an­kle.

JAGIELKA FOUL

The sec­ond sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment ar­rived two min­utes be­fore half-time, when Silva’s quick feet tricked Phil Jagielka into a foul, and the con­ces­sion of a penalty.

With lead­ing scorer Aguero on the bench, De Bruyne took the kick, but Steke­len­burg dived to his left to beat the ball away.

Hav­ing reached the in­ter­val with­out con­ced­ing, Ever­ton posed a greater threat in the sec­ond half.

Ger­ard Deulofeu, re­ceiv­ing the ball af­ter a break by Yan­nick Bo­lasie, cut in from the left past Ni­co­las Ota­mendi and forced goal­keeper Clau­dio Bravo to tip over a ris­ing shot.

How­ever, City were soon in the as­cen­dancy once more, and Steke­len­burg re­acted well with his foot to keep out Kelechi Iheana­cho’s near-post drag-back from Sane’s cross.

Guardiola, seek­ing ad­di­tional at­tack­ing im­pe­tus, sent on Aguero for Iheana­cho, while Koe­man re­sponded by re­plac­ing the skil­ful yet light­weight Deulofeu with James McCarthy.

Within min­utes, Ever­ton led. Lukaku, a quiet fig­ure up to that point, laid a pass back for Ash­ley Wil­liams to hit long, then col­lected Bo­lasie’s touch on to run at Gael Clichy from the left, beat­ing the de­fender be­fore fin­ish­ing with a clin­i­cal low shot in­side the far post.

City re­sponded, and quickly won a sec­ond penalty as Jagielka brought down Aguero.

But the striker, who missed from the spot for Ar­gentina against Paraguay in a World Cup qual­i­fy­ing de­feat ear­lier this week, failed again as Steke­len­burg dived to his left to push the ball out.

It was only a tem­po­rary re­prieve for the vis­i­tors, how­ever, as Nolito, just on as a sub­sti­tute, rose to head in Silva’s cross, with what may well have been his first touch.

Steke­len­burg was still to shine again as City chased a win­ner. The former Ful­ham and Southamp­ton goal­keeper leapt ath­let­i­cally to his left to tip a first-time De Bruyne shot on to the post.

— AFP

MANCH­ESTER: Ever­ton’s Span­ish mid­fielder Ger­ard Deulofeu (R) vies with Manch­ester City’s Ar­gen­tinian de­fender Ni­co­las Ota­mendi dur­ing the English Premier League foot­ball match be­tween Manch­ester City and Ever­ton at the Eti­had Sta­dium in Manch­ester, north west Eng­land, yes­ter­day.

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