PEP Guardiola learned a lot about the nature of his City team as they scrapped their way back into a game that was nearly ruined by a horrible refereeing decision.
With the dismissal of Kyle Walker in the first half, it seemed the Everton jinx had returned to haunt the Blues – with official Bobby Madley cast as the chief witch doctor.
But in the end that unjust adversity brought the best out of City, and out of Guardiola.
He replaced players, and he re-jigged frequently, and it worked.
Raheem Sterling led that fightback, his own brand of direct, breakneck running at the defence unsettling and disrupting the visitors’ back four.
And after the unpredictable England winger had skied one great chance, he made up for it by slamming home an equalising volley to bring the Blues level.
From there, they could have, perhaps should have, won it – especially when Madley also dismissed Morgan Schneiderlin for a second yellow card, also harsh, but nothing like the injustice that ruined Walker’s home debut. What the official saw – or thought he saw – as Walker and Dominic Calvert-Lewin tussled to get under a high ball, is anybody’s guess.
Whatever it was, Madley deemed to be worthy of second yellow card.
But Guardiola could not dwell on the vagaries of such decisions, as he had problems of his own.
City were already a goal down when Walker got his marching orders, although they had increasingly looked like they would score as Sergio Aguero uncharacteristically hesitated with the goal at his mercy, while David Silva struck a post.
It was a microcosm of last season – chances going begging at one end and the defence looking unsure at the other.
The video of Wayne Rooney’s goal will get a few replays, but the culprits were several.
Guardiola had resubmitted his teamsheet after it initially included Danilo at left wing-back, hastily changing it to Leroy Sane.
Whether that was a little ploy to hide the fact that Sane was in that role until the last moment, we will never know.
If it was, it didn’t work, as Everton attacked that flank relentlessly.
And when they harried the young German into an error, it proved fatal.
Calvert-Lewin then tempted Fernandinho into a rash slide after Vincent Kompany had hesitated to deal with him, and the youngster crossed for Rooney to fire a shot through Ederson’s legs.
City’s response was valiant against an Everton side that barely showed any more ambition against 10 men, and the three subs – Sterling, Danilo and Bernardo Silva – all played a significant part.
In the end, Mason Holgate’s clearance fell perfectly for Sterling and he gleefully crashed his volley back past Jordan Pickford.
It felt like a win, and Guardiola celebrated it as such. ●●
Raheem Sterling scores City’s equaliser