De Bruyne disrupts and destroys Everton
Manchester City have become such a fine-tuned machine this season that there has been an argument at times that they have been better without Kevin De Bruyne, their best player, in the team.
Especially when injuries have disrupted the playmaker’s rhythm, there has been a case that the fluid, metronomic carousel with a revolving forward line epitomised by Bernardo Silva helter-skeltering all over the pitch is more effective than the more direct but riskier approach that De Bruyne carries.
When he plays like he did against Everton though, there is no argument whatsoever. Despite injuries keeping him out of recent matches, he was emphatically accurate from the opening minutes with his right foot possessing the precision of a scalpel and the force of a bazooka.
From the ball early on for Gabriel Jesus that crumbled the Everton defence to the the goal scored with a majestic authority to the nonchalance of a chipped free-kick onto the boot of Riyad Mahrez, De Bruyne put on an exhibition of all the ways he can reduce an opposition side to rubble.
Chelsea will have been watching with interest today to see how patchy he looked after his injury, but they will not have reported back with any satisfaction after another masterclass.
As fans piled into the Etihad for the first time since February 2020, it was timely to think about Raheem Sterling’s season.
The City forward has not had a bad campaign by any stretch but his goalscoring levels have been below expectations and his form has worsened as the magnitude of games has grown. As a result, this was his last opportunity to show in a game why he should displace Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, or others from the starting XI for the Champions League final.
He was outshone by others, notably Gabriel Jesus, yet the fans continued to sing his name through the game. It is ultimately pointless yet curious to wonder if the England star may have been able to come out of his funk earlier had he enjoyed such cheerleading before the final day.
Fans enjoy their afternoon
The players certainly turned on the style for them but it was wonderfully wholesome to see and hear supporters back in the stadium after a long and bleak 15 months away from the Etihad.
The raucous roar as De Bruyne’s shot got the party started, taking the mickey out of Jordan Pickford after a wobbly moment at the back for Everton, chants echoing from one stand to another – for the first time in ages, it felt like a proper football match.
Roll on next season when hopefully this place can be full again.
Ederson gets penalty practice
If the defending to give it away left a little to be desired, Pep Guardiola will have been delighted to see Ederson fling himself to his right and keep out Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty in the first half.
Both the save, and the ferocious collective effort to keep the rebound out, are a nice bonus for next week when the final could come down to spotkicks.