Manchester City had to work hard to see off a spirited Everton side and stay five points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.
Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling both struck in the final 20 minutes to give City victory after they had wasted some good chances, but they needed two excellent saves by Ederson to hold off the Toffees.
It was a convincing end to a tense evening, with Pep Guardiola’s side going to a murky Merseyside knowing only victory would suffice after seeing the Reds maintain their flawless start earlier on Saturday.
The defending champions started well and, after Ilkay Gundogan somehow hit the bar from point-blank range, they took a deserved lead thanks to another moment of genius from Kevin De Bruyne.
His trademark whipped cross from the right was nodded home by Gabriel Jesus, giving the Belgian his eighth assist of a stellar campaign.
That spelt trouble for Everton, whose boss Marco Silva was under pressure before kick-off after back-to-back league defeats, but they responded well and were soon level.
Toffees substitute Alex Iwobi fought his way into the box and the ball dropped for Seamus Coleman, who beat Ederson with a dinked shot before Dominic Calvert-Lewin made sure of the equaliser with a diving header on the line.
City was playing some neat football but with top scorer Sergio Aguero starting on the bench along with David Silva and Bernardo Silva, they could not make it count in the final third.
Sterling should have restored their lead at the start of the second half when he ran clear from a delightful Mahrez pass, but his first-time finish fizzed wide.
Everton was asking questions too, particularly from set-pieces, before Mahrez provided the spark City had been waiting for when he curled home a stunning free-kick into the bottom corner from 20 yards out.
The home side refused to lie down and Ederson made vital stops from Calvert-Lewin then Yerry Mina, but Sterling made sure of the points when he forced the ball home after Aguero’s cross-shot was saved.
Everton was booed off the Goodison Park pitch after losing here to Sheffield United seven days ago but they deserve some plaudits for responding with a much-improved performance this time.
Yes, it was still a fourth defeat in their past five league games, but they played with passion, passed with purpose – and were close to claiming a surprise point.
A lack of cohesion in the Toffees attack despite a £125m summer spending spree has been one of the reasons Silva’s job is supposedly under threat, but they gave City’s defence a thorough test.
That was despite losing Theo Walcott to concussion in the first minute of his first start of the season, with former England forward unable to continue after being hit in the face by a Raheem Sterling cross.
His replacement, Iwobi, was one of those who impressed, along with the industrious Richarlison and Fabien Delph, a calming influence in midfield against his old club.
There were spells in the second half with the score at 1-1 when it appeared Silva might finally lay to rest one of the statistics that haunt him here – his team’s inability to ever come back from behind to win in a league game.
That feat eluded him for the 22nd time in his reign as Toffees boss, but this was still a display that offered some encouragement.
Since being beaten at Norwich and suffering their first defeat of the season, City had enjoyed three straight wins in three different competitions, scoring 14 goals and conceding none.
This, however, was a far more difficult day for their defence as Everton’s previously shot-shy front-line offered a far sterner test than Shakhtar Donetsk, Watford or Preston had managed.
And, while City survived and left with the three points, that was more down to Ederson’s brilliance than his creaking back-line, which was exposed again – particularly from set-pieces.
A succession of corners and free-kicks from the right caused them problems in the second half, with Richarlison heading wastefully over at the near post from one, and Mina’s bouncing effort bringing the best out of Ederson soon after.
Worryingly for City, Everton was finding a way through them in open play too, and the result might have been very different had Ederson not rushed from his line to deny Calvert-Lewin with the score at 2-1.
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Source – BBC