MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester City dropped points in the Premier League title race after being held to a 1-1 draw by relegation candidates Everton.
- Report: Man City 1-1 Everton | Premier League table | Upcoming fixtures
City took the lead in the first half thanks to Erling Haaland before Everton mounted a fightback in the second half and equalised thanks to a wonder goal from Demarai Gray. Pep Guardiola's team had 15 shots as they went in search of a winner, but only managed three on target while Everton scored with their only effort on goal.
Here are some immediate thoughts from the Etihad about Saturday's game.
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1. Man City offer rivals hope in the title race
We're into the time of year when City usually put their foot down in the title race and motor clear of the chasing pack, but a 1-1 draw with Everton means it's now one point from their last two Premier League home games. With Arsenal in such dominant form, perhaps a fifth title in six years isn't a forgone conclusion.
There's been an expectation that early leaders Arsenal will eventually fall away and surprise package Newcastle won't be able to keep up, but Everton's point at the Etihad -- combined with City's defeat to Brentford before the World Cup break -- will give the other contenders encouragement they can cause a shock. With Haaland scoring for fun and a host of world-class attacking players to play a supporting role, it's still City's title to lose, but they're going through a spell in which they look capable of dropping points.
Guardiola's team are facing a crucial run in their season with Chelsea (twice), Tottenham (twice), Manchester United and Arsenal to play all before the middle of February. It's not a blip yet -- they've still won six of their last eight games -- but there is a glimmer of hope for their rivals that City aren't quite as dominant as they've been in the past.
2. Haaland is inevitable
There was a nervous moment for Guardiola and his City staff just 15 seconds after kick-off when Haaland went up for a header with Ben Godfrey and landed awkwardly on his ankle. It looked bad enough for the stretcher team to be readied on the touchline, but any concern was short-lived -- Haaland doesn't come off until he's scored. It took him 24 minutes to hit the target against Everton, turning to shoot low into the net after Riyad Mahrez's run into the box. It was his 27th of the season and his 21st in the Premier League -- just two short of the tally which saw Mo Salah and Son Heung-min share the Golden Boot last season.
Injury is probably the only thing that could stop Haaland setting new records this season and a period without the Norwegian striker would give Arsenal and the rest even more encouragement that it might be possible to pip City to the title.
Guardiola has a striker who looks like he's going to score every time he plays, which is a significant advantage when a team is going through a period where things are not coming quite so easily. Haaland only had one real chance against Everton and was clinical enough to take it. Yet it was one of only three shots on target City managed.
3. Hope for Everton in their relegation battle
If Everton are indeed destined for a relegation battle in 2023, a point against City at the Etihad is a big plus. It's still only three league wins all season and a two-point gap above the bottom three, but Frank Lampard's side showed enough, especially in the second half, to suggest they are at least ready to fight for their place in the Premier League.
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Everton aren't bad defensively for a team down at the bottom, but they don't score enough goals and they needed a stunning strike from Gray -- their first shot of any kind in the 64th minute -- to find a way past Ederson. It was a remarkable strike after a quick counter-attack, particularly after Gray slipped as he cut back inside onto his right foot.
The game plan was clearly to try to contain Guardiola's team and nick a goal on the break, but that approach went out the window when Alex Iwobi was robbed of the ball on the halfway line and with three Everton players caught forward, City worked the ball through Jack Grealish and Mahrez before Haaland scored the first goal. It was Richarlison's goals that helped keep Everton up last season, but with the Brazilian gone, Lampard needs a saviour. It was Gray against City.
Manchester City (3-4-3): Ederson 6; John Stones 6, Manuel Akanji 6, Nathan Ake 6; Rico Lewis 7, Kevin de Bruyne 6, Rodri 6, Bernardo Silva 7; Riyad Mahrez 7, Erling Haaland 7, Jack Grealish 7.
Subs: Phil Foden 6, Ilkay Gundogan 6, Julian Alvarez 6.
Everton (5-4-1): Jordan Pickford 8; Nathan Patterson 7, Ben Godfrey 7, Conor Coady 7, James Tarkowski 7, Vitalii Mykolenko 7; Alex Iwobi 7, Amadou Onana 7, Idrissa Gueye 7, Demarai Gray 7; Dominic Calvert-Lewin 7.
Subs: Seamus Coleman 6, Neal Maupay 6, Tom Davies 6, Dwight McNeil 6, Abdoulaye Doucoure 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Jordan Pickford, Everton
The Everton goalkeeper made a crucial save in the second half to keep the score at 1-1.
WORST: Kevin de Bruyne, Man City
It was one of those days when nothing the Belgian midfielder did seemed to come off.
Highlights and notable moments
Haaland is virtually inevitable in a Man City shirt when it comes to goals. His first-half tally had City on course for yet another win...
Erling Haaland's 21 Premier League goals this season would have been enough to win the Golden Boot in:— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 31, 2022
We're 16 games in. pic.twitter.com/xJJXCggbJz
... until Demarai Gray curled in an absolute peach for Everton with their first shot of the game!
Just when they needed it most, Demarai Gray delivered with an AMAZING equalizer for Everton!#MyPLMorning | #MCIEVE pic.twitter.com/4u3WcYfYpE— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 31, 2022
After the match: What the players/managers said
Man City defender John Stones: "I don't really know what to say. I feel like we've lost two points. That's football. We controlled the game for the majority of the time and had a lot of chances, but couldn't seem to get that [second] goal. It's difficult to take after the game. We showed great character to keep fighting and pushing. It was a bit of a scrappy game."
Everton manager Frank Lampard: "When you stay in the game, you have a bit of belief and you just need some moments. We got a special moment. You need that here at City. ... The quality of the finish was top-drawer. Demarai Gray wants more of that and I do. It got us the point. You ride your luck a tiny bit of course. We deserved more last week after the result. Sometimes football pays you back in different ways. We have two home games in the league and we need to go and get some points, but we have to fight for every bit of it."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
Erling Haaland found the back of the net for the 21st time this season, the most by any player in Premier League history before the new year.
Man City lost their 12-match Premier League win streak when leading at the half. It was the second-longest active streak in Premier League: Liverpool have won 20 straight when leading at the half.
Demarai Gray scored his second Premier League goal this season, and his first since Aug. 20 vs Nottingham Forest. It was also notable because he scored for Everton with their first shot of the match.
Manchester City: The defending Premier League champions have a busy few days right after the new year. They travel to Chelsea for a big league fixture (Jan. 5) and then host the Blues three days later in the FA Cup third round (Jan. 8) before a Carabao Cup quarterfinal in Southampton (Jan. 11). Does Pep Guardiola have the strength in depth to emerge with three wins from three games?
Everton: There's no rest for Frank Lampard & Co. after Saturday's draw. A home league date with Brighton on Tuesday (Jan. 3) is up next, followed by an FA Cup trip to Manchester United (Jan. 6). There is a breather beyond that, with eight days until their Premier League date with Southampton (Jan. 14).