Everton: Stekelenburg on Manchester City performance; Guardiola's respect for Koeman
Most reaction coming from Goodison Park at present is centred around Saturday afternoon’s events, in which a Romelu Lukaku strike and some sensational heroics from goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg earned the Toffees a point at the Etihad against Manchester City, which put an end to their 100% home record under Pep Guardiola.
Much of the game was owed to Stekelenburg’s performance, who thwarted Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero from the penalty spot before finally being beaten by Nolito’s effort.
The Dutch international declared “I’ve never had an afternoon like it”, after saving two spot-kicks in one match for the first time in his career.
De Bruyne was a victim often stopped in his tracks by the Dutchman, for as well as stopping his penalty he made a superb save at full-stretch to tip the Belgian’s effort away.
“I’ve had busy afternoons but none like this,” Stekelenburg told Everton TV. “It doesn’t happen a lot. I’ve saved some penalties but never two in a game.
“I don’t think there’s really a secret to saving them. You just have to wait as long as possible and then go for the corner with 100 per cent. And then you need a little bit of luck as well.
“I’m always confident that if I pick the right corner I can make a save. I’m quite big so they have to be perfectly taken to beat me in that corner.
“It was a great shot from De Bruyne in the second half as well, with a lot of pace on it. It drifted away from me and I just got my fingertips to it. I think it was a good save.”
Romelu Lukaku’s fine solo effort had made the breakthrough for Everton earlier in the game, and Stekelenburg added: “It was an amazing team performance. I think everybody, including the players who came in, did an amazing job and we can be proud of the result.
“If you come here, you know it’s going to be a tough afternoon and I think, especially in the first half, we did very well, but it cost a lot of energy. They dominated the first half but I don’t think they really created a chance and I think we defended really well”.
Koeman himself also praised his compatriot’s performance in getting a point, in what he conceded was a very difficult game to get into for his side, whilst also praising the battling side of his team’s game:
“Maybe Stekelenburg had his greatest game ever. To save two penalties and to save two more goals from Kevin de Bruyne is fantastic”.
“Of course in these circumstances you need luck, but the fighting spirit of the team today was unbelievable”.
Ian Doyle of the Liverpool Echo saw the performance as not merely a defensive masterclass from Everton, but also as a sign that Ronald Koeman, Guardiola’s old mentor, still has a few tricks up his sleeve to show his apprentice.
Doyle wrote: “With City’s tiki-taka continually coming up against the bright yellow brick wall, Guardiola threw on Vincent Kompany for the closing moments and played the centre-back up front.
While there was nothing wrong with that, it was a sign Koeman had done a number on his old protege”.
“Guardiola won’t be the last to suffer this season”.
Koeman’s prioritising of strength in defence underpins exactly what he has been establishing at Goodison Park this season, and it was executed to perfection at the Etihad.
Even Guardiola himself leaped to the defence of his former mentor when questioned by a journalist in the post-match press conference about whether or not he was surprised by Koeman’s defensive tactics:
“I’m not going to talk about this”, he said.
“I have a lot of respect for Ronald (Koeman), he is a great friend of mine and I never question my managers, my colleagues, they know their game better than me and they know the players better than me”.
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