If Everton dish up another 14 Premier League performances like this one they will be absolutely fine.
Match the intensity and fight and thrust and pace that caused Manchester City so much discomfort on a combustible evening at Goodison Park and Frank Lampard’s team will win more games than they lose.
Ederson, Manchester City’s goalkeeper, was booked for timewasting in the closing minutes. The visitors knew they had got away with one when they pinched an 82nd-minute goal that required a stroke of fortune.
Everton never allowed City to alight on their customary rhythm, the hosts progressively imposing their own attacking energy and wit on the game.
Jonjoe Kenny and Richarlison had very good chances before half-time, while the visitors were made to defend a number of probing deliveries into dangerous areas.
Phil Foden scored City’s goal, toeing in from a couple of yards, after Bernardo Silva’s cross followed a circuitous route to the midfielder’s feet.
It was a cruel blow but still Everton persevered. Ederson prevented Richarlison from equalising and a strong handball claim went to the VAR, only for no action to follow.
There will be no recriminations from this for Lampard and his players. Only praise for a disciplined and industrious display – Everton, notably, played with confidence, too – and an earnest wish that running the best team in the country so close feeds into a productive period between now and the end of May.
There was a moment as we entered the 31st minute when one side of Goodison fondly imagined the home team had taken the lead.
The cheers were an instinctive response to the sight of a rippling goal net. They were illustrative, too, of the optimism gradually exerting a hold over this stadium.
Everton had resisted City pressure, sent the visitors up countless blind alleys as Pep Guardiola’s team rotated the ball on a loop. But as compact and resolute as they were defensively, Everton attacked with aggression and tempo and belief.
Lampard’s side were packing a punch loaded with sufficient power to repeatedly send City on the retreat.
So when Allan resisted pressure from Rodri to usher in the overlapping Kenny for a rising shot that hit the outside of Ederson’s net, Evertonians were ready to believe their team’s courageous football had banked the jackpot. The reality of the situation quickly dawned, as the ball rolled harmlessly behind the goal, but the sense of Everton carrying the fight to City was unaltered.
That Kenny ran away from the dozing Foden to receive the pass, and comfortably evaded John Stones to shoot, epitomised the intensity of both sets of players at this stage.
An Anthony Gordon free-kick that scraped the roof of the net in the final minute of the opening half didn’t elicit quite the same excited reaction, the ball always seemingly destined to travel too high.
But Everton were contesting this game as equals, at worst. Lampard’s team were the more proactive and imaginative during a heated opening 45 minutes.
For all City’s possession – about 65 per cent of it – Jordan Pickford was never extended beyond a straightforward stop to his left when De Bruyne aimed a daisy cutter from 25 yards.
De Bruyne was apoplectic with a loose final ball that enabled Kenny to make ground on the cover and avert an away counter. That drew a loud roar from the home support, who showed a similar level of appreciation for Donny van de Beek when the midfielder chased back to prevent De Bruyne completing a potentially lethal one-two with Raheem Sterling.
Foden’s gorgeous touch to bring down a lofted pass in the box was a joy but eventually amounted to nothing. Which was how things were increasingly going for Guardiola’s players.
Everton had won the game’s first corner against the odds, City beginning by stroking the ball across the floor for five minutes, albeit the most they could muster by way of an attempt was Rodri’s shot awkwardly struck into the frame of Abdoulaye Doucoure.
The seventh-minute corner is worth a mention because it was the only one City conceded in the opening half.
Allan served the ball back out to taker Gordon when the original delivery was cleared. Van de Beek took over to hang up a delivery and it needed a smart piece of defending from Stones to deny Richarlison a back-post header.
Richarlison had begun the game on the end of a scything challenge from Ruben Dias, as the Brazilian laid off a ball with his back to goal. He seems to receive one of those early on every time he plays.
City were characteristically forthright in their attempts to recover possession.
But Everton most certainly didn’t suffer by comparison. Stones was hurried off the ball by Gordon, while De Bryune was narked again when the combined forces of Mason Holgate and Seamus Coleman unsettled the Belgian.
Gordon slithered free of Rodri for a strike that flew into the calves of Ayermic Laporte. And soon after – on 13 minutes – the Everton player, who turned 21 on Thursday, showed Stones a clean pair of heels.
The cross was low and gathered at the second attempt by Ederson, with Richarlison poised to exploit any slip.
Of Everton’s four shots in the opening half, one was directed on target. It arrived in the 34th minute and was the product of a poor clearance from Silva, who succeeded only in swiping the ball on a right angle and into danger.
Alex Iwobi prodded it forward amid a scrum of bodies, with Richarlison on the ball in a flash to bring a smart save from his compatriot in City’s goal.
A late flag softened the blow when Richarlison fired into Ederson’s right leg after Allan released the attacker to go one-on-one with the keeper on 49 minutes.
Silva atoned for his earlier slapdash play with a fabulous pass 11 minutes after the break.
The Portuguese, operating as City’s central striker, was increasingly wielding an influence, with Everton forced to spend longer periods close to their own goal.
But in this instance, Silva picked up the ball in a deep position and weighted it perfectly 30 yards across the turf for Foden, eliminating several blue shirts in the process.
Pickford sprung to his left to save from his England teammate and moments after beat out a rising Joao Cancelo drive, as the away team gained a modicum of offensive momentum.
Another England player in Stones tested Pickford with a left footer from 25 yards, the keeper scrambling this one behind.
Pickford was really earning his corn now. And for a terrific double stop on 68 minutes, he was treated to a standing ovation.
The first save from De Bruyne down to his left was very good. But it was the reaction to repel Silva on the follow-up that sparked the thunderous response, Pickford leaping to his feet to fling out a right hand and stop a ball struck with considerable power.
Foden then couldn’t grow enough to get over a header following De Bruyne’s cross, the ball dropping onto the roof of Pickford’s net.
Van de Beek was pointing to an area just above his knee when the Dutchman was forced off – replaced by Dele – on 71 minutes. It was a blow for Everton, the player on loan from Manchester United was excellent, both in his defensive diligence and shrewd use of the ball.
The next change saw Demarai Gray introduced for Gordon – who ran himself into the ground – while Guardiola turned to his bench too, sending for Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus.
Silva went to the left as a result of the Spanish manager’s changes – and it was from that position he supplied the decisive goal.
The delivery was speculative rather than aimed at a teammate. Holgate couldn’t complete the interception and the equally luckless Michael Keane was wrong-footed, inadvertently turning the ball to Foden. He had the simplest of tasks to prompt wild celebrations among the travelling contingent.
Ederson smothered at Richarlison’s feet as Everton instantly went for a leveller, while VAR Chris Kavanagh opted against sending Paul Tierney, the referee, to check his monitor after a ball skipped up in the box and hit Rodri on the arm.
The non-award was responsible for a smattering of boos at full-time.
But the sound of discontent almost immediately gave way to a wall of noise in appreciation of a stellar Everton effort.
Everton Start With Intent
Everton were accused in the opening phase of this campaign of starting matches slowly.
Any tendency towards sitting off opponents has been conclusively consigned to the dustbin under the tutelage of Frank Lampard.
Sure, Manchester City had their usual generous diet of possession from kick-off – the visitors had roughly two-thirds of the ball in the opening quarter hour – but Everton astutely chose their moments to unsettled Pepe Guardiola’s usually slick team.
Goodison bellowed its appreciation when Mason Holgate and Seamus Coleman hustled a vexed Kevin De Bruyne off the ball.
Anthony Gordon’s snappy challenge on John Stones on the opposite left flank was similarly well received.
This wasn’t only about rattling City, however. Everton’s intent ran deeper than a mission to disrupt and spoil.
The hosts’ passing was bright and purposeful and in Gordon Everton had a forward who wanted to carry the ball past defenders.
Everton won the game’s first corner when Seamus Coleman employed his volleyed control to drive forwards and cross.
John Stones and Aymeric Laporte were both called on for vital defensive penalty-box headers, while the returning Abdoulaye Doucoure strode ahead of his front men to join attacks.
A passage of play in minute 27 epitomised Everton’s aggression without the ball. Allan picked De Bruyne’s pocket and in the instant City regained possession, Rodri crumpled to the turf under a strong tackle from Donny van de Beek.
Everton had scored only eight first-half goals in 23 Premier League games prior to this fixture – three of them in Lampard’s three matches in charge – a return indicative of those hesitant starts. Which, on this evidence, are a thing of the past.
Goodison Show Of Solidarity
Everton's players emerged from the Goodison Park tunnel for this contest draped in the flag of Ukraine. The blue and yellow halves, meanwhile, were stitched into the front of the tracksuits of those representing Manchester City.
This was two football clubs and a stadium that broke out in thunderous applause at the teams' gesture – as The Hollies' He Ain't Heavy filled the air – unifying in support of a country under attack.
The depth of feeling is intensified here due to the Club's left-back Vitalii Mykolenko hailing from Ukraine.
Mykolenko embracing compatriot Oleksandr Zinchenko, a Manchester City substitute, pre-match will provide the enduring image from this match.
The picture will travel to every corner of the globe.
Frank Lampard's comments ahead of kick-off were grounded in reality. "There is not much help we can give other than to be there for him [Mykolenko]," said Lampard, who revealed the defender is gaining a release from the situation in his homeland by training and remaining part of Everton's matchday squad.
Mykolenko was especially warmly received by Evertonians this evening and demonstrated his thanks by jogging to the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End at full-time to hand over his jersey.
Football means an awful lot to so many people. There are other things more important, even if it doesn't feel like it in the more heated moments, but here was an example of the sport's power to send a significant message.
As Lampard indicated, there is little material help we can offer but both teams and their fans showed how they feel about what is happening in Ukraine.