Manchester City’s quadruple dream remains intact because of Gundogan
With Manchester City’s quadruple hopes hanging within the balance at Goodison Park on Saturday evening, the Germany international steadied himself to calmly head into an empty net and pave the way for his side to reach the semifinals of the FA Cup with a hard-fought 2-0 convert Everton.
Gundogan has arguably been City’s player of the season, so it came as no surprise to ascertain him once more make the difference just when Pep Guardiola needed him most.
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti had done his best to stay the midfielder quiet, with twin destroyers Andre Gomes and Allan tracking Gundogan’s every move to undertake to stifle his impact.
But the 30-year-old has his best season ahead of goal and there would be no denying him his 16th goal of such an influential campaign.
There was never any doubt that Gundogan would be within the right place at the proper time to end off the rebound.
Substitute Kevin De Bruyne added a second within the 90th minute but this was a game that was within the balance for an extended , long time.
Ancelotti certainly didn’t make it easy for Guardiola’s side as he showed all of his experience to suffocate City for long spells.
Despite the visitors having 77 percent possession within the half , Everton managed to guard third-choice keeper Joao Virginia from serious threat and his only save during the opening 45 minutes was a cushty catch from Raheem Sterling’s 20-yard strike.
The Toffees rarely ventured forward, but once they did, they tried to use the physical strength of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison to beat City’s back line.
The hosts even came on the brink of opening the scoring when Yerry Mina’s near-post flick was cleared off the road by Oleksandr Zinchenko.
City began to hold a greater threat because the game wore on, though, and Virginia, only playing due to injuries to Jordan Pickford and Robin Olsen, showed his raw quality when he made a fingertip save from Sterling just before the hour mark.
He even got the slightest of touches to Laporte’s late effort but ultimately couldn’t stop Gundogan from keeping City’s hopes of an unprecedented quadruple alive.
The runaway Premier League leaders face Tottenham in next month’s Carabao final and Borussia Dortmund within the Champions League quarterfinals, while they need now sealed their place within the last four of the FA Cup.
With games ticking down, it’s now quantifiable just what percentage victories they have to secure all four trophies.
Five within the Premier League will ensure a 3rd title in four years, three would land a domestic cup double, while European ties are going to be settled over two legs before May’s final in Istanbul.
While a quadruple still seems highly unlikely, City will remain in contention for all four trophies until a minimum of the second leg against Dortmund on Pan American Day . Only two sides have ever been in quadruple contention at a later date.
Manchester United lasted five days longer in 2009 before it lost an FA Cup semifinal, while Chelsea made it to May Day , 2007, before being beaten during a Champions League semifinal.
Guardiola will still insist that a quadruple is impossible and can be reminding his players that they haven’t yet got one trophy within the bag.
With a full squad to settle on from at Goodison Park and a fantastic bench including De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo and Sergio Aguero, he will just be hoping that his players can steer beyond injury during the international break.
If they will , though, the impossible dream could yet come true.