Football Features

“Like pouring kerosene onto an open flame” – De Bruyne makes the difference as Man City leave it late to beat Everton in the FA Cup

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:55, 20 March 2021 | Updated: 19:39, 10 September 2021

In a gritty evening of football, Manchester City overcame a dogged Everton side in the FA Cup, winning 2-0 late on.

The win came very late in a game that was, for the most part, an attack-vs-defence training session where the defence was winning. Everton had a couple of nice attacks but this was one way traffic for the most part as City poured wave after wave of attacks at the Toffee rearguard only to be rebuffed every time.

But as they always do, they found a way. They found the goal they needed. In fact they found two goals. But the came late in the day because that’s when City brought on the key player, the main man, the personification of Pep Guardiola pushing his foot down on the accelerator: Kevin De Bruyne.

Firstly you have to give praise to Ilkay Gundogan and Aymeric Laporte, the Belgian’s willing and able accomplices on that first icebreaking goal. It all started with Laporte striding out of defence and then through midfield into the final third.

It was a very impressive run from a defender who had performed admirably at the back all night long. He’s been shoved out of the XI this season but has always performed when called on. And when he had laid the ball off, he stayed up and had the shot that cannoned off the bar after a stunning save from Joao Virginia.

That shot deflected down off the crossbar into the path of Ilkay Gundogan. The German was as always the right man in the right place at the right time and showed no hesitation as he stooped to head the ball into the back of the net.

It was Gundogan’s 16th goal of the season, his 11th strike in his last 20 games. That he’s one of the most in-form goalscorers in the country despite being a controlling midfielder is basically the ultimate flex on the part of Pep Guardiola. His “style” of player dominating every area.

However, after Laporte’s run but before his shot, the ball was at the feet of Kevin De Bruyne. And this is where the Belgian began changed the game with his phenomenal presence.

Prior to De Bruyne’s introduction, City had been having trouble finding spaces to get great looks at goal. Phil Foden’s long range rockets looked their best route to goal (and Foden was the best player on the park prior to De Bruyne’s introduction), as the idea of finding space in and around that defence didn’t look possible at all.

However he came in with 10 minutes left in the match, and a few minutes later Laporte’s run ended with him feeding the ball to De Bruyne atop the box. The Belgian’s touch immediately pushed the ball ahead of him and where most players would now have a shot at goal, De Bruyne showed just why he is on a completely different level.

With the ball loose and Yerry Mina closing down, a shot might have simply ricocheted off the giant Colombian. So instead De Bruyne took a deliriously deft touch to move to the side and beyond the onrushing Mina. De Bruyne moved to follow his touch and was taken out by Mina’s follow-through, and had the ball not almost immediately been turned in by Gundogan then City would surely have been awarded a penalty.

Then a few minutes later City have a throw-in and De Bruyne is issuing orders to his team-mates. You can see him point to Richarlison, signalling Rodri (who had just come on) to step ahead of the Brazilian and keep an eye on him. Rodri does as told and then as the play progresses, Yerry Mina’s clearance fell to his feet and the Spaniard instantly spins the ball behind the Everton defence for De Bruyne.

The Belgian races into the box, moves the ball onto his left-foot away from Ben Godfrey rushing around on the cover and piledriving it into the back of the net. 0-2 and yet another semi-final spot booked for Manchester City, all thanks to Kevin De Bruyne.

10 minutes played highlighted by 4 touches leading to 2 goals. Absolutely magnificent.

As much as Manchester City are a majestic team full of world-class players, the difference between them with and without Kevin De Bruyne is like night and day. He is one of the greatest accelerants in world football right now. Like pouring kerosene onto an open flame. WOOSH. Watch that fire burn, scorching everything in its path. Just like Manchester City are doing to their opponents this season.

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