Manchester City slipped off the pace in their bid to catch up with Premier League leaders Arsenal as they were held to a 1-1 draw by strugglers Everton in their final match of the year on Saturday.
Erling Haaland made a positive start for Pep Guardiola’s men when he latched on to Riyad Mahrez’s pass to tap home his 21st league goal of the season.
After a number of stoppages early in the second half, with one taking over six minutes as the assistant referee’s communications headset was repaired, Demarai Gray levelled for the visitors.
The Everton winger surged up the left-hand flank in a rare counter-attack before cutting inside and unleashing a curling effort from the edge of the box which left City goalkeeper Ederson beaten.
The result left second-placed City four points behind Arsenal having played a game more, while Everton are 16th with 15 points. They are two points above the relegation zone.
Guadiola’s side came into the match as the league’s highest-scoring side but they were often left frustrated on Saturday by their opponents.
Haaland came close to scoring when he latched on to a well-timed Kevin De Bruyne ball inside the Everton box only to direct his effort into the side netting.
John Stones then came close to doubling City’s advantage near the end of the half as his header rattled the post of Jordan Pickford’s goal.
“To be 1-0 down at halftime, it’s easy to let that get to you but we knew we would get a chance,” Everton defender Ben Godfrey told Sky Sports.
Everton made the most of that chance with Gray equalling as City struggled to regain their momentum after the stop-start opening to the second half.
The hosts battled back in an attempt to clinch the three points but Everton’s resolute defending, especially during the 11 minutes of added time, kept them at bay.
“I think we showed our character today. We’ve always had a team spirit. That’s the standard. Work rate and togetherness. It feels good to get a point,” added Godfrey.