It just had to be Ilkay Gundogan.
With Manchester City’s fourfold hopes on the line at Goodison Park on Saturday night, the German international steadied himself to calmly head into an empty net and pave the way for his side to advance to the FA Cup semi-finals with a hard fought 2 -0 win over Everton.
Gundogan has arguably been City’s player of the season, so it came as no surprise to see him once again make a difference just when Pep Guardiola needed him most.
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti had done his best to keep the midfielder calm, with twin destroyers Andre Gomes and Allan tracking Gundogan’s every move to try to quell his impact.
But the 30-year-old is having his best season in goal and cannot be denied his 16th goal in such an influential campaign.
In a close clash, the opportunity he had been waiting for finally came in the 84th minute, after Aymeric Laporte’s shot bounced off the crossbar. There was never any doubt that Gundogan would be in the right place at the right time to finish off the rebound.
Substitute Kevin De Bruyne added a second in the 90th minute, but this was a game that was in the balance for a long, long time. In fact, it was a reminder of how good the margins are, as the City seeks to achieve a historic quad.
Ancelotti certainly did not make it easy for Guardiola’s team, as he showed all his experience to smother City for long periods.
Despite the visitors having 77 percent possession in the first half, Everton managed to protect third-choice goalkeeper Joao Virginia from a serious threat and his only stop for the first 45 minutes was a comfortable 20-yard catch by Raheem Sterling. .
The Toffees rarely ventured forward, but when they did, they tried to use the physical strength of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison to force City’s bottom line.
The hosts even came close to opening the scoring when Oleksandr Zinchenko cleared Yerry Mina’s shooting line near the post.
However, City began to carry a greater threat as the game progressed, and Virginia, who was only playing due to injuries to Jordan Pickford and Robin Olsen, showed her raw quality when she made a save with Sterling’s fingertip. just before the hour mark.
He even got the slightest touch on Laporte’s last effort, but ultimately couldn’t stop Gundogan from keeping City’s hopes of an unprecedented quadruple alive.
The Premier League leaders will face Tottenham in next month’s Carabao Cup final and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-finals, while they have now sealed their place in the last four of the FA Cup. .
With the games underway, it is now quantifiable how many wins they need to secure all four trophies.
Five in the Premier League will secure a third title in four years, three would clinch a national cup double, while the European qualifiers will be resolved in two games before the May final in Istanbul.
While a quadruple still seems highly unlikely, City will remain in contention for all four trophies until at least the second leg against Dortmund on April 14. Only two teams have been in quadruple contention at a later date.
Manchester United lasted five more days in 2009 before losing an FA Cup semi-final, while Chelsea reached May 1, 2007, before being defeated in a Champions League semi-final.
Guardiola will continue to insist that a quadruple is impossible and will remind his players that they still do not have a single trophy in their bag.
With a full squad to choose from at Goodison Park and an incredible bench including De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo and Sergio Agüero, he will only hope his players can stay away from injuries during the international break.
However, if they can, the impossible dream could still come true.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.