Manchester City were made to rue tactical mistakes yesterday as Everton ran out 2-0 winners at Goodison Park.
Leon Osman opened the scoring for Everton just after the half hour mark with what could be one of the goals of the season. The visitors came close through Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko, but Nikica Jelavic finished the game off in stoppage time with a beautiful shot past Joe Hart.
Everton came into this game on the back of a home defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup last week, but had the backing of a record which has seen them emerge victorious over City in six of the last eight games played between the clubs at Goodison. However, City were looking to take advantage of the Merseysiders’ recent misfortunes in the league in order to at least try and gain some ground on their local rivals, Manchester United.
It was Everton who started the game looking more likely to win however, as Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman took advantage of City’s three-man defence to cause havoc down the wings. Everton’s first chance came only five minutes in when Baines lined up a free kick on the edge of Hart’s box, but his attempt came to nothing. The game quickly took an ugly turn, and this was realised when Marouane Fellaini conceded a foul for a dangerous tackle on James Milner, a challenge that the Belgian was perhaps lucky to escape with nothing more than a booking.
The Toffees kept pushing for a goal and appeared to be rewarded for their dominance in the 12th minute when Kevin Mirallas fired the ball in to the roof of the City net, however the goal was disallowed for offside despite, on reflection at least, the striker being played onside by Kolo Toure. As more chances came and went, the Goodison crowd became quieter and so it was City’s turn to finally begin to make their mark on the game. Both Tevez and Dzeko benefited from link up play from David Silva, but could never find their way past Jan Mucha in the Everton goal.
It took a rough challenge and subsequent booking for Aleksandar Kolarov to raise the spirits of the Goodison faithful, and this was reflected in the resurrection of Everton’s dominance – dominance that was rewarded in the 31st minute. Coleman held the ball on the right hand side of the City box before passing the ball over the middle to Osman. Osman shot the ball past a helpless Hart from 25 yards to fire Everton in to the lead and deservedly so.
City’s frustration was becoming increasingly apparent, especially when Dzeko was booked for kicking the ball away just a few minutes later. In an effort to bring his team back into the game, Roberto Mancini changed his defence to a back four but it was not enough to influence the game before half time.
The opening of the second half failed to yield the same level of excitement as the first and it was a 15 minute wait before the game seen another high-tempered moment. As Javi Garcia tried to bring the ball down deep in his own half, Steven Pienaar lunged in with a studs-up challenge which saw him sent off after his second booking of the game. Following this decision, City started to keep more and more of the possession but came no closer to scoring than when Mucha was able to make a double save to stop Tevez and Milner from scoring an equaliser.
Shortly after, Mirallas was replaced by Steven Naismith and the change appeared to work as Everton never truly looked as if they were playing with a disadvantage. While City may have had the strength in numbers, the home side kept pressing for another on the counter attack and defended well when City came forward. During the next ten minutes, the only real chance City had was when Silva passed the ball through to Pablo Zabaleta, who had his attempt stopped by Mucha after taking too many touches to control the ball.
The atmosphere created by the home support was nothing short of fantastic and clearly did their part in maintaining their team’s resolve to get the win. City were wrongly denied a penalty in the 85th minute when Fellaini blocked a Tevez shot with his hand, with a mere free kick being awarded to the visitors.
As time ran out, it was clear that City were running out of steam. Everton kept pushing and nailed the final nail into the coffin of City’s title hopes during stoppage time, when substitute Jelavic curled a shot past Hart into the top corner to send the home crowd into ecstatic celebrations.
After the game, Manchester City assistant manager David Platt said, “I don’t think we were really at it today, all game we were outworked by Everton.” When asked about his team’s title chances, Platt simply commented, “We have an obligation to win football matches between now and the end of the season.”
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