Today saw the visit of Manchester City`s bogey side in the form of David Moyes` Everton. A side that City have only won against once in their last eight meetings. Indeed Everton have won there on their last four visits to City and let`s hope City don`t go behind as they have never beaten Everton in the Premier League after conceding the first goal.
Mancini recalled the side that threw away two goals against Fulham last weekend (although it has to be said that United did the same in the corresponding fixture last year and lost the previous year three nil). This was a chance to show that last week was just a blip and that the fortress that is the Etihad stadium would remain just so.
Moyes set up his Everton side with a cautious five man midfield in effort to stifle the creativity of the free flowing Manchester City midfield.
City kicked off right to left immediately attempting the long cross field ball to Dzeko that gave Aguero his second half goal at Fulham. .
The game started at a frantic pace and was already showing combative signs in the midfield as the tackles flew in. Everton were winning a lot of the early skirmishes as the City attackers gave up the ball under pressure. Indeed two crosses and the first shot in the third minute were a good return to City`s none.
Everton earnt a free kick in the fourth minute after a Richards hand ball which Baines curled in City cleared but were immediately under pressure and thirty seconds of possession later Baines was taking Everton`s second shot, this time Baines shot high and wide under pressure from Richards.
On seven minutes City nearly scored after a weak back header by Jagielka. Dzeko beat the keeper to the ball but his control allowed the defender to get to the ball and clear it for a throw in.
The tackles were continuing to fly in from Everton and nine minutes in Silva was left in a heap after Rodwell took man instead of ball and should surely have been given a yellow card.
Seconds later and work by Nasri and Silva on the City left almost set up Dzeko for a goal. Surrounded by four Everton players, Silva wriggled and jiggled and got by all four to cut the ball back towards Dzeko only for an Everton foot to deflect the ball away from goal.
City were starting to hold on the ball for longer periods and were penetrating more but still hadn`t forced Howard into as save.
City earnt another free kick on the sixteen minute mark as Falliaini backed into Clichy in an attempt to win a header. City took possession of the ball and played a move of over forty unanswered passes. The momentum was beginning to gather and thirty passes after that, Aguero was shooting from the edge of the box. The shot was high but the skill to get past three players was clearly there.
First yellow card of the game was to Jack Rodwell for what should have been a red as a two footed tackle, clearly from behind, brought Silva crashing to the ground. It wasn`t Rodwell`s first bad tackle of the game. Luckily for City Silva wasn`t badly injured.
Seconds later, Rodwell was late on Silva again, this time leaving a shoulder in Silva`s back. The lad was treading a fine line between being a professional footballer and being a professional thug.
On twenty four minutes another one of Everton`s professional thug`s did their ‘job` on Silva, this time in the form of Phil Neville who kicked Silva to the floor, from behind and off the ball, and only received a yellow. Everton should be down to nine men right now. They weren`t playing football today, they were doing a job on David Silva, the player with the most assists and most complete passes in the top flight.
Yellow card number three to the thugs in dark Blue came on twenty eight minutes after Osman flattened Micah Richards with a shoulder, again from behind. Hatchet job came to mind. Everton were playing football when they had the ball, but when out of possession, certain members of their team were resorting to thuggery of the worst degree.
City`s first yellow card came in the thirty first minute as Toure went to ground in a fifty fifty ball but arrived late and whilst this was his first offence, was probably deserving of the yellow card.
On the stroke of thirty three minutes, Richards got forward on one of the first overlaps of the opening half. His cut back ball was fractionally behind Dzeko, but the striker still managed to get in a shot to take City into the lead in the shot count for the first time in the game.
Next shot was the best of the game, after a City corner on their left, Aguero found himself with the ball at his feet at the corner of the penalty area. His sweetly struck curling shot was heading for goal until the outstretched fingers of Howard put the ball out for a corner.
Thirty seconds later and Barry was shooting from the edge of the box again working Howard. City were starting to squeeze the game and Everton were seeing less and less of the ball and on thirty seven minutes City broke with pace from their own half and Silva made a lovely diagonal run whilst Dzeko had the ball at his feet. Dzeko opted to shoot rather than play Silva in which perhaps would have been the better option.
With four minutes to go City were camped in the Everton half and the Merseyside team were playing deeper and deeper. Each time Everton managed to clear, it was a light Blue shirt that picked the ball up. Everton were clinging on for dear life in a desperate attempt to get to half time without conceding a goal.
The half finished with City in the ascendancy. City had played a patient build up game and moved the ball about with their customary panache, but they lacked speed and pace. City needed someone who could create something out of nothing and turn the Everton back ten. Everton, barring the first ten minutes when they had played well, had resorted to tactics of brutality and thuggery the likes of which haven`t been seen since a certain Roy Keane graced the Top Flight.
Within seconds of kick off, City had worked the ball up on their right to Aguero who played a neat one two in the box with Silva. He ran toward the byline then cut back and unleashed a wicked shot which Howard did well to scramble out for a City corner.
City were trying to press and were seeing more of the ball but each time their long spells in possession were not resulting in clear cut scoring opportunities. Consequently Everton were given confidence as the longer the game went on without City scoring, they stood a chance of nicking a goal through a mistake or a stroke of luck.
This was almost the case on fifty five minutes when Everton won a series of corners (their first of the game). City were up to the challenge but without a goal to their name, the City defenders had to be at their best.
First substitution of the game was an unexpected one as Balotelli began to strip off as he was readied to enter the fray. Perhaps his size and bulk was what Mancini had decided was necessary to combat the bully boy Everton tactics. He replaced Dzeko who`s touch wasn`t quite there today.
Sixty one minutes in and another wonderful demonstration of thuggery by Tim Cahill after he went in two footed, again from behind, this time on Vincent Kompany. Cahill writhed around in agony having injured himself in the tackle. Justice perhaps was served as the ref certainly wasn`t dishing out any today.
Sixty five minutes in and Nasri struck City`s best shot of the game from the edge of the box, Howard was stretched diving to his left to push the ball away for a corner. In the break in play Cahill was replaced by Saha.
Nasri had moved over from the left to play ahead of Richards. This paid dividends as on sixty seven minutes, Nasri worked well with Richards and found Aguero who ran along the eighteen yard line looking for a chance to shoot. He cut the ball back to the advancing Balotelli who struck the ball cleanly, it took a deflection and beat Howard down to his right. One nil to City.
Seconds later and Everton were falling to pieces. Balotelli left free on the right crossed the ball in to Silva who was unmarked on the penalty spot. He hit the post and had a second chance with the rebound.
Neville was then replace by Drenthe, the on loan Real Madrid player. Everton certainly needed something to change as they had only had one shot on target and were losing one nil. Their game plan had backfired on them as whilst Silva had been kicked off the park Nasri, Aguero and Barry had stepped up to the plate.
With twelve minutes left to play, Aguero`s number came up as he was replaced by James Milner, as Mancini stiffened up the midfield in a bid to secure the all-important three points. Everton finally unshackled Rodwell from his hatchet job on Silva as the moved men forward. This had little effect on the game in truth as City were dominating.
Final cast of the dice by Moyes was made as Vellios came on for Coleman and Everton went on the offensive in search of the goals that could earn them points.
Final substitution for City saw Savic replacing Nasri as Mancini played his familiar three centre half tactic. This was followed quickly by another City attack and another great save by Tim Howard. The resultant corner was well defended, but as a whole City had made enough chances to win the game by more than one goal and Everton were looking one dimensional and at times better suited to cage fighting than Premier League Football.
City did have the ball in the back of the net after Balotelli`s cross shot found Silva in the six yard box, but the Spanish wizard was adjudged offside.
Everton weren`t finished with the thuggery and with only three minutes left on the clock, Jagielka brought Balotelli down, again from behind, and was given the obligatory yellow card.
From the resultant free kick, Silva who had been moved up front, found himself surrounded by three Everton players. He wriggled past them and played a perfect through ball for Milner to run on to. Milner flicked out a foot and played the ball round the onrushing Howard and into the back of an empty net. Inspired substitutions by Mancini as following Balotelli`s lead, the second substitute Milner put the game beyond Everton.
In the dying seconds Savic saved Hart and City`s blushes by clearing the ball on the line after Hart had rushed out to collect the ball only to be beaten to it.
In all a good day at the office for City and two inspired substitutions my Roberto Mancini. Everton were woeful and should be heavily penalised for their thuggery and brutal tactics. Man of the Match has to go for David Silva who showed a grit today to add to the guile and inventiveness we already knew about. Kicked from pillar to post he still set up City`s second and was at the heart of the play.
Joe Hart – 7
Did nothing wrong until the 93rd minute when he nearly cost City a clean sheet. Was excellent defending corners.
Micah Richards – 7.5
Didn’t get forward as much as usual but still put in some crosses was tough in the tackle.
Vincent Kompany – 8
Towering in the air and tough in the tackle. Commanded the back line won every header that came near him.
Joleon Lescott – 8
Consistency is now his middle name. No mistakes and a colossus in the air. Was in the perfect position every time and covered well for his team mates.
Gael Clichy – 7.5
Again didn’t get forward as much as usual. Was still brilliant defensively although was beaten in the air on occasion.
Yaya Toure – 7.5
Tough in the tackle and carried the ball well today but he lacked pace and drive on occasion.
Gareth Barry – 8
Played a superb defensive role and distributed the ball with skill and panache.
David Silva – 9
Was kicked, pushed, tripped and barged but still played his wonderful game. Set up the second goal with a wonderful looked superb.
Samir Nasri – 8
Played well and was instrumental in the first goal.
Sergio Aguero – 7.5
A frustrating day for him but still looked an immense talent. His movement was wonderful and he created space for his team mates.
Edin Dzeko – 7
His touch seemed to have deserted him today as the ball just wouldn’t stick. His movement was there and he got into the right positions but just not as good a day at the office.
Mario Balotelli – 8.5
Came on scored a goal and looked awesome. Everyone expected Tevez to come on but Mario did and did the business. Inspired substitution.
James Milner- 8.5
Came one and scored a goal. His first in the league for City. Another inspired substitution.
Brought on to ensure the three points and the clean sheet.
Roberto Mancini – 9
Two inspired substitutions that ultimately gave City the three points. Introducing Balotelli instead of Tevez was brave and worked perfectly. We would certainly have lost this game last year.
David Moyes – 5
Shame on you Mr Moyes. Just because you can’t beat them doesn’t mean you should kick them off the park. That’s not Premier League, it’s Sunday Pub football.