Date: 7th December 2014 at 1:03pm
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With Newcastle United having pulled an unlikely black and white rabbit out of the hat by beating the unbeatable juggernaut from West London, City were handed the chance to reduce the points deficit to three, stick two fingers up to the bookmaker who has already paid out on Chelsea bets and finally declare “game on” in the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League title race.

And Pellegrini, despite the growing importance of Wednesday`s Champions League match in Rome, fielded a top quality side designed to win this match which on occasions has provided City with a seemingly endless supply of banana skins. At least until last season when Everton were effectively hammered home and away as City quietly bobbled their way along to the title.

Much has been said in previous Ped Reports praising Roberto Martinez for almost teaching the Blue Noses from the wrong end of the M62 to play football. Indeed he dispensed of the services of the thug with the dodgy hair design, depositing him at a football club just outside Manchester, but sadly today his tactics were clear. “Do” Aguero, “do” Yaya and “do” just about anyone else you can.

And it didn`t take long for the despicable Besic to take on board his instructions as the game was in its infancy when he and Barry gang-tackled Aguero, the former using his back side and studs, unseen by the officials. One thing you know about the Mighty Atom is that he doesn`t go down easily. And he never stays down, but today he did. As the medical team tried to coax recovery a discernible shake of the Argentine head told us that Sergio would compete no more today and force a very unexpected and unlikely substitution with the youthful Pozo stepping up from the bench for his second Premier League appearance, which was to turn out to be a lengthy one. Jovetic was once again unable to be considered for the squad and Dzeko was being nursed back to fitness with the Roma match in mind. Pellegrini was reluctant to throw him in with such a long time still to play.

Nasri was clearly unhappy at Besic`s contribution having harsh words with him and almost getting himself into issues with this man. Was it Arsene Wenger who once referred to Stoke as a rugby team? Well, Arsene take a look at this lot. Within the space of five minutes the same player looked more like a rugby league number nine as he tackle Milner in an almost classic rugby style tackle. Thankfully the sub-Marriner saw this one and availed City of a free kick and the perpetrator with a yellow card, but when Yaya similarly broke away a short while later and once again Besic stated a case for playing for Leigh Centurions (the tackles were not good enough for him to qualify for Wigan Warriors), the blind eyes were once again turned.

But, the latest incompetent official to adorn the Etihad, turned provider half way through the half when having turned down Nasri after he was disposed of by Barry, he provided his generosity when Jagielka bundled over Milner and Marriner pointed to the spot.

With the scorer in chief still receiving treatment in the dressing room, up stepped Yaya to drive the spot kick into the side netting and just far enough away from Howard to ignite the scoreboard.

Marriner was particularly poor today. He viewed Mangala`s Aussie Rules Football challenge as only worthy of a yellow card, whereas another referee might have seen it as more severe. Fernando, too went in quite high on Barry, probably in retribution for the ex-City man`s avarice for assassination, and then Barry himself was overlooked as he proved he did learn something from his short relationship with Fellaini, elbowing his former City and Villa mate Milner in the chops.

The rest of the match left me struggling for comments with the exception of Pozo.

What is he? Eighteen? He showed no fear in his hour-long effort which saw him toil relentlessly in between the lines and finding and developing space in almost Silva style fashion where none appeared to exist. And he was unlucky with one golden chance to make it 2-0 getting open at the near post but not opening his body quite enough to steer it past the man with the upside down head, who made a smart save. And he was also unlucky when he again created space in Aguero style fashion, driving for the far post, but striking another City player retreating from maybe an offside position. Could he be the first real product of the new production line now located across the wibbly-wobbly bridge?

After showing us what he could do for an hours or so he was replaced by Dzeko as Pellegrini clearly thought he needed the big man possibly to head in the supply of crosses from Navas and Milner that were finding no City heads in the Everton area.

Once Aguero had left the field so early on, this match was unlikely to become any sort of end-to-end encounter as for much of the first half Everton were pinned back by City or involved in a midfield war of attrition as Fernando and Yaya and Milner did their best in the sky blue corner to defend City`s position. The provocation from the royal blue noses was unrelenting and City did well to get out of there with the valuable three points, especially when Lukaku was celebrating the equaliser in the closing minutes before he saw his goalbound effort saved superbly by Hart, no doubt buoyed by the word from above and his new contract.

This was a gritty performance from City. The previous seventeen matches against Everton had yielded only one clean sheet, so Martinez will have fancied his team to score, but with the full backs in robust mode, Demichelis reading the game superbly and Mangala, despite his unlikely challenge actually staying on the field and outmuscling Lukaku on occasions, plus of course a full-on midfield performance by Fernando, City were able to close out the match and reduce Chelsea`s lead to three points. And all this without Kompany, Silva and Aguero. Much is said in football about the need for a rigid spine to your team, especially if you have any inclination or desire to win things. Today City were without that spine but put in a team performance that could not be described as spineless, despite the uncompromising tactics of the toffees.

City have more than proved that they are up for the challenges ahead and no longer buckle once the going gets tough. Yaya and Fernando looks a good combination in the stick or twist division, with Milner also unafraid of putting in the kind of work that has made him the target of many clubs, while City have finally decided that he is a valuable member of this squad as he put in a man-of-the-match performance. This is much to the chagrin of Sue, who was eyeing Milner up as a January target for Liverpool. I think she will unlucky on that one.

It does not seem long ago that I was slating of Nasri. He was playing without confidence, slowing down play, missing passes and not exactly contributing a great deal. But today he put in the kind of effort that endeared us to him last season. He toiled, grafted, moved the ball quickly and accurately and himself was unlucky not to get himself the MVP award for the day. And that is praise indeed for the ex-Gooner, who does not appear to endear himself to too many people either here or in his native country. When needed today he did step up to the plate.

The word is that Silva and Kompany should be fit to return on Wednesday but the prospect of facing a must-win Champions League match with no fit strikers only highlights the folly of sending the Beast to Valencia. Dzeko did come on but looked well off the pace. Maybe the extra couple of days work will reap some kind of benefit. And no doubt Patrick Vieira will want his star striker, Pozo in his under 19s team, although they are already through. I think Pozo will be primed for his first appearance in the Champions League proper as Aguero and Jovetic sit this one out.

In essence, City should go into the match in 4-2-3-1 fashion, not leaving themselves light in midfield and therefore not leaving spaces for Roma to exploit, as they did at the Etihad. They need to ensure that they are not sucked into an Italian-style match of negativity and frustration born out of watching sundry, what did Brian Clough call them? I`d better not say! Anyway, we all know they have a penchant for time wasting and rolling about mortally injured in the face of weak European officials.

I still think City can do it. With Aguero I would have been almost certain, although the Pedmachine is not noted for predictions. Having turned the negative pre-Bayern thoughts into newly-found positivity, like all City fans I`m bitterly disappointed to see Sergio unavailable, but Pozo looks like a breath of fresh air, although his impact in the most difficult of competitions is likely to be unspectacular, he has proved that he can score and on continental soil if he is needed.

Let`s see what Wednesday brings?.

 
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