Date: 16th October 2016 at 12:00pm
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It was a typical City v Everton match at the Etihad Stadium, which the out-of-touch BBC still refer to as the City of Manchester Stadium. They clearly don`t like to afford our sponsors on the air free advertising yet they will still promote the local authority of Manchester who gave the stadium its original name. Perhaps they think that Media City is in Manchester when in fact it`s in Salford. They are a bit like United fans really.

On a regular Autumn Saturday afternoon we were set for a kick off at 3pm. How unusual is that? And what a day for Guardiola to try out a new system of 3 at the back and depending on how you read it the line up could have been 3-6-1 or 3-1-4-1-1. Either way, despite the result, the master technician got the job more or less correct.

There was a feeling ahead of the match that a rogue camera crew from Catalonia might try to seek unlawful access to snitch on our secrets before Wednesday`s Champions League debacle against his former club, Barcelona. Quite why they would bother when you can get more or less the full match on the Sky Red Button is perhaps a mystery, and you`re not telling me that they don`t have access to other media, lawful or otherwise, where the match would have been broadcast live!

So Pep sent his boys out with Bravo in goal, Stones, Otamendi and Clichy across the back, Fernandinho in front with Silva, Gundogan, Sterling and Sane in midfield with De Bruyne playing off Iheanacho.

Aguero was left on the bench which included maybe a welcome return for Sicknote Kompany.

From minute one this match was dominated in every shape and form by a City team that pushed and probed from just about every conceivable angle, but who simply couldn`t pierce a dogged defence happy to spend the day without the ball and preventing City scoring by whatever means were necessary. There was the usual “just-get-in-the-way” blocking by Jagielka and Co, the exponential darker arts perpetrated by the likes of Barry and Coleman and there was a lack of Scouse Blue Nose desire to play anything like one would call football.

The stellar exception to this was their goal tender, Stecklenburg who single-handedly kept Everton, somehow in a match that they deserved to lose by a heavy score. Their shortage of pace was exposed time and again by City, but with them playing 9-0-1 you could predict the problems City would experience. Two tight lines of 4 and five on the edge of the box and Lukaku left to forage alone up top, the intention to get Bolasie up to support should they be fortunate enough to see the football.

But it was to be an afternoon of rearguard action for a team that looked as if it couldn`t play football for toffee. From the kick off they went into their familiar mode of time wasting at every opportunity. No matter who the manager this is a trait that Everton have adopted. It is rubbish to watch and cheats their negative supporters week-in week-out into thinking they are a good team. They are the worst team I have seen at the Etihad this season.

Bombarded by City and looking like survivors from Aleppo, they somehow got themselves to half time level at 0-0. This despite City being awarded a penalty, which De Bruyne served up favourably for Stecklenburg who guessed correctly and found the ball at an ideal height. The City faithful were clearly disappointed. They knew that their boys had endured a tough afternoon getting knocked about, cheated upon in terms of time wasting and finding themselves unable to unlock an almost impenetrable defence. You cannot afford to look the gift horse in the mouth in these circumstances. But City contrived to.

The cynics at half time correctly predicted that this had a Stoke City feel to it from three seasons ago, when Stoke had one shot all afternoon and went home with the points. On 64 minutes it looked as though it was going to come true. A toe bunger out of the Everton defence found Lukaku on half way and going nowhere until the clown formerly known as ExitOtamendi unnecessarily dived in, missed the tackle and allowed the big Belgian to sprint free.

Next up was Clichy, who should simply have bumped him and fallen over and taken one for the team. Instead of sending Lukaku on to his weaker foot he granted him a free shot which exploded off his left boot and howitzered past Bravo to wake up the Evertonians who had long since fallen asleep.

The rest of the Etihad, today resplendent with 54500 attendees was stunned. How could City have played all that magnificent football, had 75% possession, and be 1-0 down to a side who was playing for a draw from the start? It had happened.

Cue Aguero. His first job was to dance in around the centre backs and lure Jagielka into chopping him down just inside the box. Come to daddy. Only he missed one for Argentina in midweek. Add to that 2 misses in the Champions League against Steaua and a catalogue of them last season and we were simply waiting for it. Aguero made his stuttering run expecting to see Stecklenburg grab a handful of fresh air in one corner while he slipped it a foot the other way. But no. The net minder stood still. Confused, Aguero, too, served up a dolly that Stecklenburg once again predicted and once again found at the perfect height to nonchalantly push it to one side.

Shortly thereafter Aguero almost made amends by thumping one towards the top corner but once again Stecklenburg made an outstanding save to keep his side in front.

Cue Nolito with Sane the unfortunate who was replaced, despite having quite a good game using his undoubted pace at every opportunity. Almost immediately City were probing, finally finding Silva with enough space and time to deliver an excellent cross which Nolito, cleverly using the pace of the ball, diverted past Stecklenburg by heading it back the way it had come. At last the breakthrough.

Everton were already looking tired and ragged and stepped down the gas by taking every opportunity to lie low, holding their heads, taking 2 minutes to take a throw in, sacrifice yellow cards for time wasting and cheat in every non-footballing manner you can think of. And it worked for them. Despite De Bruyne going close with an exocet which somehow Stecklenburg finger-nailed on to the post, City could not get enough going to snatch the points leaving themselves, their supporters and their manager perplexed as to why this was not a big win.

Everton, the anti-christ of Association Football thought they`d won the Champions League, the World Cup and World War 3 on their own. Quite how their poor fans can watch that rubbish week-in, week-out escapes me, except for the fact that pre-2008, I used to do the same watching City.

The voice of Susan has spoken. City cannot go on using Aguero as a penalty taker. He misses far too many. A world class striker would happily accept and despatch them for fun. Aguero, for the most part, sends them to his right in the right place for the goalkeeper`s dive and it is simply not good enough. This cost City 2 valuable points and a chance to keep some air between them and the rest, notably today, Arsenal and if they beat the Stretfords tomorrow, Liverpool. I propose an International Board Rule change. We have seen in American Football that they have a dedicated goal kicker for field goals and points after touchdowns. If we were to apply the same rules in Association Football we could re-sign Ballotelli simply to take penalties. Yes, I know he missed one last week, but his penalties are much more fun to watch than those of the Mighty Misfiring Atom. Failing that we can get Milner back off Liverpool. He never misses.

It might make sense to use Sterling to keep his momentum going. He had a tough time yesterday surrounded by 3 defenders with no full back behind him as a natural outlet. I also think Nolito would be a good bet.

The City roadshow now heads for Catalonia and the mighty Barcelona. We need to beat them or it will be four without a win and the pundits who have eulogised us all season will be getting their rulers out and underlining another season, while at the same time drooling over the Stretfords on their Thursday Night exploits

 
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