Date: 25th September 2011 at 10:39am
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The ghost of Everton was finally laid to rest yesterday despite intense on-field provocation from this collection of thuggish individuals that Davd Moyes calls a team.
It showed irrevocably that there is a new ethos at Manchester City where bully-boy tactics are not going to be accepted and that, whatever happens, City will work for the full 90 minutes to try to beat them off.
Needing to get back on track after a disappointing visit to Fulham which belied the comment I have just made, City were determined to drag three points out of this game.

Everton set out to simply ruin the afternoon of the paying public which was within a hundred of a record attendance at the Etihad. With home and away sections packed out the stage was set for a thrilling match, but in reality it just did not happen.

Moyes ,ensured that Howard would be protected as much as possible with massed ranks of royal blue in front of him. Everton closed all the gaps in which City usual weave their magic and paid particular attention to David Silva who was scythed from pillar to post all afternoon. It was perhaps a tribute to this wonderful footballer that in face of intense provocation he was able to end this match on two feet.

The other Howard, (Webb), ensured that Everton was protected by passing around yellow cards, six in all to Everton, rather than attend to his duty, which could have seen Everton reduced to nine men before the break had the correct interpretations been applied to Neville and Rodwell and even possibly Baines.

For the first ten minutes it was return to last season for City. They didn`t see much of the ball and allowed Everton to make some progress. Passes went astray clearly as a result of the fear of seeing their legs amputated.

Then Silva started to get into gear despite suffering regular clatterings from Rodwell, Neville, Baines, Fellaini and just about anyone else in a nearby royal blue shirt.
An early chance fell to Dzeko who tried to control the ball rather than punt it goalwards. The intricate moves didn`t yield any success as Silva and Aguero were starved of space, but boy did the Argentino try. He has this capacity to weave in and out of massed ranks of players and unlike any other forward, doesn`t take to the grass every time he sees an outstretched foot in the box. Picking up a headed clearance from Fellaini which didn`t clear anything his exquisite curling shot found Howard up to the task. Howard also did well to turn away Nasri`s best contribution to the match.

Inevitably, Rodwell and Neville found their way into the notebook for obtuse tackles on Silva and the latter should have been on his way to the tunnel. We saw what he did to Reyes in the infamous “50-up” match when he systematically set about him in such a way that a man in the street would have ended up in jail had he done likewise on a Saturday night.
As usual “Equaliser” Webb kept Everton`s team intact, turning his back on a second lean chop by Rodwell.

The first half ended in frustration around the Stadium as City just couldn`t unlock the door despite the trickery of Aguero and Silva and the graft of Dzeko although things just didn`t go his way.

Nasri had looked a bit ineffective but he was correct in the tunnel at half time when he said – “Let`s get more men forward. It`s five against eight in there”.

As the second half began Everton tried to press further up field but immediately they surrendered the ball, everyone headed back to the box. Happy to give up the wide and deep areas, for them it was about closing any spaces that are normally exploited by City`s mobility. They continued to frustrate Dzeko to the extent that Macnini replaced him on the hour, not with the anticipated Tevez but with the mercurial Mario Balotelli.

Mario`s brief was to start to upset the Everton defence by moving them around the field, but they were a bit too disciplined for that. He did realise quickly that getting in amongst them might not be the answer and when Aguero received the ball on the right hand corner of the penalty area, Balotelli cleverly drifted away from the action area.
Aguero ran left, it didn`t open up. He tried the next channel, neither did that one.

Channels three and four were also bolted, but as the Everton defence took on the shape of a sliding rugby league back line, Aguero cleverly laid the ball back to where Balotelli had drifted. Mario was on it in a flash and with no backlift guided a gem of a shot into the bottom corner. The cynics on BBC said a deflection off Jagielka made the difference, but make no mistake, this was a piece of pure class from “The Misunderstood”. At last the relief poured around the Etihad as City`s fans took the view that Everton never came to score and probably never would.
It was a masterstroke substitution by Mancini and totally unexpected when he had Tevez on the bench. Mario actually smiled and ran over to Mancini to give him a hug to celebrate his achievement.

Around about the same time, with City`s back four in command Cahill had two nips at Lescott, whose strength proved too much as he passed sideways to Kompany. Cahill went straight through Kompany from the back and suffered injury because what goes up must come down and Kompany landed on Cahill lower leg. That Moyes said many times on TV that “Kompany did him” was laughable especially as his team of grizzlies had been literally kicking City all afternoon and this injury was a result of something similar. That the BBC spent more time examining this than looking at the reasons Everton had six men booked was also laughable especially with the pseudo-scousers that adorn Auntie`s Couches.

Encouraged by this and with Everton trying to get forward, Mancini introduced Milner for Aguero and then Savic for Nasri in an attempt to shut up shop Italian style. And it looked enough.
With City closing the doors, Moyes tried to open his sending on Drenthe and Vellios for Coleman and Neville. I was surprised that Drenthe didn`t get in the starting eleven but perhaps with a minute to go we found out why.
Losing possession to the Magician in the centre circle and with the combined harvester formerly known as Rodwell for once nowhere in sight, Silva, who had just hit the post with a screamer from just inside the box and had one disallowed for offside, headed for goal. As expected his three markers started to converge on him, but he had spotted that Milner had made a lung bursting run from well inside his own half. Silva lifted the ball out of the bear pit and expertly into Milner`s path, leaving the second sub to steer the ball past Howard and into the net. At last there was a comfort blanket and at last Everton were beaten.

However they did get their chance to reduce the arrears when a mix up between Lescott and Hart almost let Everton in but the third sub, Savic had spotted the danger and cleared the shot off the line.
So City won in adversity. This Everton team is awful and if I was one of their fans I would start watching non-league football. Howard is detailed to waste time from the kick-off systematically taking goal kicks from the opposite side every time the ball runs dead. He takes forever to distribute the ball and Moyes calls these ?tactics!
The 5-5-0 formation is designed to ruin your afternoon and to cheat the public out of an afternoon`s entertainment. And now instead of bleating about the signing of Lescott, which with hindsight kept Everton in business and Moyes in wages, he now tells us that Vincent Kompany “did” Cahill. What a despicable creature ET has turned out to be.

For City`s part they did well to get three points out of this match. Nothing was going their way and at times like that you need a spark or you need to make some luck. It wasn`t a throw in for City because, according to Moyes, Baines told the linesman that it came off Nasri. Well, Baines had been dishonest in his actions most of the afternoon, so who was going to believe him, and don`t all footballers, City included, appeal for everything even when they know it`s not their ball?

So that might have represented “luck”. But what came after was pure genius from two genii. I have been slating of Balotelli especially when he was sent off against Dinamo Kyiv, but his strike today is why Mancini will stick with him. If he can harness that plus the all round play that he showed for the half hour he was on the field, Balotelli will be meteoric. Silva despite the unwanted attention kept working and was again superb.
At least after the royal blue paint had dried the result that came out of this match was the correct one and City have clawed back the ground lost last weekend.

And if Tevez is bleating again, then this time we probably don`t need him.


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