After waiting 15 months for back to back Premiership wins, City supporters were treated to a third straight win in Monday’s 2-1 victory over Everton.
It has been an excellent Christmas period for City after it had got off to such a bad start. Post Bolton many supporters were calling for the manager’s head and it was widely thought that he had just the Sheffield United and West Ham games to get it right. As things transpired his players didn’t let him down, rolled up their sleeves and delivered a series of results that once again has City looking upwards rather than down.
Stuart Pearce made just the one change from the team that had grabbed the points at West Ham. Goalscorer Demarcus Beasley was given a rare start after his heroics at Upton Park, although he found himself in the centre of midfield as Pearce persisted with a defensive 5-4-1 formation.
The first half was a far from memorable affair. Everton dominated possession but offered nothing, City were simply not at the game. Both teams had shouts for penalties but both would have been harsh if given. Other than that it was tedious New Year fare.
City changed things after the break. Samaras replaced Corradi and Pearce switched to 4-4-2 pushing Beasley out wide. The impact was almost instantaneous with Samaras scoring his first since West Ham at home.
It was Samaras himself that created the chance, breaking from midfield and playing the ball out left to Beasley. I though Howard hesitated and left himself vulnerable to the Beasley cross that allowed Samaras to finish from six yards.
Call me old fashioned but that’s surely what we want from our forwards, the ability to get in the box and finish from short range. Distance shots look very nice but we’ll score more by getting men in the box.
City took heart from their lead and proceeded to dominate play against an Everton side who had taken seven points from their previous three games.
Richards forced a save from Howard with a speculative shot from the edge of the area and Samaras ran out of space after a fine run took him into the box.
Vassell’s pace was constantly a worry to the Everton rearguard and it was from there that City grabbed their second. The ball was played over the Everton defence for Vassell to run onto. His pace took him beyond Neville and into the box. Howard misjudged and took Vassell out, a clear cut penalty the result. The home crowd bayed for Howard to be sent off but Uriah Rennie got this one right with a yellow card. Vassell was last man but he was clearly going away from goal.
In the absence of Joey Barton, Samaras stepped up to take the spot kick and converted it expertly to Howard’s left to give City a comfortable lead.
Comfortable isn’t something City do easily however and after having already forced a fine save out of Nicky Weaver, Everton took advantage of some City lethargy at an incorrectly awarded free kick to pull a goal back from Osman.
Everton sensed something on the cards and pressed forward for the equaliser and were denied a late penalty shout late on. Distin probably did take Osman out rather than the ball but Everton are paying for the reputation they have earned for going over all to easily.
An equaliser would have been unjust however. City were the better team over the second 45 and first half was a non entity. It’s now 9 points from the last three games and a comfortable top half position. Congratulations must go out to the team and management, they have stood up to be counted when it mattered and delivered the goods. Let’s hope it’s the start of something rather than another false dawn.
The first half tactics were wrong. Defensive tactics worked away from home but you sensed that Everton were happy to settle for a point and the first half descended into tedium. Credit can be given to the manager for changing it at half time therefore. He spotted the problems and altered it. For the second game running his substitutions were spot on and changed the game.
Everton are difficult to call. As I said in my preview they are a good side but are also a very beatable side. Beattie looked awful and shouldn’t have started. They seem to have developed a problem over being denied penalties despite it happening to all teams at some stage. Perhaps chickens do come home to roost when you play to the edge of the rules?