Forced to make changes, with Pienaar and Heitinga injured, David Moyes picked Coleman and Osman (his 200th Everton game) on the flanks and the big surprise Victor Anichebe starting as the lone striker up-front. Saha thankfully did not start but was one of four strikers on the bench, with Yakubu, Beckford and Vaughan. For City, no sign of Lescott, Adebyor, or Santa Cruz... Jτ on the bench.
If the first few minutes were anything to go by, this game would see Everton chasing shadows with City having almost all the possession. But when they did get possession, an attack down the right, then the left and great cross from Baines was headed on by Anichebe and picked up by Coleman on the byline, who chipped back a training pitch ball for Cahill to nod sweetly just inside the post with less than 4 mins gone.
On 10 mins, Silva was set up all in the clear on the Everton right by Yaya Toure and looked to belt it home but he missed the target completely. City started to press and won their first corner that Howard held comfortably. Cahill needed breif treatment for a head knock, Zabaleta coming off worse and going down the tunnel for a full head bandage job to cover four stiches.
Everton got their second goal in the 19th minute, and a thing of beauty it was. After a lngthy passing movement that started in the Everton penalty area, Anichebe got his first real involvement, interchanging down the left with Baines, then crossing intelligently low to Cahill's feet, while Baines ran in to pick up the gently played return ball that the left back then curled sweetly around Hart and inside the far post with his wrong foot. Lovely!!! Just the sweetest of movement, interpassing, set-up and finish a really classic goal of the highest quality.
Kompany was yellow-carded for a poor block on Rodwell as he successfully prevented some good forward movement down the right. Everton were hoping to sit on the lead and settled into a good pattern of relatively calm control at the back but City had other ideaas, forcing mistakes that led to two wrongly called corners and a couple of serious half-chances.
Osman got himself on a laboured breakaway and looked to create a scoring chance on his own but was so weak in the end, it was pathetic, his half-shot clipping off the covering defender's ankle and lamely into Hart's hands. But it was becoming a rarity as Everton's possession led far too often to aimless hoofball clearances
A mad sequence of blocked shots and goalmouth panic on the half-hour was the direct result of such defensive caution, as shot after City shot was blocked away. Anichebe got away down the left and Milner had to foul him.
Fellaini, incredibly yellow-carded for a midfield challenge on Tevez that won the ball but his foot movement looked like too much like a stamp. Cahill then was dispossesd and fouled as he tackled back. A Kolarov free-kick was going to hit the post but Howard fingertipped it wide and from the corner Anichebe was the furthest forward in the Everton D! his clearance to no-one providing for another attack from City and more blocked shots and misses. Everton very much under the cosh... but so far holding out.
When Everton did break out and give themselves some respite, the annoyance and frustration among the City players was palpable as they struggled to deny Everton the run of the ball up to half-time. Coleman looked to break again but his pass to Rodwell was poor. Jagielka had to be alert when Yaya Toure looked to capitalise.
Mancini bought on Adam Johnson in place of James Milner for the restart. Fellaini again won a challenge with Balotelli, who went down like a wimp. Kolarov picked up and wellied an early clearnace that needed a very good save from Howard as City ramped up their attack. When Everton did go forward, too often it ended abruptly with mindless balls, one lofted by Cahill from the wing to the centre-circle.
Sitting back, standing off, defending deep... another Kolarov shot fizzing just wide. Osman was the next to bash Zabaletta as the tempo of the game was successfully being strangled by the cold calm Everton defence, epitomized by a great piece of defensive work by Distin. Anichebe chased a lost ball and crashed into Hart for an unavoidable yellow card. Everton's failing in possession, though remainded all too evident, with Rodwell trying to sell a dummy that was far too easily picked off.... and another spell of intense pressure / defending practice ensued.
Osman got called for a silly high foot on Ballatelli; from the kick, Kolarov drove pooly into the Everton wall and just as Anichebe was about to be subbed by Saha, he divided in again on Balottili second yellow card, and red. Ridiculous. Everton down to 10 men for the last 30 mins. Okay... 4-4-1-0... backs to the wall!
City continued to press but much the same pattern as against 11 men with lots of blocks and long-distance prods. Distin was solid as a rock. City screams for handball against Jagielka when the ball clipped off his hip... And more rabid screams again when Silva smashed he ball into Neville's arm from 5 yards. Barry then came closest, skimming the top of the bar.
With 20 mins left, Balotelli looked to have got behind the Everton defence but slipped and missed. Then, all the blocking went wrong when Yaya Toure fired across goal and the ball clipped off Jagielka's shin and into the net for an own goal. A few more attacks and shots as Moyes lectured Bilyaletdinov before switching him in for Osman.
Johnson fired just over after Moyes bought Saha on for Coleman... a strange one, that. City looked to have equalized when a long ball by Toure released Balotelli who beat Howard but not the post and then fought with Howard who stopped a certain goal in the follow-up shot from Tevez going in.
Everton's third substitution was a surprise, Jagielka going off for Hibbert, presumably due to injury, with 10 desperate minutes of more bus-parking. Balotelli finally went off, and Everton played some rare football in City's half, as Jτ came on. But it didn't last long as City came back, Hibbert blocking and Kolarov trying a scoring shot from an impossible angle.
A better move from City looked to have beaten the Everton defence but Hibbert got his hip in the way of a clip from Tevez that was goalbound. Que more rabid poenalty screams from the poor Mancs. A feirce long-range shot from Yaya Toure was incredibly touched around the post by Howard's fingertips. Another corner, Howard needing to produce a solid stop from Silva.
Jτ looked dangerous but he was offside as the clock finally ticked to 90 mins, with Rodwell and Neville taking it down into the corner and Barry losing his rag over a throw-in call. Three throw-ins later and Neville finally gave it away with the board showing 4 mins of added time.
Another City attack, a clssic Tevez move inside, a blistering shot... and an absolutely fabulous save by Howard to keep the lead into the 93rd minute. Excellent work by Disiin, bringing he ball out of defence, cut down by Yaya Toure, yellow card. More fun and games in the last minute, Bily off on a run, Toure took him out: second yellow and red.
Final whistle, fabulous result. Well played, Blues.
Playing at the City of Manchester Stadium clearly agrees with Everton these days. Coming into this Monday evening fixture, one of only three games from this week's programme to survive the weather, they'd won their last three games on Manchester City's home turf and they again frustrated Roberto Mancini's side for 90 minutes before departing back along the M62 with all three points... all despite playing the last half hour with 10 men.
The win, only the Blues' second on the road all season, was vital and will have warmed the hearts of those hardy Evertonian souls who braved temperatures languishing at -6 at kick off. But the second half was a grind as City tried to press home their one-man advantage until, that is, Kolo Toure joined Victor Anichebe down the tunnel after picking up his second yellow card and royal blue-shirted heroes threw everything between them and Tim Howard's goal, repelling attack after attack until, finally, Yaya Toure managed to find the net... but only via the leg of Phil Jagielka.
In the end, despite then losing Jagielka to an apparent injury, David Moyes's side held out valiantly thanks largely to towering displays by Howard and ex-City man, Sylvain Distin. The American goalkeeper made a string of important stops while Distin continued the form that has made him an early front-runner for player of the season by shackling Carlos Tevez and generally dominating his sphere of influence all game.
Seemingly adjusting to the icy conditions quicker than their hosts, an Everton side featuring two changes from the one that had started against Wigan, stole into an early lead. There were barely three minutes on the clock when Anichebe could only glance a Leighton Baines cross beyond the City goal where Seamus Coleman picked up the loose ball and picked out Tim Cahill who else perfectly. With no one near him, the Australian nodded a simple header inside Joe Hart's near post to score his ninth goal of the season, his third in a row at Eastlands, and hand the Blues the lead.
Though City eventually adjusted to the slippery surface and David Silva had half the stadium thinking he'd equalised with a left-footed half volley that rippled the side netting, a lovely Everton move ended with a second goal after 18 minutes. Baines fed Anichebe down the left flank before charging inside on the overlap while the striker found Cahill in the area. He laid it back first time into the path of Baines who picked his spot in the far corner of the goal with a placed right-footed shot that left the 'keeper with no chance.
2-0 and the stadium had become a caludron of frustration that bled from the home fans to City boss Roberto Mancini who was already venting his spleen at Cahill for a clash of heads that meant that Zabaleta was in the dressing room getting stitches when the Blues scored the second goal. Now he was staring defeat in the face. not to mention also the prospect of passing up a gilt-edged opportunity to top the Premier League table over Christmas following the postponement of his rivals' matches over the weekend.
Not surprisingly, the pressure began to build on Everton who sat back a little and when Rodwell had headed behind after Zabaleta had been given the freedom of Eastlands down City's right flank and all the time he needed to pick out a cross, Balotelli volleyed the resulting corner over the bar.
Then, with a little over half an hour played, a passage of play that would be repeated many times in the second half. With Everton unable to get the ball away from their area, Vincent Kompany's shot following a corner was blocked by Jagielka and Silva hammered the rebound goalwards where it struck Phil Neville's arm, the home fans baying for handball on both occasions. Again SIlva's shot was blocked as the ball pinged around the visitors' area and Jagielka finally relieved the pressure when his lunge denied Zabaleta.
That spell of panic aside, Everton were fairly comfortable in the first half and only a direct free-kick attempt by Kolorov that was probably going to cannon off the outside of the post until Howard finger-tipped it wide threatened to pare back their two-goal advantage.
Undeterred, Kolorov tried his luck again three times in the early stages of the second half, first driving a powerful half-volley that Howard, leaping to his left, fisted away, then rifling a 20-yard shot narrowly wide, before finally smashing another free kick into the wall after Leon Osman, playing in place of the injured Steven Pienaar, had been adjudged to have fouled Zabaleta.
A few minutes earlier, Anichebe had been very harshly booked by referee Peter Walton for colliding with Hart as he tried to charge down a clearance and it was a decision that would take on much larger significance on the hour mark when the young striker, who was about to be substituted, caught Zabaleta in full flight and was flashed a second yellow card.
Predictably, Everton then had to dig in and defend their lead and City came forward with renewed vigour as the half wore on. Silva was again denied by Neville's arm and then again by Jagielka before Gareth Barry's dipping volley grazed the top of Howard's crossbar.
But the pressure told in the 72nd minute when Silva faked a shot and slipped the ball through to Adam Johnson. When he found the route to goal blocked Distin, he laid it off to Yaya Toure whose shot deflected off Jagielka's leg and crept inside the far post to make it 2-1.
Moyes responded by withdrawing the tiring Osman in favour of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and then following up a minute later with the introduction of Louis Saha for Coleman, but it all looked for nought with 12 minutes left when Yaya Toure sprung the offside trap to put Balotelli in on goal. The Italian clipped the ball over Howard but then watched as it bounced off the post and back in play in front of the yawning goal. As they chased down the loose ball, Howard did enough to shoulder Balotelli to the side before making a sprawling block to deny Tevez from the angle.
It was a heart-stopping moment and it would be the closest City would come to wresting two points away from Everton, even when Jagielka was forced off with an injury and Tony Hibbert was pressed into service as an emergency central defender. Indeed, the verteran picked up where Jags had left off, charging down Barry's shot in the 85th minute and then inadvertantly stopping Silva's shot with his arm a minute later.
Desperate, City kept coming forward and when Yaya Toure was given too much time to set up a shot from outside the box, Howard tipped it wide at full stretch before turning around and berating his teammates for backing off and allowing the shot in the first place. And the USA international was on hand in stoppage time to foil Tevez with another excellent stop, a two-handed parry that pushed the ball away to safety.
That left enough time for Kolo Toure, who'd been booked moments earlier for chopping Distin down as he tried to maraude down the right wing, to get his marching orders from the referee for clipping Bilyaletdinov's heels as he swept past him on the counter-attack. It evened the teams in terms of numbers but this was to be Everton's night in terms of the scoreline as the final whistle sounded a minute later.
Given the frigid conditions, this was never going to be a vintage performance but it has to be said that Moyes's side played some pretty tidy and patient football at times, even without their two main playmakers in the form of Mikel Arteta and Pienaar. Marouane Fellaini was a strong presence in the defensive midfield anchor role, breaking up attacks and putting himself about with purpose (so much so that he was booked for showing his studs in a crunching tackle with Tevez) and though Jack Rodwell didn't assume much of an attacking or playmaker role, the Blues still managed to fashion two nice goals from the left flank, thanks to Baines.
On the right, Coleman's only real contribution all evening going forward was the assist for Cahill's goal and Neville rarely ventured forward so the final analysis centres more on the defence and an impressive team performance than any lauding of the Blues' attacking play.
In terms of the season, Everton avoided an eighth game without a win, a milestone they haven't reached for 18 years, and it could yet provide a belated catalyst to reignite their dimming European hopes. Certainly, an unexpected win away at title-chasing opposition should provide a shot in the arm for morale, but Cahill's loomimg absence in the New Year will continue to provide cause for concern, unless Moyes has a rabbit to pull out of the hat early in the transfer window.
Howard 9*, Neville 7, Jagielka 8 (Hibbert 7), Distin 9, Baines 7, Fellaini 8, Rodwell 7, Coleman 6 (Saha 7), Osman 6 (Bilyaletdinov 7), Cahill 8, Anichebe 6
When you're looking for your first win in eight games, a trip to title-chasing Manchester City is not high on the list of places you want to go. The Everton that swaggered out of the City of Manchester Stadium back in March with a handsome 2-0 victory seems like a distant memory now as David Moyes's side struggle for form, goals and confidence and they come into this game just two points above the drop zone.
Certainly, the man who scored the killer goal in that game, Mikel Arteta, will not be present as he serves the final match of his suspension but Tim Cahill, the Blues' top scorer and a man who has made a habit of scoring on City's home turf, will be in the line-up barring any last-minute injuries.
Moyes will likely be without his main creative outlet, though, as Steven Pienaar is a big doubt with a groin injury that could sideline him for a week and that will force a change in midfield. Victor Anichebe replaced him last weekend against Wigan to almost zero effect so it will be interesting to see if the manager elects to bring in someone else, like Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Magaye Gueye or the apparently fit-again Leon Osman.
And with Louis Saha mis-firing, Jermaine Beckford blowing hot and cold and Yakubu, arguably the most consistent of the three thus far seemingly — and inexplicably — frozen out, it's anyone's guess who will start up front.
City boss Roberto Mancini, for his part, is mulling over whether to play Carlos Tevez even though the Argentine handed in a transfer request last week.
At the time of writing, the game is set to go ahead despite four of Saturday's fixtures being called off and all three of Sunday's falling foul of the Arctic blast currently wreaking havoc across the country but with both midfield string-pullers missing it's hard to see how Everton can spring a repeat of March's impressive triumph... though you always live in hope!
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|When Skies Are Grey||Report|
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|4 the Game||Report|
|MAN CITY (4-4-2)|
|Milner (46' A Johnson)|
|Balotelli (83' Jo)|
|Subs not used|
|Jagielka (79' Hibbert)|
|Coleman (76' Saha)|
|Osman (75' Bilyaletdinov)|
|Subs not used|
|Premier League Scores|
|11||West Bromwich Albion||22|
|20||West Ham United||13|