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Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Premier League
 Saturday 1 December 2012; 3:00pm
Man City
1 1
 EVERTON
Tevez (pen:43')
Half Time: 1 - 1
Fellaini (33')
Attendance: 47,386
Fixture 15
Referee: Lee Probert

Match Report

When you have to score an extra goal each week just to overcome horrendous officiating and get the result you deserve, something is wrong with the game. Stop me if you've heard this one before...

Granted, on the balance of play, a draw was probably a fair result from what was a tight game, dominated in one half by an Everton side that was anything but the doormat they were in this fixture last season and in the second by a Manchester City team that flattered to deceive and dropped two points at home for only the second time this season.

As the Blues have found to their frustration and cost so far, however, if you don't put the ball in the net enough times, it's hard to win and had referee Lee Probert not gifted the Champions a path back into this game with a hugely controversial penalty award just before half-time, Roberto Mancini might well have been rueing a rare defeat instead of the point his side were fortunate to pick up.

David Moyes, for his part, was left angry at yet more refereeing incompetence but he will rightly feel that unlike some of the annoying games that have ended even in recent weeks, this was a good draw for the Blues. He was rewarded for taking a positive approach to what was Everton's toughtest assignment so far in the campaign with a 33rd-minute lead scored, of course, by Marouane Fellaini and the point was secured with a determined defensive display in the second half in which Mancini's expensively-assembled team forced just one meaningful save from Tim Howard despite the talent amassed in their ranks.

Everton have made a habit of scoring their goals in the first half this season, a fact that would have come as no surprise to the neutral given the impressive way in which they began proceedings, controlling almost exclusively the first five minutes and fashioning the first chances of the game.

Unfortunately, though their approach play was often laudably composed and patient, they continually let themselves down with the final ball or a shot that lacked conviction. Steven Naismith wasted excellent ball work by Darron Gibson early on by dragging a disappointing shot across Joe Hart's goal and Leon Osman didn't do much better a few minutes later with a soft effort when Nikica Jelavic was in space to his left.

And when the Steven Pienaar partnership with Leighton Baines passed fit despite feeling a twinge in his hamstring in the latter stages of Wednesday's draw with Arsenal combined beautifully, the South African failed to find a Blue jersey from a dangerous position near the byline. Jelavic too let a good opening slip away with a poor pass that rolled through to the goalkeeper after doing sterling work to rob Maicon near the touchline and drive into the penalty area unimpeded.

So it wasn't all that surprising, then, that the goal came from a more direct route via a typically threatening delivery from Baines on the left flank. Jelavic couldn't quite get to it and Vincent Kompany could only divert it on towards the back post where Fellaini was lurking to head goalwards. Hart saved well from point-blank range but the big Belgian prodded the rebound over the line with his thigh and Everton were deservedly ahead.

With Gibson orchestrating things superbly in midfield and the players on a seek-and-disrupt mission that kept their hosts under regular pressure, the Blues would enjoy 55% to 45% superiority in the first half and, despite a couple of close calls, were fairly comfortable at the back. Howard did have to punch away a David Silva free kick mid-way though the half and he later pawed a Carlos Tevez header behind from one side of his goal and blocked Edin Dzeko's close-range shot on the other.

It was from that corner that the game's most contentious decision arrived, though. Silva lofted the ball into the area, Osman fell to the turf, Dzeko followed suit with Fellaini barely touching his arm and referee Probert stunned the Everton contingent by pointing to the spot. Repeated reviews of the replays wouldn't make the reason for the decision any clearer and, with no recourse, the visitors had to accept parity when Tevez scored his first goal against them from 12 yards.

The second half was, somewhat predictably, a different proposition for the Blues than had been the first. City came out of the interval very much on the front foot and forced the Everton midfield back a good 10 to 15 yards. The likes of Tony Hibbert and Leighton Baines, who had been playing high up on the home side's flanks, spent less and less time coming forward and Jelavic, whose solid shift would end up consisting of a lot of chasing and attempting to hold the ball up, became noticeably more isolated.

In truth, Moyes could have done with the pace of someone like Kevin Mirallas, who missed his fourth game with a hamstring strain, as an outlet because Jelavic alone wasn't able to make the ball "stick" up front, though he tried gamely enough. And with the likes of Naismith and Osman guilty of poor distribution at times, the ball was coming back at the defence more than was comfortable.

When Everton were able to counter, they visibly lacked pace and a couple of promising chances to catch City out-numbered at the back fizzled out as first Jelavic and then Pienaar couldn't fashion an opening, the latter break ending with Gibson rifling goalwards but seeing his shot come back off a defender.

For all that, though, Mancini's men only really troubled Howard once in 45 minutes, that an Exocet from Maicon from the corner of the box that the American parried it away well. Indeed, once they had weathered what storm City could create for 25 minutes, it was the Blues who had the better chances to take the points in the closing stages.

After Jelavic's rampage on the counter-attack had been stopped by Zabaleta who flattened him unceremoniously just outside the area, the Croatian himself stepped up to take the free kick and almost embarrassed Hart with a shot that bounced in front of the goalkeeper and squirmed behind for a corner as the England man struggled to deal with it.

All in all, a richly deserved point served with a side of yet more annoyance at costly officiating. To come away from the Etihad Stadium feeling hard done by that you didn't win is a mark of progress on the last time this fixture was played and emphasises that as soon as this Everton side can put together a run of victories, they will be very much in the hunt for fourth as Arsenal and Chelsea, in particular, continue to falter.

With Gibson back and looking as good as ever his run of being unbeaten in games where he has played 2/3 or more of match stretches into the 30s now the first key will be the return of Mirallas who has shown he can be the difference in the final third. Hopefully, he will be back for the visit of Spurs next weekend for another difficult game against a rival for the top four. The next will be anything Moyes can do in the transfer window, either in the form of loan acquisitions or a sly purchase, to bolster the strong core of 12 to 15 players that he currently has at his disposal.

The important thing is that though they aren't winning at the moment it's now just one win in 9 in the Premier League they are playing well, remain hard to beat and have the potential to win every game they play. That continues to bode well for the second half of the campaign.

MotM: Darron Gibson

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

Everton dominated much of the first half and deservedly took the lead when Fellaini powered in a goal after Hart had blocked his initial header. But Everton, denied penalties all season, were stunned when Dzeko blatantly threw himself down while holding Fellaini's hand, and Lee Probert awarded a very unfair penalty before the break. Everton withstood the second-half pressure without really threatening and earned a good point off the Champions... although it really should have been three.

Everton faced Manchester City with Leighton Baines and Darron Gibson declared fit enough to play but Kevin Mirallas did not make the teamsheet as David Moyes started with the same team from Wednesday night against Arsenal.

Everton kept possession well for the first three minutes, Naismith firing well wide at the end of it. City's first move saw Kolarov pull up and he was replaced by Zabaletta after 6 minutes.

More good Everton possession if slow and somewhat tentative instead of direct, finished with a typically hopeless Osman shot, well wide. As City started to play, Howard came out well to claim a cross from Maicon but landed awkwardly. The game restarted presumably with a strange solo drop-ball that Howard played as if there had been no stoppage!

The pace of the game was strangely ponderous, with City starting to play just a little more but a dreadful long-ball forward from them went straight behind for a goalkick. Everton meanwhile kept pushing and probing cagily when they got possession. Pienaar got behind the City defence but his pullback only found a sky blue shirt.

City were given a very soft free-kick for a nothing challenge, allowing City to threaten the Everton goal, Howard punching then Dzeko heading wide... their first meaningful attack after 20 mins!

A couple of more deliberate City attacks needed some serious defending, but when Everton did gain possession again, Baines produced the most dreadful ballooned cross imaginable! Is he still injured? Everton kept winning possession back but not getting close enough for the crucial final ball. Next it was Jelavic playing wider and his cross was poor.

More probing finished this time with a much better cross from Baines, slightly deflected, Fellaini powered in his header that somehow Hart stopped but the big man followed up to bundle it in for a goal Everton's controlled and structured play fully deserved.

City responded, again ponderously rather than decisively but Tevez did get a header that Howard had to stretch to push behind. Their next attack finished with some energetic head-tennis and Tevez's shot being defected harmlessly into Howard's grasp as Osman got crushed by Yaya Toure.

A couple of forward balls from Gibson were surprisingly lax as more Blues possession ended tamely, allowing the home side to come forward, Dzecko getting a shot at Howard's knees. From the corner, Fellaini and Dzeko playing tag, Dzeko then cleverly threw himself to the ground and presumably Fellaini was very harshly adjudged to have pulled him over! A ridiculous penalty call; Tevez scored easily.

Lescott and Pienaar came together, Pienaar coming off the worst and Lescott was booked. Fellaini got in another good header that Hart scrambled to push away and the whistle went for half-time.

Everton seemed understandably deflated in the early stages of the second half as City began to dominate possession. Distin so nearly gave it away to Tevez before Everton drove forward but Gibson's shot was very poor, well wide. Tevez was coming to life, terrorizing Jagielka.

The hour mark approached but no sign that Moyes would attempt to change things, the Blues resisting most of what City could develop, but Everton were not using their brief possession anything like as well as they had done before the break. Howard had to punch a really fierce shot from Maicon.

The Everton defending was becoming noticeably more desperate as the momentum swung fully in behind the home side, Everton, squandering any possession they did get by way of relief. Dzeko could have laid it on a plate for Barry but thankfully not, as Aguero came on for Tevez to a rather vocal chorus of boos from the home 'faithful'! Fellaini got booked for a challenge on Zabaleta.

With 20 mins left, Jelavic won a distant free-kick, Baines curling it in for a corner, but his delivery was dreadful and Oviedo came on for Naismith. His first contribution was a poorly overhit cross that sailed over Hart's bar but, since he had come on, Everton had looked brighter. Dzeko could have again punished Everton but chose to head back poorly when well positioned, Howard would have had trouble with a more direct approach.

Mancini then replaced Dzeko with Balotelli for the last 10 mins and more concerted pressure from City to get the winner, with Everton again on the back foot. Possession for the Blues again squandered and the pressure resumed. Jelavic got called for tugging on Nasri's shirt as Everton looked tired and devoid ideas, holding on for a point.

CIty attacked again and another vital interception by Jagielka kept the final ball from reaching its intended target. The Blues broke out and Jelavic had a chance to advance but not the pace. However he was upended for a promising free-kick that Jelavic fired in on Hart who parried it just around the post with Fellaini following in. Corner in the last minute, headed away by Toure and eventually cleared as 3 mins were added.

The Blues regrouped for the final defensive effort as Moyes signalled his intent to leave with a point, Heitinga on for Jelavic. More blocking efforts and headed clearances ran down the clock as the final whistle sounded and a worthy point that perhaps could have been a win if the referee had not been blatantly conned by Dzeko as Arsenal, Chelsea and West Brom all lose.

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Despite having assumed the mantle of draw specialists with their seventh of the season against Arsenal on Wednesday and slipped to sixth in the table behind Tottenham, Everton go into their biggest challenge of the campaign so far in elevated spirits.

Aggrieved at another refereeing decision that didn't go their way in the form of Mikel Arteta's foul on Steven Pienaar and no doubt feeling that with a bit more composure and guile the Blues could have beaten Arsene Wenger's men, David Moyes was nevertheless pleased at the manner that his side fought back from a goal down.

And that will provide a platform on which to take on the Champions in their own back yard this weekend, a place where the Blues have gone and executed a smash-and-grab raid of the three points before. Indeed, the last team to beat Roberto Mancini's side on their own patch was Everton almost two years ago.

Tim Cahill may no longer be around to terrorise the City defence in a fixture in which he just loved to score, but Everton have a few more weapons than was the case last season.

Certainly Moyes's injury list appeared to be easing as his team ploughs into a thick part of the fixture list. Phil Neville was the only medium-term absentee as he recovers from knee surgey but there is now a question mark over Leighton Baines after Moyes revealed the defender had finished the draw with the Gunners with a hamstring strain.

The fact that he played the final quarter of an hour or so with the injury would suggest it isn't serious but it might keep him out of action this weekend, if only as a precaution ahead of the rest of what is a tricky December programme.

Though Sylvain Distin can fill in at left back — and given Moyes's penchant to play central defenders as full-backs, it wouldn't be shock to see the Frenchman deployed there — Bryan Oviedo would be the obvious replacement for Baines. The Costa Rican has looked lively in his appearances as substitute since arriving in August when he has been played on his natural left side.

The camp has been buouyed, though, by the return to training of Kevin Mirallas this week. Whether the Belgian is deemed fit enough to start at the Etihad Stadium remains to be seen but there is no doubt that Everton have missed what he brings to the attack in recent games.

Should he pass a fitness test, Mirallas would likely deplace Steven Naismith from the right wing berth, with the rest of the midfield and forward line unchanged.

There has been no mention of any further injury issues is also renewed concern over Darron Gibson who was substituted after 73 minutes on Wednesday. He would almost certainly have been brought off around that time anyway given his lack of match fitness but he also went down a few minutes earlier with an unspecified knock.

Moyes has since revealed that a bone growth on his troublesome thigh tendon could prompt a recurrence of the problem that sidelined him from the beginning of September until this week but he will be assessed before this weekend's game to see if he suffers any reaction.

With the bulk of the pressure on City and Moyes taking a bit more than a mere "knife to a gun-fight" this time around, the potential for a surprise certainly exists if Everton go in there with the right mindset and approach.

They've shown that when they're on their game, they're a match for and should fear no-one, even if they haven't quite been on their game for a full 90 minutes in some time. City away would be the perfect time to pull out another cracking performance and make up for recently dropped points at home and on the road.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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MAN CITY (4-4-2)
  Hart
  Kompany
  Lescott booked:45+2'
  Kolarov (6' Zabaleta booked:88')
  Y Toure
  Maicon
  Barry
  Silva
  Nasri
  Tevez (68' Aguero)
  Dzeko (80' Balotelli)
  Subs not used
  Pantilimon
  K Toure
  Sinclair
  Garcia

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Hibbert
  Distin
  Jagielka
  Baines
  Naismith (73' Oviedo)
  Osman
  Gibson
  Pienaar
  Fellaini booked:69'
  Jelavic (90+2' Heitinga)
  Subs not used
  Mucha
  Hitzlsperger
  Barkley
  Vellios
  Gueye
  Unavailable
  Bidwell (loan)
  Anichebe (injured)
  Coleman (injured)
  Mirallas (injured)
  Neville (injured)
   

Premier League Scores
Saturday
Arsenal 0 - 2 Swansea
Fulham 0 - 3 Tottenham
Liverpool 1 - 0 So'hampton
Man City 1 - 1 Everton
QPR 1 - 1 Aston Villa
Reading 3 - 4 Man United
West Brom 0 - 1 Stoke City
West Ham 3 - 1 Chelsea
Sunday
Norwich 2 - 1 Sunderland
Monday
Newcastle 3 - 0 Wigan


Team Pts
1 Manchester United 36
2 Manchester City 33
3 Chelsea 26
4 Tottenham Hotspur 26
5 West Bromwich Albion 26
6 Everton 23
7 Swansea City 23
8 West Ham United 22
9 Stoke City 22
10 Arsenal 21
11 Liverpool 19
12 Norwich City 19
13 Fulham 17
14 Newcastle United 17
15 Aston Villa 14
16 Wigan Athletic 14
17 Sunderland 13
18 Southampton 12
19 Reading 9
20 Queens Park Rangers 6
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