Manchester City 3 - 1 Everton

If Everton's ascent to the top four on the back of last Monday's win over Newcastle United had led to some premature flights of Champions League fancy from some quarters, this lunchtime trip the Etihad Stadium served as something of a reality check.

The Blues' record as the only unbeaten side in the Premier League came to a disappointing end at the hands, to a large degree, of simple economics and some refereeing incompetence thrown in for good measure. There could be no argument over the result even if another dreadful penalty award in this fixture robbed Roberto Martinez's side of a crack at grabbing a late equaliser.

Despite another strong start and another impressive goal from Romelu Lukaku, a draw would have flattered Everton. They were unable to sustain their early momentum or contain the slick passing move that carved them open for Alvaro Negredo's leveller within a minute of the Blues going ahead. And when Sergio Aguero capitalised on a lapse in concentration on the stroke of half time to put Manuel Pellegrini's men ahead, there was an air of inevitabiity about the result.

Put simply, City did not have the off-day that Everton were hoping would follow their successive defeats to Aston Villa and Bayern Munich and, in the final reckoning, their galaxy of attacking talent was just too quick in mind and feet and too clinical in the final third, certainly in a manner that Everton couldn't emulate with any regularity.

For the bulk of the first half, though, this was the even and pulsating contest of its billing. Using the extra man in midfield to good effect, the Blues were able to carry out their now-familiar passing and possession strategy and though it was the home side who carried the greater threat in the opposition penalty area in the first quarter of an hour – Tim Howard had to push Yaya Toure's placed shot behind for a corner and Aleksander Kolarov whipped a free kick into the side-netting – it was Everton who drew first blood.

Phil Jagielka raked a long ball through the City defence where Lukaku gave Joleon Lescott the slip with consummate ease and fired a low shot that Joe Hart couldn't prevent from sneaking in the far corner by way of the goalkeeper's glove.

The home side hit right back, though, with a typically rapier-like passing exchange where Toure tucked a neat ball in between Jagielka and Seamus Coleman and Negredo couldn't miss with just Howard to beat.

City's speed on the counter would haunt Everton later in the half but it almost paid rapid dividends three minutes later when Ross Barkley eschewed a shooting opportunity from the edge of the box and was robbed as he tried to jink past his marker. Within seconds, Negredo looked in but Sylvain Distin defied his 35 years with excellent pace to get back and concede the corner.

Referee Jon Moss, one of those officials from whom you know there is going to be trouble as soon as you find out he will be the man in the middle, then embarked on a series of inconsistent decisions. First he harshly adjudged Kevin Mirallas of commiting a foul in a dangerous area and City almost created a carbon-copy of their goal but Aguero planted his shot wide of the far post; then, having correctly booked Vincent Kompany for chopping down Lukaku as he tried to race away on a breakaway, he let David Silva escape a yellow card for the exact infingement. (Silva would eventually and belatedly be booked in the second half, censure that should have seen him down the tunnel for an early bath.)

Insult was then added to later injury when Nstasic, on as a substitute for the injured Kompany, clearly shoved Lukaku over as he tried to keep the ball in by the byline but the referee simply signalled for a goalkick.

Undone by incisive passing for the first goal, Everton were forced to do some inward reflection for City's second. Still preoccupied by a spat between Coleman and Negredo in which the Irishman had accused the Spaniard of diving to try and win a penalty, the Blues allowed the home side to move the ball effortlessly and unimpeded from one box to the other where Silva, afforded all the space he needed by Leon Osman, fed Aguero who fired unerringly across Howard and into the far corner to make it 2-1.

Whether it was a sudden inferiority complex or just an inability to raise their game sufficiently after half time, the coordinated response that the traveling fans were hoping for from Everton never really materialised and the second 45 minutes were largely frustrating.

As has often been the case this season as Martinez struggles to find the right way of utilising his explosive talents, Mirallas had been drifting in and out of the game and yet had he managed to get a toe on a superb defence-splitting seven minutes into the second period, the Belgian would have been clean through on Hart. The ball squirted past him, though, and the chance evaporated.

It was a rare opportunity as Everton lost for long periods their ability to simply keep the ball or make anything stick up front. Steven Naismith, having his now-familiarly mercurial performance, nearly created a rare chance when he ghosted past Kolarov but his cross was too hard and ended up out for a throw-in on the far side.

Martinez moved to change things with an hour gone, withdrawing Mirallas for Gerard Deulofeu and Osman for Darron Gibson but the fresh legs had only been on the field a few minutes when referee Moss struck again with an incident distrubingly similar to one in this fixture last season where Marouane Fellaini was penalised for nothing.

Zabaleta's run into the box had not been tracked but as Coleman belatedly tried to get goal side, his outstretched arm brushed the Argentine and he simply crumpled to the ground in what would ordinarily have been a lame attempt to win a foul. Moss fell for it and pointed to the spot, Aguero took the penalty, Howard managed to paw it onto the post, only for the ball to bounce off the American's head an into the goal. It was that sort of day and that was more or less that as the Blues were largely a spent force.

Arouna Kone replaced the flagging Lukaku late on but offered little beyond an inexplicable daisy-cutter from 25-plus yards that Hart scooped up easily and the game fizzled out towards the final whistle and Everton's first defeat of the Premier League campaign.

This was, unfortunately, one of those games where the gulf in resources and, consequently, quality between City and Everton was cruelly underscored. Pellegrini's men were, as they should be with all that money and talent, just too good on the day and though Everton will count the cost of some slack defending, question their own inabiity to sustain the form they showed in patches in the first half and point to Moss' awful decision-making at crucial junctures, Martinez can have few qualms about the result.

Of course, though this does put the damper on that rising optimism, it is a long season and the top four or Europa League qualification is not out of the question if the manager can tinker with his team and start getting more consistency out of his players over the 90 minutes. Certainly, in Lukaku, they have the vital ingredient that was missing for the vast majority of David Moyes's reign and that is a reliable, powerful and clinical goalscorer. With better and more consistent service, the Belgian has the talent to score the goals to win Everton games but it does need to be provided more consistently.

The loss of Gareth Barry's calming influence and ability to break up opposition attacks was also a factor but so, too, was the shortage of ideas in the final third, particularly after City's defensive rock, Kompany, had left the fray. He will be back for the Hull game and it's by winning those sorts of games that the Blues will stay in the reckoning for Europe this season; a win at the Etihad would have been an unexpected bonus, but it wasn't to be.

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Zaid Omar
983 Posted 06/10/2013 at 07:39:21
Nice report Lyndon. Fair analysis. Overall, despite the dubious decisions, City were much better on the day. So much so that going into the last 10 minutes, I was hoping we didnt concede another couple more goals which would have really been demoralising. And to be honest City carved out some really good opportunities in the first half as well

We need to put this behind us quickly and focus on the positives so far this season. With Barry, Pienaar still to return there is still reason for optimism... But a worrying sign is the fact that we have been conceding some really soft goals over the last few games. We need to tighten up quick.

Paul Andrews
984 Posted 06/10/2013 at 07:46:55
The lack of protection from the midfield to our back four was the main reason for this defeat.
If you allow players of the quality of Toure and Silva to get on the ball 30 yards from goal you will be in trouble.
McCarthy excepted we offered no protection.
Ian Bennett
986 Posted 06/10/2013 at 07:59:07
Our passing went to pot in the second half, along with our hopes. The class of Negredo, Silva, Toure, and Aguerro all told in the end, with City picking their best side adding the work rate of Milner into the mix. What you can do with £300m....

McCarthy and Osman did pretty well in the first half, but got totally overrun in the second. Mirallas had another one of those games. He's a favourite of mine, but it's not quite working at the moment. Lukaku faded badly in the second, whilst players around him also struggled. I can't help but think it would have been more effective sticking Kone up with him.

Not many sides will go to City and win. The Premiership doesn't have many teams of Bayern's ilk, whilst it was clearly a jump to far for us to win away from the old lady, yet. The referee was a complete homer, which Mark Halsey confirmed with his insights, but that is clutching at straws as City looked pretty comfortable in the end.

Sam Hoare
988 Posted 06/10/2013 at 08:24:02
Can't afford to have an off day at places like the Etihad and players like Coleman, Mirallas and Barkley were far from their best.

Shows how hard it will be to keep up in the league with the likes of City as well as probably Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal. Still get Gibson and Pienaar fit, Barry back in Lukaku a bit fitter and we have every chance of being up there.

Ajay Gopal
989 Posted 06/10/2013 at 09:03:15
The front 5 of Barkley, Lukaku (goal apart), Mirallas, Osman and Naismith had a really bad day at office. Nothing that they did came off. If it hadn't been for McCarthy, we would have been totally over-run. With a couple of world-class mid-fielders around McCarthy (Barry is one of them) - we can really impose ourselves on teams. We desperately need a creative type to provide the opportunities to the front 3 of Barkley, Lukaku and Mirallas - a 'cheaper' Mesut Ozil, if you like.
Sharabi Singh
991 Posted 06/10/2013 at 09:11:21
Regardless of the gulf in resources and bringing our champions league push back down to earth the referee did have a poor game. If only he had just been consistent the score would have been closer, admittedly yes we still would have lost. Man City are a top team and will best us at the Etihad more times than they will lose but it would be nice to be given a fair crack at the whip.
Raymond Fox
993 Posted 06/10/2013 at 09:20:08
Nice report Lyndon, sums up my thoughts.

We were short 3 maybe 4 class players, and was over run by a better side in second half.

It was a reality check for us, I think we need a plan B against the top sides, it should be a lesson to be took on board.

It will make us a better side in the future.

Craig Fletcher
999 Posted 06/10/2013 at 09:43:32
Coleman especially had a mare yesterday; and I think we missed Barry and a fit Gibson in midfield (not to detract from McCarthy, who put in a very decent shift). I do wonder if Heitinga as defensive mid may have helped today, as at times McCarthy was overrun and having to do the work of two.
The International break has come at the right time for us. Hopefully Gibson and Pienaar will recover from their injuries, and with Barry back we'll pretty much be back to full strength. Lets put yesterday's result behind us and plan for three points at home to Hull.
Peter O'Connor
008 Posted 06/10/2013 at 10:54:56
Big gulf in quality.
Rubbish ref.
Our players aren't fit enough.
We don't think quick enough.
We don't move quick enough.
Sulked when ref decisions go against us - something we do time and time again.
Lack of fire in the belly.

Otherwise we would have won.

Would I rather have Moyes back .... er.... NO.

Lee Robinson
009 Posted 06/10/2013 at 10:51:55
I don't think Coleman had a mare at all, he gave everything he could, I wish Baines was playing to his level of commitment and drive at the moment.

At the end of the day we played them at a bad time, coming from 2 successive defeats, they were never going to lose 3 in a row. We went toe to toe with them first half and for me were the better team. Now that is something to be proud of and something we can take forward, especially when you look at there side. Our midfield was never going to cope for 90mins against an on song Silva and Toure and against a ref like that. Especially when the majority of our side didn't turn up. I think we needed Mirallas and Lukaku on top form today and they weren't. Second half Lukaku's hold up play was non existent, the ball bounced off Naismith and he gave the ball away, which couldn't compete against the stars of City, not rocket science.

The better team won, it happens and I'm not surprised but there are many positives to be taken from this.I think Martinez knows where the weak spots are and will replace in Jan, something which should have been addressed a long time ago if we were to progress rather than stand still

David Hallwood
013 Posted 06/10/2013 at 11:24:59
Great report Lyndon, and bang on the money about resources and class. For Everton to compete with the billionaires all the players have got to turn up. For instance Naismith, who I've always thought gets OTT abuse on this site may play a blinder (s) get MOM a couple of times but he will never be Aguero, and so it goes on.

Personally I don't think we're that far away and we're better than 14-15 other teams but to be better than 17 will need lots of luck with injuries, suspensions form etc-oh and a ref better than the twat that we had yesterday, because we ain't got the money for the Aguero and Silva's of the world.

Phil Friedman
035 Posted 06/10/2013 at 13:48:46
Let's be be honest, this loss was mostly down to Coleman. He's been great generally, but he was ball-watching on their first goal, lost it with Negredo and that lapse cost us the second, and although the penalty was very soft, he put himself in the position to have it be called. I like the lad, but he did seem intimidated playing in the Eithiad.
Paul Andrews
038 Posted 06/10/2013 at 14:19:46
He had a very rare bad game.

I don't think much would scare Seamus. Looking at past incidents, the last thing he would be is intimidated.

Brent Stephens
041 Posted 06/10/2013 at 14:27:46
Phil #035 "although the penalty was very soft, he put himself in the position to have it be called".

"in the position" - isn't that what marking up is all about? Or should we stand off the opposition?

James Stewart
044 Posted 06/10/2013 at 14:46:44
Don't really agree with the title of this piece at all. Wasn't impressed by City at all. There certainly wasn't a gulf in class. With a ref like that there was no way we could have got anything from the game so you just have to chalk it up to one of those days.

It wasn't like it was just the penalty call. Silva should have had 3 yellows and Zabeleta should have had 2. Negrado squares up to Coleman and he fails to stop play. They score. I could go on. It was a textbook example of the piss poor standard of refereeing these days.

Phil Sammon
046 Posted 06/10/2013 at 14:48:39
Coleman wasn't on form and I was disappointed at his involvement in the Negredo incident, though he was clearly not the instigator. However I don't see how anyone can even slightly blame him for the penalty. It wasn't even a risky challenge. When footballers run side-by-side, they put their arms out. This happens literally hundreds of times every game. It was never a foul and the refs had a shocker.

If it helps anyone sleep tonight, my mate gobbed on Jon Moss' car in 1996.

Ross Edwards
047 Posted 06/10/2013 at 15:04:40
It also helps when you have a completely biased referee ruining the game.
Jay Harris
070 Posted 06/10/2013 at 15:53:52
Negative comments about Coleman are very unfair IMO.

He was the one player trying to get us back in the game and gave 100% throughout unlike Leighton who looks totally disinterested.

If super Kev doesn't buck up I would consider bringing Stones in at RB and pushing Seamus up.

Naismith for all his endeavor and workrate just doesn't have the technical ability to play at this level.

David Price
072 Posted 06/10/2013 at 16:07:25
I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the red card Milner should have got instead of yellow. That and the two penalty calls made 3 big decisions went their way — not moaning just a fact that changed the game.
Phil Sammon
076 Posted 06/10/2013 at 16:17:48
It wasn't a red card in a million years David. He went in very hard and got the ball.

If one of our lads had walked for that I'd have been aghast.

Tony Marsh
080 Posted 06/10/2013 at 16:20:08
I think we more than held our own first half and could of gone in at HT 2-1 up with City down to 10 men. What the fuck can you do when the 12th man is not the crowd but the referee? I don't care who you are and who you are playing, if the Ref has an agenda, you wont win. Tactics and gameplans become irrelevant and players' heads drop. There is no way City would've won yesterday if that snidey twat ref had any morals or backbone.

Discuss away at your lesiure the merits of the City squad and quality players. Personally I think they had to do very little to win as the shithouse officals did it for them. It's enough to want to turn your back on the sport the way it's going. Bent and predictable.

Michael Kenrick
084 Posted 06/10/2013 at 16:36:52
I agree with David, it was a horrible challenge. The only reason he 'got' the ball, as you say, is because his foot was so high coming in, and McCarthy chipped the ball up fractionally ahead of the challenge.

I mentioned it as a red-card challenge as I saw it yesterday and it looks no different on replay. I also mentioned the other incidents in my summary. They were important for the effect they had on the psyche of our players — they should't have had that effect, as we know we have to play the referee as well in games like this. But by half-time, so many crucial calls had been more than favourable to the home side, this understandably affected our spirit and determination in the second half.

That's what lost us the game — not this "knife to a gunfight" bollocks. We've shown we can go toe to toe with the moneybags sides, so let's not make that excuse anymore please.

Linda Morrison
090 Posted 06/10/2013 at 16:57:10
Agree totally with David about the challenge, penalties etc. Don't be too hard on the players we really missed Barry and Gibson's not 100% fit yet. I think that Baines should be allowed to go in January, in today's press it states contract talks have stalled and apart from the free kicks he isn't the player he was his minds been turned and he wants away. He should have put in a transfer request like MF

If MU offer money plus a player they should take it

Bill Gall
097 Posted 06/10/2013 at 16:47:17
A previous comment I made stated that watching the game yesterday City played the type of football that Martinez would like to duplicate but the problem is our midfield does not have the class of City. Yes, Everton does not have the finances that city have but we still insist on playing players who are no longer Premier League standard.

The midfield consists of: (a) Gibson who will only play in 50% of games if he is lucky; (b) Osman & Naismith who to me are only fit for 30 or 40 min as subtitutes; and (c) Pienaar who so far this year we don't know how good he will be.

Living in Canada I only get to watch the games on TV but, with Barkley establishing himself and McCarthy starting to show promise of a permanent position in the team, I would like to ask if there are any young players in the Under-18 or Under-21 teams that deserve a chance to become a 1st team midfield player that can improve on the players in (a) & (b).

Mike Oates
130 Posted 06/10/2013 at 17:55:34
On reflection, and after initially having a real go at Coleman for his poor defensive performance, I now must also criticise Baines for his poor all round performance, particularly when with about 15 mins to go he just gave up, slowly wandering back, totally disinterested particularly with Deulofeu and Barkley's inability at that stage to pass the ball to a teammate only 10 yards away. He looks as though it finally dawned on him that that this side isn't up for it and he should have jumped ship with Fellaini.
Paul Andrews
134 Posted 06/10/2013 at 19:46:02

Have you considered the anonymous performance of Mirallas? And the need for Baines to do both his and Mirallas's job?

That resulted in one of the central midfielders having to tack across, leaving big gaps in central midfield.

Brian Sharples
153 Posted 06/10/2013 at 19:56:02
After more than a year of Mirallas, I have to say he greatly disappoints me. Baines must be praying for the day Pienaar returns to provide some meaningful support on the left.

Of course, we know what he is capable of but he flits in and out of games and is always a spent force after an hour. Unfortunately, Delboy looks to be of much the same ilk so I think a decent winger is already a January necessity.

John Zapa
157 Posted 06/10/2013 at 20:10:24
Can't complain about the result. How many of that starting 11 would make it into City's starting 11? None. I don't think any would even make City's bench.
Brent Stephens
158 Posted 06/10/2013 at 20:16:23
Mirallas also pulls out of a tackle too often. And he's not a small guy.
Craig Fletcher
196 Posted 06/10/2013 at 23:35:05
Agree with Brian (153) re Baines - he has looked a shadow of himself recently (free kicks v West Ham aside) but it's no coincidence that with Pienaar out, we're a much-reduced attacking force down our left. Pienaar seems to bring the best out of Baines; and at times on Saturday Baines just looked exasparated and generally pissed off at his teamates. It wasn't so much that he couldn't be arsed, I think more disappointment that they weren't doing more to bring him into the game. Likewise, I think Miralles complements Coleman better down our right.
Gavin McGarvey
200 Posted 06/10/2013 at 23:55:30
Not sure what's going on with Baines. I know him and Pienaar have a great understanding, but there seems to be a bit more to it than that. Does RM want him to go forward less? Is Pienaar's replacement not covering for him when he does? Even taking this into consideration it's strange watching Everton and not seeing Baines providing a threat from the wings.

James Flynn
213 Posted 06/10/2013 at 23:40:40
More concerned we appear to run out of gas in the 2nd half. Don't like that. Clubs knew they had their hands full for 90 minutes when Everton was next up. What's happened?

There's a schedule of 38 games. I don't want to hear about "transition". We need to get the 3 points. Now, not in 2015.

David Ellis
221 Posted 07/10/2013 at 03:36:11
Lyndon - I agree with the report.

I thought Coleman had a lot of good moments and outshone Baines (not for the first time).

McCarthy seemed to put in a good shift and is a neat player that covers a lot of ground.

Don't think the ref changed the result. Penalty was soft but Seamus tried to grab the guy with his arm. Its not allowed. We can't complain (but there were similar shouts at the other end which is disappointing).

Overall there was a massive gap in class and I don't think adding Barry and Pienaar would have been enough to make up the difference. We are still a good side and carry a real threat in Barkley and Lukaku. But we are top 7 not top 4 at the moment. It was always going to be hard to get a win, but the manner of this defeat was very disappointing.

Also Naismith - close control is just not up to standard. He's a trier and gets in good positions. But the way we try and pass it around too many moved break down with his inability to control it well enough.

Phil Gardner
263 Posted 07/10/2013 at 11:29:09
Along with the EB's deconstruction, this was the best article I've read re the game.

If RM can get the side's energy levels and tempo up to that of a DM team, we'll be laughing.

Mirallas needs to improve in my book, he's one idle twat at times and needs to get more involved. We cannot afford many lads to have an off day and that, coupled with naivety and a buffoon in the middle, meant that there was only ever gonna be one outcome on Saturday.

DM recognised that the one player that you cannot allow to stroll about unimpeded in this fixture, is Silva. RM didn't! Had the slimey little tosser been harried and maybe man-marked, he'd have probably seen a red card. Anyone remember the job done on him by Rodwell?

Pienaar and Barry back, a rocket up Mirallas's hole, Gibson fit, Heitinga rejuvenated, Duffalo-Boy playing with a neck brace on so his head stays up, and we'll be too much for Hull. (Unless, of course, Bob Martin decides that Huddlestone deserves to be given a cigar and a guided, leisurely tour around Goodison by Messrs Osman and Naismith!)

Tom Bowers
266 Posted 07/10/2013 at 11:59:59
Total agreement regarding back four protection. Most top teams have players who can get back quickly and tackle well in order to negate having the back four exposed. Everton haven't had a couple of good tacklers in that role since Carsley and Gravesen but alas both were a little slow. They do now have Gibson and Barry but will RM play both and will Gibson stay fit?

The other players are not the best of tacklers although pretty good on offence. Until that problem is resolved then Everton will struggle to break the top four.

Tony J Williams
282 Posted 07/10/2013 at 14:02:35
As mentioned above, it seems worrying that we are now no longer a 90 minute team any more. We seem knackered in the second half of games now.

Is this down to training or more constant pressing of the opposition?

James Allen
323 Posted 07/10/2013 at 19:42:07
Fair analysis... ref aside the first half way was half-decent.... However, is anyone else concerned with our second half performances recently? Fulham, Newcastle, West Ham, Man City and Norwich??? We don't seem to be as fit as we used to be... is all this training with the ball having a negative effect on our stamina?
Bob Parrington
907 Posted 11/10/2013 at 02:22:23
James #323 - Perhaps Roberto is too kind with his half time talks?? Moyes was probably aggressively Scottish (except on occasions) thus waking them back up before they went back on the pitch.
????????? As I commented after the Newcastle game.... RM what did you say to the players at the HT break? Please don't do it again.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall at one of Fergies' MU HT talks?

Paul Gladwell
912 Posted 11/10/2013 at 07:25:39
Bob, by all accounts his half time team talk against West Ham was not nice and as for the Newcastle one, maybe people should question what team talk they gave as they came out a ten times better team, it does happen you know, we won't control 65% of every game! we could have scored a few more in that second half in between their wonder goal and a scruffy effort late on.

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