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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 10 January 2014; 3:00pm
Everton 
1 1
 Man City
 Naismith (78')
Half Time: 0 - 0
Fernandinho (74') 
Attendance:39,499
Fixture 21
Referee: Martin Atkinson

Match Report

If there is one thing that has been missing from Everton for much of the past month it is fight. The kind of determination, passion and togetherness that was a hallmark of David Moyes's reign and the foundation of the Blues' success last season under Roberto Martinez's more expansive style.

It re-emerged in the final few minutes of last Tuesday's FA Cup tie with West Ham and was on display from the first whistle to last today against a Manchester City side who came to Goodison Park bent on keeping the pressure on Chelsea by winning this fixture for the second season running. Rather than meet the ragged, confidence-sapped and error-strewn Everton that had stumbled its way to four successive League defeats before today, Manuel Pellegrini's men came up against altogether more resilient and cohesive hosts. So much so that Fernandinho's 74th-minute header did not prove to be the winner it promised to be, merely the precursor to a Toffees fightback that was rewarded by Steven Naismith's excellent header.

The Scot has proven time and again his penchant for coming up trumps on the big occasion and, having scored against all of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool in his time at Goodison, he produced the crucial equaliser 12 minutes from time that earned a much-deserved point for his team.

Had they benefited from the kind of refereeing that has benefited City with three of the softest penalties imaginable in each of the last three meetings between these two clubs at the Etihad Stadium, the Blues might even have won this contest. Phil Jagielka tumbled in the visitors' box under a heavy aerial challenge that would almost certainly have earned a free kick had it been outside the area but referee Martin Atkinson, no stranger to stiffing the Blues in front of their own fans, ignored the pleas for a spot kick.

As it is, Everton took a morale-boosting point, one ground out with the kind of performance that made a mockery of premature calls from a minority for Martinez's head and talk of his being the shock team to go down this season. There were big performances all over the pitch and while the players weren't quite able to hit the attacking heights to which Evertonians became accustomed last season, they now have a platform from which to mount a recovery from what have been six devastating weeks in terms of their Premier League campaign.

Martinez made three changes to the team that had started against the Hammers, with John Stones a welcome sight in central defence alongside Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines returning at left back in place of Bryan Oviedo and Aiden McGeady a somewhat surprising replacement for Kevin Mirallas. The manager hasn't addressed the Belgian's fitness since explaining away his withdrawal from the Hull game with "soreness" so it's unclear if his ommission is due to him carrying an injury but he was a big miss from a game as important as this.

It didn't help that McGeady had one of those afternoons you'd sooner forget, one on which absolutely nothing went right for him and his trademark fast feet were more of a hindrance to him than a weapon against the opposition. It was no shock that he was hooked in the second half; the surprise was how long Martinez left it before introducing arguably his best player on the evidence of the season so far.

The Irish international's inability to keep hold of the ball in advanced areas coupled with his compatriot Seamus Coleman's somewhat clumsy early forays down the right contributed to City's domination of the early possession and chances. Once such instance when Coleman overran the ball on a typical bombing raid forward led to David Silva making a mug of Gareth Barry in central midfield but Stevan Jovetic smashed the resulting chance narrowly past the angle of crossbar and post.

It was one of a handful of good chances that City, who were using the ball far more effectively going forward than were the Blues, would carve out in the first 45 minutes. Jesus Navas spurned perhaps the best of them when gifted the ball by Jagielka's error while Jovetic and Silva also failed to hit the target from the edge of the box. That the visitors were restricted to just two efforts on target all game owed much to far greater organisation on Everton's part together with more urgency in pressing the ball and, perhaps most importantly, stopping the cross. Baines was excellent in this regard, denying Navas the ability to provide crosses with a series of blocks on the left side of defence.

At the other end, Romelu Lukaku and Baines both fired direct free kicks into the defensive wall from nearly identical positions early in the half as the energetic Naismith drew fouls from Pablo Zabaleta and Eliaquim Mangala. And, having soaked up most of the pressure, the Blues would engineer the best chance of the half three minutes before the interval when Lukaku breezed superbly past Mangala and drove a shot from the angle that Joe Hart saved well. Coleman met the rebound with a crisply-hit left-footer that smacked agonisingly off the crossbar.

Level at half time, Everton came out swinging a bit more in the second half, with Barkley picking himself up after a foul by Fernandinho to flash another free kick wide and Lukaku giving Mangala more grief. First he out-muscled him at the byline and prompted the Frenchman to bring him down and then he turned him inside out a few minutes later before hammering a shot that was destined for the far corner until Hart palmed it past the far post. It was a moment evocative of the same goalkeeper denying the Belgian striker in the reverse fixture last month and it forced the corner at which Jagielka appeared to be fouled in the box but the referee remained unmoved.

Looking far more assured at the back with the imperious Stones slotting seamlessly into his centre-half role and Joel Robles appearing more and more confident, Everton looked capable of keeping City at bay on their increasingly infrequent attacks. The Spanish 'keeper fisted away a shot by Samir Nasri just before the half hour mark while Stones put in heavy but legal challenge on Silva but got booked for it anyway in typical Atkinson fashion. Silva sliced badly wide when the resulting free kick fell to him on the 18 yard line.

The introduction of Sergio Aguero on 67 minutes, however, added an altogether more daunting aspect to the Champions' attack and it sparked chants from the home crowd of Mirallas' name, hoping that Martinez would fight Pellegrini's fire with some of his own. But after the Argentine striker had dragged a tame shot wide from the edge of the box, it was the almost irrepressible Silva who forced the opening goal from a somewhat fortunate City counterattack in the 74th minute.

Zabaleta's handball in a prone position was either unseen or ignored by the referee standing in close attendance and within seconds the ball was at Silva's feet in the Everton box. The Spaniard cut back into his left foot and shot, his effort taking a double deflection off two Blues players and looping up invitingly for Fernandinho to head goalwards. Unfortunately, Coleman, playing the Brazilian onside, couldn't adjust his body quickly enough to prevent the ball going over the goal line.

Within three minutes, Everton had a free kick wide on their left during the preparations for which Mirallas was finally introduced. Baines whipped in arguably his best delivery of the season and Naismith rose to meet it perfectly, glancing a header home as Hart punched thin air and sending Goodison to its collective feet in celebration.

It was anyone's game at that point but while Everton could scent blood, they couldn't quite find the attacking formula to carve out a final opportunity to win it. Mirallas had perhaps the best chance but scuffed a shot into Hart's arms with five minutes to go while Nasri tested Robles one last time with a similar effort at the other end and it ended all square after three minutes of stoppage time.

As opponents go, Manchester City are one of the last teams you'd want to face when trying to end a horrible run of defeats but it proved to the ideal contest for Everton to rediscover their battling spirit and some of their attacking drive. Of course, they now need to kick on and prove that it's a corner turned now and that this wasn't merely a case of rising to the occasion against fancied opposition.

First and foremost, they made themselves hard to beat again, which is the first step in trying to get back to last season's impressive form. Next will getting the attack running smoothly again with Barkley at the heart of it. The 21 year-old betrayed a shortage of confidence as he floated in and out of the game and both he and his manager need to find a way for him to influential even when things aren't quite going for him. He was a peripheral figure today.

Elsewhere in the side, though, Muhamed Besic covered every blade of grass with another committed display and Barry, a couple of glaring errors in distribution aside, was more effective than has been the case in recent weeks. And while Lukaku is looking more and more like getting back to his rampaging best, it was Naismith deservedly took the plaudits for his goal. Had he not popped up with another vital goal, the inequest into a fifth successive defeat would likely have dwelled heavily on why Martinez left a potent force like Mirallas sitting on the bench for so long, particularly while McGeady was having the nightmare game going forward that he was.

With another shot in the arm, the Blues move on to the cup replay on Tuesday and another home game in the league against West Brom beyond that. Score wins in both and things will really be looking up.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

Aiden McGeady was the only change from the team that produced a dramatic finish against West Ham on Tuesday. Sylvain Distin James McCarthy, Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Tony Hibbert, Darron Gibson and Tim Howard are all out injured.

The visitors kicked off but kept Everton played it around a little before City got much of a look-in until an awful clearance by Robles straight to a City player and the Royal Blues looked decidedly nervy in their play under the windy conditions.

Naismith was fouled by Zabaleta and Lukaku lined up the set-piece 30 yards out that he powered lamely into the top of the City wall. Jagielka then made an awful mistake to let Navas take a free shot that he put wide.

The Blues showed better intent with Besic firing in from wide right and in the follow-up they won another free-kick, this time Baines putting his attempt into the top of the City wall.

McGeady picked up the ball in deep midfield but gave the ball away cheaply, then Besic was easily dispossessed and it set up a chance for Jovetic to shoot wide. McGeady won Everton's first corner that Barkley fired in to the first defender, and no real chance in the follow-up. Some good holding play again ended when McGeady got the ball.

A promising move again ended with McGeady picking out a sky blue shirt with his cross after good work down the right from Besic and Coleman. A little contact on Navas saw City get a dangerous free-kick that Nasri drove into the Everton wall and it led to frantic defending that Everton somehow escaped unscathed.

Naismith did very well to win a corner after giving the ball away in attack but Baines's delivery was again straight to the first defender's head and, in a trice, City were threatening, winning a corner themselves after play switched rapidly to the Everton end where they had to defend a couple more corners, with all men back so no counter when McGeady did win the ball wide left.

City tried to walk the ball in though the area, Barry getting his foot on it, and Navas was next to fire wide. Everton were struggling to get out of their own half, even when they had the ball, as it just wouldn't run for Barkley. McGeady got in another cross but it gave Lukaku no chance.

Barkley and Besic, on the half-way line contrived to play "after you" until Besic played the ball needlessly straight out of play! Just shocking stuff. But Lukaku did get a sight of Hart after a good forward pass to feet by Coleman... but his shot was not good enough to beat Hart who blocked it, then Coleman curled his follow-up shot onto the bar of Hart's goal.

Given space to play, with little of the close attention and pressing from lesser opponents, the home side had struggled to really play anything like fluid joined-up football, with far too many nervous mistakes and giveaways but they survived to the break.

Everton got another chance for a free-kick on goal after the break and this time Barkley beat the the wall but could not curl it enough into the far corner. City were soon on attack, and almost walking it in through the Everton defence, testing the Blues' defence, in which Besic did very well to carry the ball out and play it better to give something for Lukaku to chase. It ended up with Mangala fouling Lukaku just outside the City area, and getting a yellow card, possibly for his protest.

Barkley's kick did not find a blue head and when the ball was reworked around, a poor overhit cross from McGeady ended the brief forward move. A ridiculous decision saw Barry penalized when Jovetic ran into him and Stones headed the CIty free-kick away at the far post, then Barkley played the ball nicely to Lukaku who ran in and fired from a difficult angle, Hart just getting enough on it to keep it out.

From the corner Zabaleta climbed all over Jagielka but no penalty, and at the other end, McGeady gave away another dangerous free-kick that Nasri curled in, Robles punching it away.

As the pace and passion ramped up around the hour mark, Barkley was easily dispossessed and it ended up with Stones defending well and tackling Silva well but the ref said it was from behind and booked him, much to the annoyance of the crowd, who were becoming more vocal.

Stones did very well against Jovetic but gave up a corner that was defended well by a disciplined Everton who got the ball forward but nowhere near enough to City's goal as Aguero replaced Jovetic. Everton looked to attack but needed Barkley to take the initiative but all he would do is play short first-time passes and possession was squandered.

Fernandinho fouled Baines and got carded, Baines curling in a great ball that Hart grasped at and dropped but Naismith was adjudged to have nudged him from behind, and as Jagielka poked the loose ball into the net, Atkinson blew for the foul.

City broke in questionable terms, and Fernandinho scored when, in an offside position, he got his head to a deflected shot that seemed to be curling past the goal, his header evading Coleman on the line, a scrappy goal that came after Zabelata may have touched the ball on the ground as he and Lukaku challenged for the ball at the other end.

The perennially hopeless McGeady was finally hauled off, Mirallas replacing him. Baines put in a superb ball form Naismith to glance in past a despairing Hart and Everton were suddenly all square again, with the crowd now really for it.

An excellent break was completely ruined by Lukaku putting himself shamefully offside, but Everton pushed forward again and Besic needed to control himself when called for contact that was hardly a foul, while Everton nemesis Lampard took to the field.

Mirallas did brilliantly to beat his man and make space but his shot was scuffed when he had time to advance and do a lot better. Everton won a late corner with Goodison looking for a god delivery from Baines but it was hopelessly drifted over everyone and City were on the edge of the Everton area in no time, more defending required.

But Everton were tiring and could not get the ball while City knew they had the tools to go for it as time ticked away, Robles getting down well to save one shot. It was helter-skelter as the ball seem impossible for Lukaku to control there's something fundamentally wrong with his ball skills.

The game ended without City getting the goal they wanted and it finished all-square, with plaudits no doubt for the Blues ending their horrendous losing streak. The performance was not a classic by any means, with far too many mistakes all over the park but the effort was expended to obtain the point and, with better marksmanship from Lukaku, it could have been more.

Michael Kenrick

 

Match Preview

Four days after Romelu Lukaku's last-ditch equaliser kept the Wembley dream alive, the Blues are back at Goodison Park for the visit of the reigning Champions, Manchester City, for a fixture that has been a source of inspiration for Everton sides in recent years.

The Toffees have lost just two of their last 10 home matches against City, the last of which coming last season, of course, with a game that the Citizens had to win and one that was – Ross Barkley's stunning goal aside – essentially meaningless for Roberto Martinez's side, given that their own Champions League hopes had largely been extinguished by then.

The stakes are significantly higher for Everton this time around, with Martinez hoping to use the injury-time heroics on Tuesday evening of his record signing as a shot in the arm for his side's faltering Premier League campaign. Initially deemed a potentially useful distraction from the League, the cup tie against West Ham could yet prove to be a pivot point for the Blues that arrests a worrying run of form dating back to their last significant cup action in the Europa League in late November.

Four successive defeats has seen Everton fall out of European contention and into the clutch of teams looking over their shoulder at the struggle against relegation that is forming below them. They will start the weekend just four points above Crystal Palace in 18th place while there is a yawning 13-point gap to the top four, a goal that is now, realistically, beyond Martinez's men this season.

Having avoided a fifth straight loss in all competitions by the skin of their teeth, the Blues have the considerable task of rallying themselves for what is, on paper, their biggest test since the reverse fixture against Manuel Pellegrini's side a little over a month ago. Coming in the wake of a 2-1 defeat at Spurs and a frustrating home draw with Hull, the Blues' performance at the Etihad Stadium against an unusually subdued City was flat and uninspiring, with a belated flurry to salavage a point the only flicker of resemblance to the Everton of last season.

Getting back the confidence and fearlessness that was a hallmark of the Blues' best moments in 2013-14 is going to be key to their chances of staging a recovery from the setback over the last six to seven weeks and there's no better occasion than a game against the likes of title-chasing City to start.

They'll have to do it without midfield linchpin, James McCarthy, who has been sorely missed recently but is again ruled out as he recovers from a hamstring injury. The midfielder hasn't figured in the last two games after being withdrawn at half time at St James' Park but his manager told the press today that the club believes they have resolved his long-standing problems.

Also missing will be Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, Tim Howard and the latest injury casualty, Sylvain Distin. The French defender came off with 20 minutes to go against West Ham on Tuesday night with a groin strain and his place in the squad will be taken by Antolin Alcaraz who returns following a one-match ban.

Distin's place in the starting XI is likely to be filled by John Stones, though, after the 20 year-old made his second comeback from ankle surgery as a substitute against the Hammers. He played the full 90 minutes against Stoke City on Boxing Day but took two knocks to the ankle on which he had surgery in October and was given time to recover again before being risked.

Elsewhere in the side, though, Martinez will probably keep things largely unchanged, with the exception of Leighton Baines coming back in at left back at the expense of Bryan Oviedo. The Costa Rican played a crucial role in the equaliser in the cup but will likely make way for his more experienced teammate... that is unless his manager decides to give Gareth Barry a rest and deploys Baines in central midfield.

Somewhat dauntingly, City come to Goodison on a 13-match unbeaten run that stretches back to the 8th of November when they followed up a 2-1 Champions League loss to CSKA Moscow with a 2-2 draw at QPR. Since then, they have shown further defensive vulnerability against the likes of Sunderland, Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup but also the resilience to win two of those last three games.

They will have been boosted by the news that both Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero are back in training this week but either start the game remains to be seen. Aguero has been out of action since limping off early in the first meeting with Everton last month and the assumption is that he is more likely to make his return against Arsenal next weeked than be risked against the Blues. Dzeko, the scorer of two goals in this fixture in May, is the more probable starter of the two.

Irrespective of who starts for City, it is imperative that Everton tighten up at the back where they have been conceding sloppy goals at an alarming rate of late. They will also need some of the harrying and pressing in midfield that has served Blues teams so well in these kinds of games over the years. And, of course, they will need to find more attacking fluency and potency than has been the case at times this season.

With their eyes on the cup replay at Upton Park and the home clash with West Brom after that, many Evertonians are treating this as a bonus game but this could prove to be a vitally important match for Everton if they can pull off a result. They have the talent to do so; can they find the gumption and the guile?

* Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.

Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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Match Reports
2014-15 Reports Index
< WestHam (H) West Ham (A) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Robles
  Coleman
  Stones
  Jagielka
  Baines
  Barry
  Besic
  McGeady (Mirallas 77')
  Barkley
  Naismith
  Lukaku
  Subs not used
  Griffiths
  Eto'o
  Kone
  Garbutt
  Alcaraz
  Oviedo
  Unavailable
  Distin (injured)
  Gibson (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  Howard (injured)
  McCarthy (injured)
  Osman (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Atsu (international duty)
  Lundstram (loan)
  Pennington (loan)
MAN CITY (4-4-2)
  Hart
  Zabaleta
  Demichelis
  Mangala
  Clichy
  Fernandinho (Lampard 82')
  Fernando
  Silva
  Navas
  Nasri (Kolarov (90'+2')
  Jovetic (Aguero 67')
  Subs not used
  Caballero
  Sagna
  Kompany
  Sinclair

  • Possession
  • Shots on target
  • Shots off target
  • Corners

Premier League Scores
Saturday
C Palace 2-1 Tottenham
Burnley 2-1 QPR
Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle
Everton 1-1 Man City
Leicester 1-0 Aston Villa
Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool
Swansea 1-1 West Ham
West Brom 1-0 Hull
Sunday
Arsenal 3-0 Stoke City
Man United 0-1 So'hampton


Team Pts
1 Chelsea 49
1 Manchester City 47
3 Southampton 39
4 Manchester United 37
5 Arsenal 36
6 Tottenham Hotspur 34
7 West Ham United 33
8 Liverpool 32
9 Swansea City 30
10 Newcastle United 27
11 Stoke City 26
12 Everton 22
13 Aston Villa 22
14 West Bromwich Albion 21
15 Crystal Palace 20
16 Sunderland 20
17 Burnley 20
18 Hull City 19
19 Queens Park Rangers 19
20 Leicester City 17

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