Manchester City 0 - 0 Everton
Back in mid-December I was told our company AGM was to take place on Tuesday 5th January, neatly sidestepping our home Capital One Cup fixture against Manchester City. With this being the case I, and a few others decided to book tickets for the away Manchester City league game, thinking a quick getaway from work would be in order and then a dart down the M56. I was gutted then when I come back to work after a few festive days off for my boss to tell me the AGM had been switched...to Wednesday 13th January. A clash with our game through no fault of my own.
Still there was hope. My Operations Manager (not quite my boss but almost my boss) told me it would be fine to sneak out of the meeting a little early and I was given a "5:30pm at the VERY latest" promise. I was gutted and pretty angry then when at about 1:30pm today my boss (my real boss) told me in no uncertain terms that there was no way I could leave the meeting early, and that the meeting would finish at 6pm. "You'll make kick off" he said unconvincingly. I knew I had no chance.
In the meantime I was very grateful to Gaz, Gary and Sue for all getting together and waiting at the pub next to the meeting venue. I finally escaped at around 6pm and we made great progress right up the M56 until I saw a sign "30 MINUTE DELAY JUNCTION 6-3". I meekly advised Gaz to get off the motorway and go onto the M6 and I regret not being more forceful in my recommendation. I know the M56 too well and if the sign says delays it's no bluff. We got stuck in monster congestion as the time ticked on.
Reading various tweets, it emerged supporters from both Everton and Manchester City were stuck in traffic on the M62 and M56. Even the trams were down. One report even mentioned that the Eveerton team bus had still not even made it to the Etihad Stadium as kick off neared. Other reports suggested hardly anyone was inside the ground. It felt as though the game might well be delayed at one point but this wasn't the case and stuck in traffic, the game kicked off. Gaz's radio was bust so we couldn't even listen to it. Meanwhile, we finally got to the stadium - or at least where the Sat Nav felt the stadium was - only to find it was the wrong place, so we followed Google Maps the rest of the way (thanks Manchester City by the way, for having incorrect location details on the website).
We finally, finally, arrived at the Etihad and into the stadium with around 35 minutes played and the score 0-0. We got to our seats for a couple of minutes but tired, thirsty, hungry, and in need of a comfort break, we just headed back down again for half time refreshments, effectively writing off the first half.
Despite the score goalless, I quite enjoyed the second half. It was a very resilient rearguard effort from Everton, and with just a bit of composure in the final third we might just have sneaked a winner but it wasn't to be. From all accounts Manchester City should have had a great chance to steal it at the death when John Stones brought down Raheem Sterling inside the penalty area, but thankfully Roger East pointed for a goal kick when it looked for all the world that he had pointed to the penalty spot. We all breathed a sigh of relief...and then jeered the Man City fans.
Otherwise, Tim Howard, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar rolled back the years somewhat and it was great to see Phil Jagielka back as if he'd never been away. John Stones showed what a big miss Seamus Coleman is when he's not in the team and the 'Three B's' in the middle of Barry, Besic, and Barkley all complimented each other nicely. Romelu Lukaku didn't quite seem fit but we knew that going into the game. From a negative point of view, Roberto Martinez still drives you mad with substitutions (Kone instead of Mirallas?), and even with Leighton Baines back in the team, we still can't deliver a set-piece.
Coming home was much, much easier that going to the ground and I was home by 11.30pm (kudos to Gaz for the driving). I won't rate the players based on half a game, but from what I saw Tim Howard had to be man of the match. I was pleased for him given the flack he's endured and hope he can keep it up. Outfield I would say Barkley or maybe Besic were the pick of the bunch, though Phil Jagielka's steadying influence can't be understated.
The final word goes to the lack of kick-off delay as with Everton barely making kick off and the stadium barely even half full apparently, with so many stuck getting to the game, surely a kick-off delay would have been the sensible option. Sadly, and this is one of the things which has sucked the soul out of modern football, I doubt the decision lay in the hands of either of the two clubs or even the match official. With an international audience now, and global TV commitments, I imagine the Premier League are more concerned with that than the man on the street paying ï¿½42 per ticket.
The game is in a bit of a sad state but we keep on coming, and back I'll come to the Etihad in a fortnight for the Capital One Cup semi final.
Now that night definitely won't clash with a meeting.