Everton seize City built on sand
by Peter Bottomley
MANCHESTER CITY 1 (Jagielka og 72) – EVERTON 2 (Cahill 4, Baines 19)
The Everton that David Moyes built put in a welcome return last night at Eastlands delivering a victory built on all the qualities we have come to expect, but which have been missing for large chunks of the season; commitment, incisiveness, hard work and unflagging belief. Forced to play the bulk of the second half with just ten men every member of the team covered, harried and defended as City pushed forward, but even when the opposition found a way through they were met by a goalkeeper in Tim Howard who was in no mood to be beaten. In defence Distin, Jagielka and Neville were superb while in centre midfield Fellaini and Rodwell were strong in the tackle and are beginning to forge a formidable partnership. Sometimes football just comes down to who wants it most; in the sub-zero temperatures of last evening Tim Cahill and his team wanted it, all that the watching Sheikh Mansour’s gloved, snooded, collection of avaricious individuals wanted was the warmth of their changing room.
Victor Anichebe, given an opportunity to start at centre forward, did not disappoint and, had he not been sent off after receiving two yellows (the first of which was harsh bordering on incompetent), would certainly have retained his place for the Boxing Day game at Goodison. Anichebe was at the heart of the magnificent move which set up Leighton Baines on nineteen minutes. The big Nigerian drifted out to the left, received the ball from Baines and then played an intelligent ball into the area from which Cahill set up Baines who, right footed, repeat right footed, curved the ball into the far corner past a helpless Joe Hart. A goal which had it been scored by, say, Arsenal, would have had the London based media salivating all over their back pages. As always it was the magnificent Tim Cahill who led the way. He scored the first after just four minutes when Kolo Toure half cleared a Baines centre, Seamus Coleman retrieved the ball and chipped a perfect cross back in for the now unmarked Cahill to head sharply past Hart at the near post.
Roberto Mancini took off the hard working but one dimensional James Milner and brought on Adam Johnson at half time, a move which presaged a tough forty five minutes for Everton as City surged forward in search of goals. In fact the only penetration that they achieved came courtesy of a huge deflection from Phil Jagielka, who despite playing with a thigh strain, was magnificent, until replaced with about twelve minutes remaining. With Johnny Heitinga injured Jagielka will be wrapped in cotton wool until needed again on Boxing Day for the game against Birmingham. By then, judging by his supportive and excited ‘twitter’ output last night, we should have some welcome news on Landon Donovan. Three points at Eastlands, three more over Christmas, Mikel Arteta back, and our favourite American – outfield player – claiming his number 9 shirt again and Evertonians the world over will be sleeping snug and warm this festive season.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, K Toure, Kolarov; Y Toure, Barry; Silva, Tevez, Milner (Johnson 46) ; Balotelli (Jo 83)