Game recap: Everton 2 - 1 Manchester City

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Sylvain Distin of Everton scores his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park on May 7, 2011 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

A result that threatened to potentially harm the beginning of such an important week, but in the end - thanks to results elsewhere - meant that defeat ultimately makes little difference in terms of the Premier League.

What explanation though for yet another defeat to Everton, now seven in the past eight games? Such a run of results would usually indicate quite a gulf between the two sides involved but as good a side as Everton are, there should be no accounting for a quite such a poor return 

It was a result that, as we now know, meant that City were unable to secure fourth spot on the day, but also denied them a third consecutive Premier League victory for the first time this season - showing that despite the strides taken they are still prone to bouts of inconsistency when it is least required.

In the wake of a defeat sometimes it is far too easy to look inwards, try to identify and pick faults with City's performance. Whilst City far from helped themselves in the second half, it wasn't a performance that necessarily demands a critical eye cast over it.

Yes, Roberto Mancini was far from pleased at the final whistle but I suspect this was borne more out of frustration than displeasure. As a positive, the result may even serve to focus minds and attitudes for the next two games: no bad thing you have to say.

Mancini made three changes from the side that on at Blackburn. In came Patrick Vieira, James Milner and Edin Dzeko; out went Gareth Barry, Adam Johnson and Mario Balotelli. Rather than rest, the idea appeared to be to strengthen the midfield area; very much a side set up to come away with a point.

It was a cagey, uninspiring opening ten minutes but soon City moved into the ascendancy. There were a couple of sublime touches from David Silva, evidencing balance and technique, and whilst he was unfortunate not to convert. Patrick Vieira was was guilty of spurning a gilt-edged opportunity.

Yaya Toure too was often involved and it was he ho opened the scoring. Silva profiting from a fortuitous bounce and a rash decision from Sylvain Distin, teed up Toure, breaking from midfield, who slotted past Tim Howard to open the scoring.

The half-time scoreline was well deserved. Everton rarely threatened and City controlled the key aspects of the game. Mancini's tactics were working well - kudos perhaps due for the decision to start Milner ahead of Johnson to stymie the threat of Leighton Baines

The expectation going into the break was that at least a point would be obtained. City had lost in only one game where they had taken the lead this season, whilst contrastingly, Everton had only won once.

Thoughts were very much focussed on the victory though and City came out once again in positive mood. There were opportunities to extend the lead - which would have surely killed the game - but Mancini was left to bemoan the inability to do so, prompting him to label players as 'selfish':

 "It was incredible we lost this game. We dominated in the first half and had four or five chances to score. But this is football. If you lose concentration, if you concede a yard to the other team, it is difficult.

"A game like today we should never lose. If we want to become a strong team, we cannot lose this game. We shouldn't lose it because we had more chances to score in the second half. 

"It is not important who scores the goals, it is important the team wins the game."    

As we know, the second half took a turn for the worse and Everton profited from a ten minute spell - ironically the period of a game where City are most likely to score and Everton likeliest to concede - and City were caught twice in quick succession, both times not helping their own cause.

The first, conceding from a set piece was a save Joe Hart would like back; not strong enough of hand to guide the ball the other side of the post. The second was a contrast in Leon Osman attacking the cross whereas Vincent Kompany looked static and somewhat flat-footed. 

It is interesting to note that Everton profited down their right hand side most of all, some 43% of their play coming from that direction and they attempted 31 crosses during the game. The origins of both goals would not have been lost on the watching Tony Pulis, with Stoke scoring 40% of this seasons goals from set-pieces.

What also stood out was City's passing statistics. Usually so high, but yesterday were below par: Vieria 74%, Milner 76%, Toure 84%, de Jong 91%, Silva 91% - a definite drop in terms of numbers.

Once Everton had got themselves in front they looked unlikely to surrender the game. City tried to muster a response (on came Johnson and Balotelli) but to no avail as the home side were galvanised by the goals whilst City were knocked off their stride by the quick one-two they were hit with and the final whistle brought plenty of pushing and shoving between the sets of players - an outcome Everton were no doubt happier with.

A little over two hours later though the mood had lifted. With an opportunity to head into Tuesday's game just four points behind, Tottenham needed a late goal to even rescue a point at home to Blackpool - a result that ill undoubtedly have demoralised them.

With three games remaining, the lead is six points (plus a very healthy goal differential advantage) - meaning that fourth spot is all but guaranteed. Tuesday will hopefully provide the official confirmation. 

Game stats:

7 Total Shots 8
4 Shots on Target 3
73% Pass Accuracy 80%
39% Aerials Won 61%
1 Offsides 1
16 Fouls 16
11 Corners 6
35 Throwins 22
1 Dribbles Won 6
14 Tackles Won 11
48% Ball Possession 52%

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