Just like last weekend the games prior to City’s were going just the way we would have hoped, as West Ham and Villa secured safety for next seasons with wins. Although the game against Everton was already our toughest game remaining, the final two games became just a bit easier with both teams out of the relegation fight.
Everton, with as much on the line as City (in a way), came out and attacked City from the first whistle. Similar to the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Everton took the early lead from a wonder goal from the pesky Ross Barkley. There really was not much City, or Joe Hart could do about that goal and the pressure was on City to make a quick response. With the pressure on, City didn’t panic. We just took control of possession, picked our spots to attack and found our way back to level. Aguero, eerily similar to the goal two years ago, beat the Everton defender on the right side of the box and fired a rocket that beat Tim Howard near side, and barely missed hitting the post; 1-1 game on. Unfortunately, that was the last influence Aguero would have as he subbed off shortly after with what looked like a groin injury. But, the substitution of Fernandinho for Aguero allowed for the growing influence of Yaya on proceedings, which always leads to good things for City. Today was no different. With the first half in its dying embers Dzeko grabbed the lead for City after some beautiful work from Milner ended in a cross into the box. Dzeko headed the ball into the side of the net, leaving Howard flat-footed; 2-1, City.
With 45 minutes remaining for each team to make a statement to the teams in their quarter of the table, both came out guns-a-blazing. A quick attack from Everton, which lead to a golden opportunity to equalize, was countered by Dzeko’s second goal of the afternoon. Nasri held the ball toward goal to give his teammates a chance to get into the box. As he headed towards the end line, Nasri sent a low ball across the face, which was turned home by Dzeko; 3-1 City. At this point everything was going in our favor, two goals up and we looked certain for another soon after. Our complacency quickly turned to nerves as Lukaku brought Everton back to within a goal with 25 minutes left to steal a point. The hush that came over the crowd at the bar I was in displayed how crucial this game was; although that was pretty obvious before that. As the game progressed, it was hard to tell if City were going to get a crucial fourth goal, or if it would be Everton who would find the equalizer. If they did, it would almost certainly eliminate our title hopes. But, with some timely interceptions and gamesmanship, the final whistle blew and relief and sheer joy overcame anxiety and nerves.
Looking back on the game now, it was a truly professional display from the experienced City side. Going down early in a game of this much importance, it would have been easy to panic and lose composure. But the boys remained calm and left the panicking to the fans. Garcia and Fernandinho were solid in the defensive half, as was Zabaleta. Demichelis, although it wasn’t his best game, was all over the pitch, which sometimes led to some defensive lapses. Dzeko has book ended his season quite well, as his form and confidence seem to grow with each game he plays. Milner was just the workhorse he always is. Clichy was excellent as well. Yaya, not to sound like a broken record, was freed after Aguero’s injury and the victim was Everton’s defense. Kompany; ever the calming presence when Everton looked sure to score. The game as a whole, even though the score may not reflect it, was a team effort; one team, one goal. Together we are City.
As I mentioned at the top, with West Ham and Villa securing safety today, those final two games have become just a bit easier. But if we have learned anything from this year, and from past seasons with City, nothing comes easy in the EPL and this year is no different. The experience will be on our side, but experience doesn’t ultimately lead to victories. I know I’m not alone in saying; I can’t wait for these final two games, but my heart may have other ideas. Come on City!
Now Blues. Who was your Man of the Match?