Manchester City 0 Everton 1
Saturday December 13, 2008, 3pm
City of Manchester Stadium - Att: 41,344
A depressing end to a game that rarely sparked to life in the previous ninety minutes. In my preview I wrote 'From memory they have enjoyed success against us from set pieces', and so it proved. It did appear as though we weren't quite ready or set up correctly to defend the corner, as if players weren't in the positions they should have been.
Credit to Everton though. Plenty was written about their striker crisis, but they came with a definite game plan in mind - consistently having six or seven men banked behind the ball when we broke, were extremely compact and constantly harried and pressured us whenever we were in position. Worryingly, we didn't have enough to break them down and create a real clear chance and were left wanting in terms of matching the effort Everton showed.
Although Hughes got the selection correct in replacing Vassell with the freshly coiffured Elano, which allowed Wright-Phillips to move out wide and become our best creative outlet, we lacked any kind of coherent game plan with our attacks stuttering and lacking focus. Too often, the player in possession was asked to do far too much and didn't receive enough options or support.
Robinho was pretty at times, but not fully fit whilst Ireland appears to be fading after such a fantastic start to the season and would surely benefit from sitting out a couple of weeks. Elano struggled again today and I think suffers from being stifled in the more withdrawn role. Neither Benjani or Jo advanced their claims any and we do look desperately short in attack.
Whilst it certainly was a frustrating game to watch, I did perhaps sense a change in the tide of opinion against Hughes today. Just two wins in twelve games and five defeats at home isn't what was anticipated with the squad we have and being just two points above the relegation zone, Hughes desperately needs some positive results from the remaining games of 2008.