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City 1 - 2 Everton

everton game
everton game

After a positive day it was ultimately a night of frustration that marked the first anniversary of Roberto Mancini's tenure.

The backdrop to the game was of course the news that Carlos Tevez had withdrawn his transfer request and committed his future to the club (although frustratingly it appears as though the reasons behind the situation are to remain confidential) and it was hoped that this would provide the 'feelgood factor' to warm up a freezing evening and put an end to Everton's recent  form at Eastlands. It was not to be as, once again, a Tim Cahill header was the catalyst for victory.

City have not often started slowly this season but there was a lethargy to their game in the opening few minutes and being the season of giving, handed Everton an early gift they could scarcely have dreamt of. Poor play from Kolarov, who must only have imagined the ball was heading out of play allowed the cross to come in and Kolo Toure inexcusably allowed Tim Cahill a free header to stun the home crowd.

It was the first goal City have conceded within the opening ten minutes of a game this season, and only once (the opener against Arsenal) had they conceded in the first twenty minutes; little wonder Mancini's gesticulations on the bench were so animated.

The second, a result of Zabaleta's prolonged absence (almost ten minutes) meant a makeshift pairing of Milner and Silva protecting the right hand side, allowed Baines to break forward and ultimately finish smartly beyond Hart to leave City mired in a huge hole so early in the game.

Everton quickly retreated after the second, confident in their ability to repel anything City could throw at them and at times it was very much a rearguard action with wave after wave of City attacks. That said, it was not often City really got through the Everton defence such was their resistance and twenty-five shots on goal yielded only eight on target, with the excellent Zonal Marking highlighting quite how effective the visitors were in blocking City efforts:

 by Guardian Chalkboards

True, there was more than one shout for handball and on other days one (or more) may have been given but Tim Howard and his defence (in particular Sylvain Distin) were very impressive. Whilst much was expected of Carlos Tevez, he was by and large kept in check, denied both space and time.

Watching the game though, you felt confident that City would get something from the game still. If Balotelli had not hit post, and Tevez forced a superb save from Howard from the resulting rebound City could (would?) have taken all three points and put themselves top at Christmas.

As it was, time ran out and Everton stood firm with Kolo Toure's brainless sending off late capping the evening off.

It is now three defeats and a draw when City have fallen behind this season. The side certainly look far better set up when in control of the game and possessing a lead. Of course there were chances to get at least a point the game but too often in the critical areas the play was hectic, space cramped and the wrong option and final ball selected. It is a valid suggestion that at times play can be one-dimensional and with Everton setting up the way they did, with only Tevez as a central forward it doesn't allow for much scope to attack with real width in the way that a Johnson or Wright-Phillips can provide: resurfacing rumours of Edin Dzeko may not be far from the truth.

There was no ground lost on the evening but it was certainly a big opportunity missed. It is fortunate now that there are three games in little over a week; perhaps it slightly foolish to look too far ahead but with good form in being able to bounce back after setbacks you feel if seven points can be the return the side should be well placed for the second half of the season.