Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 13 December 2008, 15:00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Dunne (c), Richards, Ball, Kompany, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Robinho (Vassell 82), Elano, Benjani (Jo 45)
Unused: Schmeichel, Onuoha, Ben-Haim, Hamann, Gelson
City Man of the Match: Elano
It made a change for City to have a Saturday at 3pm kick off, but that’s the price you have to pay if you want European football. City welcomed back Robinho, Richards and Elano, looking to add more attacking options to trouble the Everton defence.
The first chance of the game, though, fell to the visitors, with Leon Osman dragging a shot wide of Joe Hart’s goal.
Everton had the next chance too. An Arteta free kick had the home support breathing a sigh of relief when it hit the bar and bounced clear, but their hearts with back in their mouths as the rebound fell to Fellaini, but his header hit the top of the bar, with Joe Hart scrambling back.
City should have taken the lead shortly after, when they produced the best move of the match. Elano brought the ball forward and, after a one-two with Robinho, found Benjani, who knocked it on to Ireland in the box. The Irishman, though, fired well over, when it seemed easier to hit the target.
Tim Howard then kept the score level, after Benjani had found Robinho in the box. City’s record signing took a touch to get the ball under control and then shot around the defender in front of him, but Howard stretched to push the ball away.
Leon Osman wanted a penalty for an off the ball challenge by Michael Ball, but it looked to be nothing more than six of one and half a dozen of the other.
A short time after, Elano fired a shot towards the top corner and Howard got both hands on it, but seemed to push it just up, rather than away. Unfortunately for City, Robinho was unable to get to the rebound before it was cleared.
Some tidy football from Everton saw a chance fall to Arteta, and his low, hard-driven shot from range caught Hart unaware, but he was able to get down and push it away for a corner.
Four minutes to go until half time, Wright-Phillips was inches away from scoring, when his drive from inside the box crashed against the top of the bar and into the stands.
Everton could have had the lead at half time, when Fellaini was inches away from a left wing cross, and then his low shot was well pushed away by Hart.
The second half began slowly and the next good opportunity came on 58 minutes. Phil Neville, booed by the home fans for his Manchester United connection, swung a decent cross into the box, but Pablo Zabaleta was there to head it away.
Wright-Phillips got a good bounce of the ball on 64 minutes and was able to break into the Everton box. But his low cross missed everybody and the visitors were able to clear.
City thought they had taken the lead, shortly after, when Tim Howard collected a high ball and looked to have carried the ball into the net. But play went on and Howard was allowed to hold the ball for a good 20 seconds before sending it long.
On 72 minutes, Joe Hart claimed the ball in the box and sent it quickly to Jo’s head. The big Brazilian flicked the ball to Ireland, who took a low shot from just inside the box. It looked destined for the net, but Howard’s fingertips were in the way again, knocking it out for a corner.
Jo had the chance to put City in front with just four minutes left, but his header from a Wright-Phillips corner was well wide.
Everton were wasting time, clearly happy with a point, but, in the end, they got all three. As two minutes of stoppage time was announced, a misplaced header by Richard Dunne went for a corner. Tim Cahill lost Micah Richards in the box and was able to nod past Hart, from four yards out.
City perhaps didn’t do enough to win the game, but they didn’t deserve to lose it. Mark Hughes will have his work cut out to turn this inconsistent run of form around, but hopefully that will start at The Hawthorns on the 21st.