Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 16 January 2010, 17:30 KO
City: Given (c), Garrido, Richards, Kompany, Zabaleta, de Jong, Barry, Petrov (Benjani 45), Bellamy, Tevez, Santa Cruz (Robinho 9 (Wright-Phillips 61))
Unused: Taylor, Sylvinho, Onuoha, Boyata
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the Match: Shay Given
After results earlier in the day, City knew that a victory would put them back into fourth place. With Tottenham and Liverpool both drawing, City could cement their place ahead of their rivals, with Aston Villa facing a difficult tie with Arsenal the following day.
Petrov had City’s first effort on target, with a shot from range after cutting in from the right and curling it towards the far post. Howard could only parry, but Tevez could get to the rebound first and it was well cleared. City then lost Santa Cruz to injury.
Bilyaletdinov then had a good chance to give Everton the lead with a few header from inside the box, but it was straight at Given and the City keeper held on.
Robinho should have then given City the lead after 14 minutes, when a quick throw-in from Petrov was whipped into the box and flicked on to the Brazilian by Tevez, who volleyed over from eight yards.
Everton then had a decent chance to take the lead from a free-kick in midfield, after Fellaini flicked the ball back into the box, but Richards was there to clear the danger. City then replied with a similar move, Richards heading into Howard’s hands.
Landon Donavon could have then scored for the home side after 20 minutes, but, under pressure from Given, he was forced wide and his effort was well over the bar and well wide in the end.
Fellaini then had a chance from an Everton corner after 23 minutes, but his header was straight at Given, with City feeling he fouled his marker. City then conceded another corner, but shouldn’t have done, as Cahill fouled Barry to win it. Fortunately for City, it was well cleared.
City then relied on Given to preserve the scoreline at 0-0, when Petrov went to sleep on the edge of the box and Bilyaletdinov fired a vicious volley at the top of the goal and the City keeper got his fingertips on it and over.
After 36 minutes, Pienaar gave Everton the lead. A soft free kick given away by Zabaleta on the edge of the box was punished, as the Everton winger curled the ball over the wall and into Given’s near post. And it had been coming.
And the pressure didn’t stop there. City were struggling to get any foothold into the game and Bilyaletdinov nearly punished the visitors further, but his effort was inches over the bar from a Cahill flick.
Just before half time, Bellamy nearly pulled it level for City as the visitor broke, but it was flicked around the post by the goalkeeper. The following corner came to nothing. But then controversy. The linesman flagged for a penalty for a shirt pull by Richards, when replays showed it was outside the box and, 99 times in 100, would not be given as a foul. Saha took it and scored, much to City’s fury.
The first action of the second half saw Bellamy almost pull a goal back. City broke from an Everton corner with Tevez and Barry on the left and a good early ball to Bellamy bounced kindly for Baines, who shepherded it back to Howard.
Neville then kept the ball in play on the by-line and Cahill rose above Richards in the six-yard box, but he headed it wide under pressure. Garrido then had an attempt from a free kick flash just wide of Howard’s post.
Pienaar then broke up a City attack with a diving challenge on Richards, injuring himself in the process, leaving City frustrated with the ball back with Shay Given from a promising move. Everton were pressing and City were playing sideways.
City’s best attack of the second half was ended by an offside flag, as Benjani tried to play Robinho in after a series of one-touch football from the visitors. City then substituted their substitute and Wright-Phillips replaced Robinho.
Richards then got up well to clear a free kick ahead of Fellaini, after Bellamy had brought down Pienaar on Everton’s right. City then had the chance to get a good ball into the box from a free kick on their right, but it was easily cleared.
Kompany then went flying into a header whilst being blocked off to try and force the ball into the Everton net after a Garrido cross, but he couldn’t stretch far enough and it was seen out for a goal kick.
A good Wright-Phillips break found Tevez on the left and he crossed to the back post for Zabaleta to control for Bellamy. The Welshman shot, but it was a difficult chance and was well over. There were encouraging signs for City, but with two goals to make up and only 20 minutes to go, it didn’t look like enough.
City were fortunate to escape conceding a third when a Bilyaletdinov flicked on a corner that was cheaply given away by Richards, before Kompany was in place to block a Bilyaletdinov effort from the edge of the box.
With 12 minutes to go, Fellaini forced a great save from Given, who pushed the ball onto the post, when the Belgian climbed above Benjanito get a bullet header in. Cahill then hit the bar shortly after, with Given beaten.
A Bellamy free kick then bounced off Cahill and to Benjani, but he couldn’t stab the ball into the net. From the resulting throw in, Benjani was then hauled to the ground in the box, but the referee said no penalty. It was probably the correct decision, with no City player appealing for it.
The final attack of the game, saw Bellamy smash a free kick straight into the Everton wall and Zabaleta volleyed the rebound straight over the bar.
It was a better second half from City, but that wasn’t a difficult feat considering the first half performance. And it was a performance that was on a par with that of the game at White Heart Lance. City had no fight and, as well as Everton played, they could have won at a canter. City won’t be happy with the penalty decision, but the visitors themselves never looked like scoring.