Barclay’s Premier League
Monday 20 December 2010, 20.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, K Touré, Kompany, Kolarov, Y Touré, Barry, Silva, Milner (A Johnson 45), Balotelli (Jo 83), Tevez (c)
Unused: Given, Richards, Boateng, Vieira, Wright-Phillips
Goals: Jagielka (og 73)
Booked: Kompany, Barry, Kolo Touré
Sent Off: Kolo Touré
Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta
Knowing they could be top of the league for Christmas with a victory, City started the game with some good possession. But, within just three minutes, it was all undone: a free header from Tim Cahill inside the six yard box put the visitors in front, with the home side’s defending leaving a lot to be desired.
And it could have been worse for City, who seemed to collectively be having a bad game. David Silva, Yaya Touré and Vincent Kompany all gave the ball away as City looked to set off on the attack, setting Everton on dangerous counter attacks.
With 19 minutes on the clock, it did get worse. With Zabaleta off the pitch for treatment to a headwound, Cahill and Baines exploited the space and, after Kolo Touré couldn’t reach to intercept the first cross, the ball fell to Baines inside the box. He curled it around Joe Hart and into the net, with a first time hit on his wrong foot.
And City had a mountain to climb.
There were signs that the home side might get back into the game before the break, but chances were few and far between. Balotelli volleyed over from a corner, before City appealed for a handball in the box, but the referee waved the appeals away.
Zabaleta had a shot blocked in the box by what looked to be a stray arm from Phil Neville, but the referee was unmoved again, as Everton were camped in their area and City piled on the pressure. Despite the pressure, though, Howard wasn’t called into action.
Fellaini then went into the referee’s book for a stamping challenge that left Tevez on the deck, before a superb free kick from Kolarov was matched by Howard, springing to his left to touch it around the post. Yaya Touré then blasted over the bar, before City appealed a fourth time for a penalty – and another handball – against Phil Neville, but, again, it was waved away by the referee.
After half time, it really was all City… But it was Everton who had the goals and it was they who were content to defend deeply and park the bus. Kolarov troubled Howard with a long range effort, before the left back had another rasping effort, this time just wide, after Tevez had set him up.
Anichebe then saw yellow for a late tackle on Hart, before Kolarov wasted an opportunity to get a good ball into the box from a free kick, wide on the right.
With 30 minutes of the game to play, the visitors were reduced a man. Victor Anichebe brought down Zabaleta with a silly challenge as the City man was heading towards his own goal and the referee deemed it worthy of a second yellow card.
With 64 minutes played, City had another penalty shout – this time, handball by Jagielka, but the referee, once again, turned the appeal down. A minute later, Silva’s shot was blocked by Neville’s arm in the area again, but, despite the City players being convinced it was a spot kick, the referee waved play on.
Barry then put a volley over the bar as City took control of the game, but they were finding it hard to break down the ten men of Everton, who had become camped in their own half. Balotelli then had a great chance to shoot, but he slipped at the crucial moment and the ball dribbled behind for a goal kick.
With 20 minutes to play, though, City were back in the game. Yaya Touré’s driven cross towards the back post flicked off the knee of Jagielka and beat Tim Howard, reducing the home side to a one-goal deficit.
Three minutes later, it looked like City had equalised. Balotelli beat the offside trap to run on to a David Silva pass, but his deft flick over Howard rebounded back into play off the post, before Howard pulled off a world class stop to deny Tevez, who looked certain to score.
With five minutes to play, the City players were shaking their heads in disbelief as Peter Walton turned down another penalty appeal, as the ball struck Hibbert on the arm in the box and appeared to be a nailed on spot kick. He then endeared himself to the City fans further, by awarding a goal kick after Tim Howard had clearly tipped Yaya Touré’s effort wide.
City’s misery was then compounded, with two stoppage time yellow cards for Kolo Touré. First, he brought down Distin in the Everton half and prevented a breakaway, then, a minute later, did the same to Bilyaletdinov.
Everton’s only two shots on target were enough to steal the points, while City will be scratching their heads as to why their 32 efforts on goal yielded only four shots on target and one goal – a deflected cross.