English Premier League
Saturday 24 September 2011, 12.45 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Y Toure, Barry, Silva , Nasri (Savic 83), Dzeko (Balotelli 60), Aguero (Milner 79)
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Tevez
Goals: Balotelli (68), Milner (89)
Booked: Y Toure
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: Joleon Lescott
The game got off to a slow start, with Everton beginning slightly the stronger and keeping City at bay. Yaya Toure gave the ball away cheaply in his own half and it could have been dangerous for the home side, had Tim Cahill not fouled Barry in the process of taking possession. The Ivorian then picked Neville’s pocket and laid the ball off to Aguero, but the striker’s shot was just over the bar.
Rodwell then earned himself a yellow card for a late tackle on Silva – and it seemed to set the stall out for the next few minutes, with mainly Silva on the receiving end of some questionable challenges. Neville was next in the book for clipping the Spaniard’s heels, before Osman joined him for an unfair challenge on Richards as he got away from him.
It was more about the tackles than the actual football as the game moved past the half hour, as Yaya Toure went into the book for a late sliding tackle on Coleman. City couldn’t get the ball down and Everton were happy to keep breaking up the play. In the midst of all that, Aguero forced a decent save from Howard with a curling effort, as Dzeko closed in to get the rebound.
The second half got off to a lively start, as Richards caused confusion in the Everton box with a low cross that needed Distin’s intervention. Behind him, Howard was waiting to collect it, but the former City skipper knocked the ball out for the corner before the keeper was needed. The visitors then had some pressure on the home side’s goal with a series of corners, but they came to nothing.
Balotelli joined the action on the hour mark, as Roberto Mancini looked for something different to break down the watertight Everton defence. Kompany then held his ground as Cahill came sliding in recklessly. The Aussie came off worse, though: as Kompany tried to protect the ball from the challenge and draw the foul, he caught Cahill’s ankle and the knock meant he couldn’t continue.
And then, just eight minutes after joining the action, Mario Balotelli changed the game. Aguero received the ball on the right and carried it across the box, looking for the shooting opportunity. It didn’t come, but he laid the ball back to Balotelli, whose first time, side-footed effort clipped Jagielka and found the bottom corner, with Howard scrambling across. The Italian ran straight for his manager and celebrated with him and the bench.
It could have gotten better for City a minute later, as Balotelli flashed a difficult volley just wide of the post, before Silva had time in the area to pick out a shot. He did, but it was blocked straight back to him; his second effort, more instinctive, beat Howard, but bounced back off the post. Balotelli then fired a shot at goal and it was tapped in by Silva, but the linesman’s flag was up for offside.
As the game headed for stoppage time and Everton looked to see if they could salvage a point, the home side won it. Silva blocked a loose ball in the centre of midfield and was able to get to it first to keep possession. He was on his own with three defenders for company, but was able to hold on to it until Milner was able to get up to help. He found the City substitute and he prodded it past Howard to get his first goal of the season.