The Blues managed to make amends from last week’s horrendous showing by beating Man City by 2 goals to 1 in what was an exhilarating tie.
The starting line ups for both sides were weaker than the usual first elevens. Jan Mucha continued his run in the side, with Tim Howard still sidelined with a back injury. John Heitinga also kept his place as Phil Jagielka didn’t return from injury either. David Moyes also decided that Phil Neville had to be dropped after the torrid display against Wigan and Darron Gibson came back in at the relief to the Evertonians. The Everton boss also opted for Victor Anichebe to lead the line, in place of goal drought man Nikica Jelavic. As for City, Kompany, Rodwell, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero were all missing and so Kolo Toure, Gareth Barry, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez were given starts.
Everton came out of the traps with immediate intent of showing the loyal Everton fan base that they did care and that they were still playing for the Europa spots. Tackles were flying in early, Fellaini was booked within ten minutes, Pienaar was testing the referees patience with constant fouls as the Toffees pressured City all over the pitch. It was working immensely, City couldn’t get a hold of the ball and Everton were the team on top and were getting the chances.
The men in Blue looked to take one of those chances, when from a cleared corner, Leon Osman won a header that put the ball through to Kevin Mirallas, who unleashed a thunderbolt of a shot that struck the top of the net in fanatic style. As the Belgian wheeled away in celebration, the flag was raised and the goal was chalked off. After replays were shown, Everton fans were left in anger as the goal was in fact onside.
Shortly after this it seemed referee Lee Probert was on a mission to make Everton fans burst with anger, as Fellaini wasn’t given a penalty after clear obstruction in the penalty area from a corner. Looking back to the reverse fixture and the fact that it was the same referee who gave a nothing penalty for the home side at The Etihad, it felt like the Blues were playing against 12 men through both ties. More challenges flew in and Pienaar was the next to pick up a yellow.
After 25 minutes of solid pressure and dominance, City began to get a foothold in the game. A few chances followed for the Citizens, with Tevez striking one just past the post and one into the grateful arms of Mucha. Dzeko then did the same. This was short-lived though as on a counter-attack, Seamus Coleman played a short pass inside to a Leon Osman who was 30 yards out, and struck magnificently into the top left hand side of the goal with Joe Hart left stood motionless. The England International cut right across the ball, which resulted in major swerve to beat England’s Number 1 in the opposition goal. Everton’s tails were up and pressure and dominance resumed until the half time whistle went.
After the break, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini reverted back to a 4-4-2 system that seemed to work. City were a lot better with the ball and the Everton defence started to stand off. Mancini’s men were then given the help that they certainly needed. Pienaar, trying to resume the pressing tactics, was late into a challenge. The City players then ran up to dreadful referee Lee Probert to protest and there was only one outcome. Red Card. This means that the South African will miss the two games against Stoke and Tottenham, where Everton will also miss Marouane Fellaini, with his earlier booking being his 10th of the season.
Until this point the effort of the men in Blue had been incredible from a number of players. Coleman, Anichebe, Osman, Gibson were all running like they’d never done before. Despite City gaining real control of the match, as was expected by the Champions, the work rate of the Everton side did drop an ounce. City did have a number of chances, as their wing play caused problems that led to Jan Mucha making two fantastic saves from the right hand side of the penalty area.
City were then also denied a penalty themselves, as Tevez cut inside and smashed the ball into the raised arms of Fellaini. Referee Probert this time riled the travelling fans as the tall Belgian was clearly a yard inside the box, yet a freekick was given which came to nothing.
From there, the game petered out and it looked to be the exact same Goodison score line as last season, until a last minute goal was scored. In the last month, Everton have conceded a number of late goals to lose a lead. Fortunately for the Everton faithful, it was a goal to double the lead and it was a goal for substitute Nikica Jelavic to end his goal drought.
Steven Naismith, another substitute, won a tackle on the right hand side and the ball broke for Fellaini with a 2 against 2 scenario resulting. Fellaini drove on toward the edge of the box, played the ball a little behind Jelavic, who did well to control, cut back inside and smash it with his left, via a deflection, to loop over Joe Hart. Goodison Park rafters were shaking with wild celebrations as Everton sealed the win and the final whistle went while jubilant Evertonians were still cheering.
With Liverpool losing but Arsenal winning after the Everton win, it means the Blues sit in 6th, 3 points ahead of 7th and 4 points away from 4th. It leaves a little hope of European football back in the hearts of Evertonians and a tie at home against Stoke is eagerly awaited.
The Everton Forum’s Man of the Match – The team. While there were stand out performances from Mucha, Coleman, Osman, Gibson and Anichebe, the whole team was incredible from start to finish. While they are not fully forgiven for bottling it against Wigan for a chance to meet Millwall in the SEMI FINALS of the FA cup, this performance went a long way.