Manchester City vs. Everton: 6 Things We Learned
David Moyes' side started brightly, taking the game to their opponents through a mixture of intelligent movement and some well-organised pressing high up the pitch.
They eventually took a deserved lead on 33 minutes through their man of the moment, Marouane Fellaini, as the Belgian bundled home a Leighton Baines cross at the second attempt.
City had appeared slightly off the pace during the opening exchanges, but going behind seemed to serve as the perfect stimulant. They increased the tempo and quickly began pushing the action nearer Everton's goal.
The hosts got their riposte just before half-time via a penalty. Fellaini was adjudged to have brought down Edin Dzeko, and although replays showed the decision to be of the harsher variety, Carlos Tevez stepped up to pull his side level.
City continued on with growing intent as the second half progressed, although the Toffees carved out several half-chances themselves and could have taken the points late on.
Here are six Everton-related talking points to come from Saturday's game.
Fellaini vs. Toure: Only One Winner
This game pitted two of the Premier League's most influential midfielders against each other.
Marouane Fellaini has been one of the leading players of this current campaign, scoring at will, whilst Yaya Toure was so often inspirational in City's triumphs of last season.
Despite not always being in direct contact with each other, on the occasions they did tussle, it was Fellaini who generally emerged on top.
Toure endured a frustrating afternoon, especially in the tackle area, where he won just 22 percent of his ground duels and had to resort to fouling the Belgian on a couple of occasions.
Both individuals are high-calibre players and inspirational performers for their teams, but on Saturday's showing it was Fellaini who came out on top, which had a large bearing on the result.
Impressive Energy Levels
As this game unfolded, it quickly became clear a decisive factor in the outcome could well prove to be the fitness levels of Everton's starting lineup.
Having successfully pressed and harried Arsenal so high up the pitch for much of Wednesday's fixture, Moyes enforced a similar approach Saturday without the ball, which again worked well, especially during the opening half hour.
City were perhaps envisaging a decline in their opponent's energy reserves, with the same personnel used as four days ago, yet Everton's desire and commitment never wavered as the side gave their all throughout—a testament to Moyes' fitness regime.
Hibbert and Gibson Clear Upgrades
Everton's main area of concern over recent weeks have been at right-back and central midfield.
Both positions have generally been struggling to provide enough stability and support for the team, and several recent goals have been as a consequence of individual errors in these areas.
As was the case against Arsenal, Everton were able to call upon Darron Gibson and Tony Hibbert, who both instantly strengthened their side's foundations, particularly in defence.
Although Hibbert is rarely as adventurous or accurate going forward as Seamus Coleman, his consistency at the back is far superior to any other right-back at the club, and he greatly improves the Toffees' resilience.
In the short time he's been at Everton, Gibson has already become one of his side's most important players. He not only solidifies the midfield core, but adds another dimension to the passing game and allows his side to play at a far higher tempo.
It's imperative both remain fit.
Heitinga on Borrowed Time
Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin have been rotated at centre-back all season, with Moyes still unsure of whom to pair with Phil Jagielka.
Distin has been the man in possession for the past two games, and after an impressive defensive display on Saturday, it looks as though Heitinga may have to deal with a few more games on the sidelines.
This is never something the Dutchman has been especially fond of, and with an expiring contract, his position at the club is beginning to look a little more vulnerable as January approaches.
Moyes is desperate for funds this transfer window and if Heitinga continues to look a disposable option—and remains coy about a new contract—the enigmatic Dutchman may well be on his way.
Naismith Yet to Acclimatise
Despite the positives of Saturday, one player receiving a growing amount of criticism in recent weeks has been Steven Naismith.
His performances have not been especially notable, yet most players coming from the SPL to the Premier League will need sufficient time to adjust, given the complete contrast in standard.
Nikica Jelavic's instant impact may have been detrimental to Naismith, who's also been doing a job for his side on the right, despite being more suited in central areas.
The Scottish international has shown glimpses of quality in his brief career at Everton, especially with his movement, and given time there's no reason to suggest he cannot develop into an effective Premier League performer.
Everton Continue to Rile Mancini
Although Everton could not continue their recent trend of beating their wealthy opponents, securing the draw today still ensures they remain one of the least popular fixtures on Manchester City's calender.
Mancini's flustered post-match comments—where he stated playing City was like a Champions League final for Everton—only highlight his frustrations; and ironically it's not as though a Champions League final is a subject he's been particularly familiar with in recent years.
Eight wins, a draw and just two defeats in 11 games is a remarkable return for the Toffees, especially given the contrast in financial power during these recent contests.
Long may it continue.
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