Sloppy Mistakes and Poor Decisions Cost Manchester City Against Everton
With all the hype in the build-up to the match—myself included—about the possibility of going into Christmas on top of the table for the first time in 81 years, it was inevitable that Manchester City, being Manchester City, would lose.
This is exactly what happened at Eastlands tonight, where 45,000 loyal fans braved conditions of -9c to watch what was, in some ways, an inept display.
This is not so much a match report, but a few home truths that need to be told.
Everton took the lead after just four minutes with Tim Cahill, scoring for the fourth consecutive game at Eastlands, capitalising some poor defending from Aleksander Kolarov and Kolo Toure.
A clash of heads between Pablo Zabaleta and the goal-scorer then resulted in the Argentine full-back being off the pitch for eight minutes.
During that time, the visitors extended their lead with David Silva failing to track back and cover his man in Lieghton Baines, allowing the England international the time and space to pick his spot from just inside the area.
2-0 down with 20 minutes gone, with Everton having less than 40% of the possession.
It was at this point that the likes of Silva and Yaya Toure started to wake up and look at least half interested in the game.
City began to press, but to their credit, Everton defended well.
There were shouts for a penalty when the ball seemed to strike Phil Neville on the arm, but these were waved away by referee Peter Walton.
Up-front Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli were non-existent and were obviously too cold to earn their paychecks for this one.
James Milner and Gareth Barry were the only two City players in the first half that seemed to want it and they chased, kicked, tackled and snarled at the equally ferocious Everton midfield.
At the break, the score was still 2-0 to the Toffees.
Roberto Mancini, has been manager for one year and one day, he is idolised by the vast majority of the City faithful, but sometimes his substitutions are seemingly clueless.
This trend continued after the break, when replaced the hardworking Milner with Adam Johnson.
Don't get me wrong, Johnson has talent, but for the last month he has been utter garbage. He remained to be so tonight.
In England, there is a lot of hype about this international winger; they believe he should be starting regularly for City.
Well, he shouldn't: He is inconsistent, look as though he has been worked out and the most annoying thing of all, he has started to believe in all the hype surrounding him.
With Milner off, it was up to Barry to drive City. He did just that and with Silva starting to get more involved, City continued to press.
Victor Anichebe then gave City a lifeline, being shown his second yellow for a tackle on Zabaleta, just as he was to be replaced.
Zabaleta, by the way, is the only other City player apart from Barry and Milner who can be proud of his display tonight.
He was busted open, kicked and beat black and blue.
Not once did he complain or stop running, showing once again why he will always be in and around the starting XI.
With the 10 men Everton sat back and more heroics from Tim Howard and the back-four frustrated City.
A goal was pulled back in the 72nd minute when Phil Jagielka diverted a Yaya Toure effort into his own net.
City should have had enough find at least an equaliser, but were again denied when a lovely run and take from Balotelli resulted in Howard making two world-class saves.
Another shout for handball was turned away by Walton, who was again showing why he shouldn't be a Premiership referee.
It was not to be and as time passed the 90 minute mark, Kolo Toure was booked twice in quick succession for petulant fouls.
In the end, City got what they deserved—nothing.
The pipe dream of leading at Christmas passes and Roberto Mancini's men now know that if they want to challenge for the league, it will take more than the effort of three players on a cold Monday in December to get them there.
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