Everton 2 Manchester City 3: Some Thoughts
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Another excruciating 90 minutes saw City show their character in the most important game in years to take one step closer to the title.
It wasn’t the easiest way to start my 40th birthday night out – by the end I had gone straight to 50. Needless to say this won’t be much of a match report, as I can’t remember everything that happened last night anyway.
The team sheet was of little surprise, though I did wonder if Pellegrini might go for one man upfront. The biggest surprise again was the repeated inclusion of Garcia over Fernandinho. Like Demichelis behind him though, it was a reminder of how much the Spaniard has progressed over recent months. He is no superstar, but he hasn’t let the team down.
And so began the game in the strangest of atmospheres. As the impressive Barkley curled a beautiful effort into the back of the net, dreams of title glory seemed so distant. Yet again Everton seemed to be doing a job on us. To answer the question everyone had posed, the home team was certainly not throwing the game. The toffees fought from beginning to end, and the victory was as hard-fought as they come.
A City team of old probably would not have responded after going behind, but as we know this team is different and City responded excellently. A sharp shot from Aguero saw City level in a move that summed up his season – a goal followed by an injury.
Is Aguero worried about the world cup? He goes off a lot as a precaution – well hopefully that was all it is. I doubt he will play any further part in this season though.
Even better was to come though, the thought of going in at half-time inconceivable after Everton’s early goal, but it was a sublime header from Dzeko that gave the blues the advantage at the break. The player that frustrates more than any added a 3rd goal in the second half with a simple finish to notch his 10th goal away from home this season in the league. Only Luis Suarez has scored more on the road.
Before that though was perhaps one of the crucial moments of the season, a pivotal save that changed everything. Joe Hart’s brilliant save from Naismith kept City ahead and was followed soon after by City’s third. How important that save could be.
It had to be with City though that they would make life difficult, and thus Lukaku pulled a goal back and City faced a nervy last 25 minutes, sitting too deep but surviving to the final whistle. That final whistle that came suspiciously late was great to hear. City had completed their first double over Everton (in itself worthy of a trophy) in over 30 years and passed their sternest test.
It’s amazing how this season has resembled the title-winning campaign of two seasons ago. Seemingly out of the race, a win over West Brom revitalised things and a scrambled draw at home to Sunderland almost ruined it all whilst a rival’s defeat put it back into our hands. It may be a superior goal difference that once more proves decisive. Let’s hope the end result is the same, but please please please do it without the stress of last time.
But of course this title race is not over. City need to win two more games to lift the trophy and whilst yesterday’s results went our way leaving our two opponents with nothing to play for, they will be no easy touch and City must retain total concentration and do a job.
150 goals this season, the greatest number ever in the top flight. Not bad City, not bad.
Still, if you thought scoring three goals at Everton and winning one of the toughest games of the season with a title on the line was impressive, you thought wrong. Andy Dunn at The Mirror wasn’t impressed:
But City – even though they were casual, disorganised and moody for significant parts of the game – would have been rightly derided had they not navigated this challenge.
That they made such hard work of it might be a reflection of either their nerves or their over-confidence.
Considering the importance of the stakes, there was an unfathomable sloppiness about much of this City performance.
And if you thought giving to charity was a GOOD THING, a NICE GESTURE, especially when a club donates all gate receipts from a match, then you are wrong again. As Glenn Moore explains in The Independent:
Manchester City do some valued community work but donating Under-21 match receipts (est: £10,000) to Stephen Sutton’s Teenage Cancer Trust campaign smacks of a publicity stunt. City say they are increasing awareness, but Stephen’s Story is hardly unknown. City’s daily wage bill: £638,356.
And so it’s all about Wednesday now, and the nerves are already kicking in. Fingers crossed that it is everything we hoped for and that standards don’t slip. A new series of 24.