English Premier League
Tuesday 31 January 2012, 20.00 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Lescott (Kolarov 68), Clichy, Barry (de Jong 86), Milner (A Johnson 61), Silva, Nasri, Dzeko, Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Savic, Razak
Booked: Kompany, Lescott
Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the Match: James Milner
It was City with the opening possession of the game, but it was an Everton corner that almost brought the opening goal after five minutes. Hart couldn’t get near to the cross and it was headed beyond him by Stracqualursi, but the former Everton defender Lescott was on the line to head it clear. Richards then got himself into a shooting chance at the other end, but Howard saved well, when the full-back might have crossed.
Some patient build-up let Silva pick up the ball in the middle of the Everton half. He turned and drew two defenders, leaving space for Milner to pull wide. The Englishman’s cross was missed by Dzeko, but it fell to Clichy at the back post, whose effort was well over the bar. Dzeko had a shot blocked, before Milner couldn’t pick out Aguero after he’d breezed past Heitinga.
A quick free kick from Everton was almost their downfall after 23 minutes, as Clichy intercepted and a quick ball from Silva found Aguero. He pulled the ball down well, but couldn’t find the target, dragging his left footed effort just wide of the post from the edge of the area. Kompany was very harshly booked for a tangle with Cahill and, from the resulting free kick, it was a great block by Lescott on a Fellaini header to clear the ball from a corner.
With 36 minutes on the clock, City almost had themselves in front. Dzeko won the ball back in the Everton half and held the ball up well. He slipped it to the middle for Nasri and the Frenchman had no thought in his head other than to shoot. He did, he beat Howard, but it crashed down off the crossbar and away to safety. The game was the stopped in bizarre circumstances, after a fan ran onto the pitch and handcuffed himself to Joe Hart’s left hand post.
City looked to start the second half where they left off the first. It was Dzeko with the first chance after the break, as he headed towards goal from a Clichy cross, but it was an easy take for Howard. A clearance from Clichy then bounced nicely for Aguero to roll his man and break through on goal. His square ball, though, was behind Dzeko and Nasri picked up the pieces to shoot, but the effort was deflected over. Lescott could have earned City a penalty, but the referee decided he’d fouled Tim Howard and not the other way around.
Aguero tricked himself into the Everton box and was dispossessed by Fellaini. The referee looked twice, before waving play on, and it was a fair challenge. Dzeko couldn’t keep the ball as it was then cleared from the City defence and, from the change of possession, a poor touch from Donovan found Gibson, whose shot from the edge of the box deflected off Gareth Barry and beat Hart. City were behind on Merseyside again, largely against the run of play.
A Kolarov free kick needed two hands from Howard to punch the ball clear, before he returned a corner back into the box for Nasri in behind the back. The Frenchman’s pull back, though, bounced down onto the ground and rolled along the top of the bar and behind. Gibson had another volley from the edge of the box after Richards couldn’t clear, but it was wide of Hart’s post.
City wanted a penalty for a possible handball by Neville, but it would have been a very harsh award as Kolarov smashed it against his arm. Richards was then fouled by a nasty challenge by Denthe, who only received a yellow card when he could have seen red. Richards then attempted an overhead kick from a Clichy cross, but it was well over the bar.
City were knocking on the Everton door, but the home side were getting men behind the ball and holding firm. The bus was firmly parked and City couldn’t find a way through. It was perhaps an undeserved victory for Everton, but it was the bogey team who took the points from the visitors once again.