To use the same word as in many a previous report – phew.
Three points, and that’s all that matters, injuries aside. On a day when the “big guns” had a nightmare, City kind of got away with it. Against a team that had only lost on two of their previous seven visits to the Etihad, City toiled against a semi-bogey team once more, but dug in and did enough to secure three points.
Prior to the game, I attended an interesting meeting about safe standing,
On a chilly night, there was great optimism in the air. Earlier results had buoyed the crowd, along with a fair amount of alcohol, and City’s recent form had helped too. That buoyancy didn’t last long as Aguero was tackled/fouled, then stretched for a loose ball just minutes into the game and went down with what now appears to be knee ligament damage. The medical staff and the player himself will not know yet the extent of the damage, but the fact that Kun had tears in his eyes does not bode well. Start praying now.
City are not a one-man team of course, but when you have a player of such ability up front, it matters. What’s more, when you already have numerous players out, it matters even more, and it cannot fail to have an effect on the team. City seemed to lose belief with Aguero off the pitch, and whilst Pozo did fine, made regular runs that weren’t fed and should have had a goal, he of course will not trouble an opposition defence like Aguero will.
Soon Tim Howard was attracting the ire of City fans after claiming Mangala should have been sent off, a little ditty aimed his way reminding me of Uncle Albert in Only Fools & Horses (whose head was also on upside down). The thing is, Howard had a point. There’s no doubt in my mind there was zero intention from Mangala as he attacked a corner with such intensity he karate kicked Eto’o in the back, but he could easily have been sent off for violent conduct or just dangerous play, and City would have been yet another man down for the coming weeks. As I said, an accident, but a dangerous one and there could have been few complaints if the red had been brandished – though it’s not quite as clear a red in my opinion as I’ve heard others say it was. In addition, Ruud Gullit was talking out of his backside saying it was deliberate. Either way, Mangala, who had a good game, must eradicate such recklessness from his game, and cannot go for headers in the penalty area with a leg outstretched – it is asking for trouble.
Likwise, Fernando’s yellow – he innocently went for a high ball not realising Barry was there, and ended up kicking him in the head. Once more, a referee could have given red for that, but I see no reason to for an accident, another incident filed under dangerous play and thus open to interpretation. I wouldn’t want a City player to get a straight red for an attempt to control a bouncing ball, and nor would I want it for an Everton player in a similar situation. Anyway, both COULD have been sent off, so there’s no shame in saying City got some breaks. Hallelujah.
Likewise, Gareth Barry could have been sent off for elbowing James Milner, but I wouldn’t want him dismissed for that either. The only deliberate actions cautioned on the day were by Ross Barkley, as discussed later.
City got the breakthrough in controversial circumstances in a match full of controversial circumstances. James Milner ran onto a through ball wide in the penalty area and was “bundled” to the ground by a Jagielka challenge. As Marriner pointed to the penalty spot, all around us commented on what a soft decision it was, and if it happened the other way round, we’d be spitting feathers. Still, we’ll take it, a favourable penalty decision something of a novelty in recent times, and Yaya’s 100% record from the spot continued with a beautiful shot. Soft as it was, a replay from behind the incident looking from up the pitch where the referee will have seen it shows the barge to look far more substantial, so I can see how he gave it (#iveseenthemgiven).
After that, it was a tight game devoid of chances. City’s shape didn’t seem quite right, and not as dynamic as in recent games, Fernandinho’s absence key and Jovetic, for all the criticism he has received, would have given a much-needed spark to our attack. City’s lack of depth was clear to see, but any team without Kompany, Aguero, Fernandinho, Silva and even the attacking intent of Kolarov, is always going to suffer.
Likewise, for the second half. City got forward plenty of times, and got into good positions on numerous occasions, but couldn’t make it count, and couldn’t fashion decent chances, apart from Pozo, who did little wrong but was thwarted by Tim Howard who deflected the ball over the bar despite moving the wrong way. The industrious Milner had set up the chance after excellent play down the left.
After that City went into their shell again. Lampard came on and brought calm to the team, and a beautiful dinked ball that was headed down to Milner should probably have resulted in a goal. Barkley’s introduction though brought great energy to the Everton team and City were not seeing enough of the ball. In the end, the game came down to one incident, Hart brilliantly saving a Lukaku shot to his left. He should get a new contract for that.
Barkley’s yellow for a dive may have been slightly harsh, as most players throw themselves to the ground when feeling contact, but it wasn’t his first offence during his brief time on the pitch, so sod him. What’s more, he cannot complain considering Lampard merely brushed his hand against Barkley’s shoulder. The problem is, most of the time such incidents are not punished.
For City, Nasri was my man of the match, behind much of what City did well. To be honest, few City players played badly, but the team performance was less than the sum of its parts. Three points is three points though, especially at a time of the season when the games come every few days. It was unfortunate to see Pozo subbed as a sub, but I hope he doesn’t lose heart at that. Pellegrini has to do what he thinks best to see out a match and Dzeko was not capable of 90 minutes, hence this bizarre situation. Robinho was once subbed as a sub against Everton, but that was well deserved and a rather different situation.
City now stand 3 points behind the “vincibles”, and who could have imagined that just a week or two ago? To be honest, at one point I was worried about finishing in the top four! Whilst Chelsea are a stronger side than the ones we hunted down last season, it still shows the folly of deciding the champions with six months left. It happens year after year.
A more pressing concern is the small matter of Roma away on Wednesday with a team decimated by injuries. God knows who we will put out, though at least Roma aren’t on great form either. We need to score, that’s a given, so that’s an obvious concern.
As I walked back into town, a random Everton fan walked up to a random City fan in front of me and started punching him, a man he had never met before. For that reason, I hope Everton get relegated this season, bad losers.
Cheap books for xmas etc – see here!