The Ped Report - City 1-2 Everton
As we prepared to be singing 'City, City, top of the league' this morning, once again 'typical City' failed to deliver on the biggest of stages.
With Everton unable to generally buy a goal or a win, Mancini bouyed with the news coming out of the Tevezamp, must have been rubbing his hands at the thought of telling Chairman Khaldoon, at his 12 month appraisal that he had directed his team to the top of the tree, but in the end it simply did not happen.
I think the starting point for this was team selection. My own feelings were that Boateng should have started at right back and Zabaleta should have replaced the suspended Nigel de Jong in midfield.
We know Everton load up the back and midfield, so I would have opted for Johnson to create width instead of Milner who created nothing. I fear that Milner may be colour blind, he did not find a sky blue shirt all night. Indeed Everton kept theit lines close together affording no space at all to City.
The match began in unconvincing style, with Howard time wasting from the first goal kick. What we have we hold eh Mr Moyes? But even the living proof that ET had an intimate encounter could not have expected Santa Claus' quick fire 1-2 delivery and City went behind before many people had taken their seats. As always Cahill managed to shake markers in the six yard box, leaving Toure static before turning in a close range header. Three minutes gone and top of the league in tatters. I would have liked to see Toure follow Cahill and get in a challenge as all other defenders were engaged.
City battled to get back in the game but the battles were being won by Everton. Cahill basically set about anyone and everyone, Neville kicked everything except the ball and with Zabaleta off the field getting the vinegar and brown paper treatment, Everton struck again, this time building on the left and a deft inside pass to Baines saw him hit a cute strike around Toure and inside the far post.
Contrast Toure's half hearted turning of his back to the blocks that Everton's players put in for the rest of the match!
So job done after 20 minutes, Everton could now turn their attention to their fabled destruction of the match as a spectacle. Devoid of any serious football, timewasting was high on the agenda for master tactician Moyes. Thrown-ins became drawn out affairs. At one point Neville lined up to take a throw-in, handed the ball to Rodwell who after attention to an injury in the City ranks promptly wated more time by giving the ball back to Neville. Stirring stuff. United reject Howard continually took his goal kicks from the furthest point, constantly tapping imagined mud from his boots (have you ever seen any mud on Lee Jackson's snooker table of a football field?). And Peter Walton bought it all, only once rebuking Howard, who continued with his antics no matter what.
City bombarded Everton's goal for the rest of the match as Joe Hart froze almost to death at the other end. Unlike Bolton, they left no gaps between the lines and Silva had to come deeper and deeper for the ball, as did Tevez.
Balotelli couldn't get clear, often with up to three Evertonians sticking to him like toffees. Milner was simply rubbish and fully deserved to spend the second half cooling on the bench.
Everton, for their part blocked everything that came their way sometimes illegally but always effectively. Mr Walton and his crew at no point saw fit to call any of the hand balls in the penalty area, including one attack from a corner during which there were three good shouts for a spotkick. The same linesman however did see a City player handle a ball over fifty yards away which Walton missed.
City finally got on the scoreboard when Yaya Toure's rasping shot took a deflection off Jagielka and crept inside the post. This should have been the signal for an almighty onslaught, but several key decisions from players were wrong. Johnson tried hard, on for Milner but his shooting was wayward, Balotelli couldn't get in the game and looked as though he didn't want to. Yaya Toure, Tevez and Silva tried their best to carve out openings, but it just didn't happen.
You just knew that it wouldn't be City's night when the one true penetrating movement finally got Balotelli clear and hit chip over Howard hit the post and came back out, Howard impeded his attempt to recover the ball and blocked Tevez follow-up.
Howard continued to blatantly waste time and sent every goal kick towards the bandaged head of Zabaleta.
Not long after his miss Balotelli was clattered in the box and finally needed to be replaced. Christmas in Italy looks good this time of year - if there's an airport open anywhere in England.
Anichebe was sent off for Everton for two yellows including clattering Joe Hart after he made a clearance and finally Kolo Toure booked his Christmas holidays by committing two fouls in quick succession borne out out of frustration.
Moyes sent on two strikers to try to lenghthen the game with Minnie HaHa sporting orange hair. Maybe if it had snowed some playerd would have though that his head was the ball!
We have been discussing all season how fortunes appeared to have changed in City's defence, but last night Toure defended poorly. He could have helped prevent both goals and hardly won a header all night. Hence the right side of the defence was too small in stature which is why I think Boateng should have started.
As I have said Howard kept weighing in on Zaba's bandaged head. Master tactics.
Milner was totally ineffective. Maybe he has got the same football manual as Stephen Ireland. Zaba for me would have made more of a contribution there and freed up Yaya Toure much sooner.
What now going forward? We still need another striker and Dzeko looks the most likely target. His team are performing poorly and he carries Wolfsburg more than Tevez carries us. Rather than chase 19 year olds from South America and Espanyol and Portugal, I would seriously look at getting him. But on a more controversial note and as back-up, why not get someone like Kenwynne Jones of Piquionne? They are premier league savvy, would cost practically nothing in City terms and would want to try to 'be part of it'.
We can then get the more upmarket players in the summer. We need to get Dzeko in early January not late. Balotelli will no doubt want to be out for a month and we need goals starting on 1 January 2011.