A Long Day In Manchester

By Paul Traill   ::  02/12/2012 Anticipating a busy train to Manchester from Liverpool Lime Street, I set off quite early and arrived in Manchester at a little after 11am. With time to kill, I pottered around the quaint German Christmas Market before heading on to the pub…

The Waldorf is a cracking little ‘away’ pub, situated just near Piccadilly Station and home to several nice ales. As I was entering the place quite a few people were leaving, one muttering “It’s busy in there. Full of Toffees!” That will do me!

I watched the best part of West Ham vs Chelsea in there before heading off to The Etihad Arena. There are regular buses to the stadium from pretty much right outside the pub so I was there in plenty of time for kick-off. I got the team news on my phone; despite a hamstring scare, Baines had made the game with Everton unchanged from the midweek draw with Arsenal.

Man City went for Dzeko and Tevez in attack and ex-Blue Lescott in defence… Jack Rodwell injured again. Brazilian full back Maicon also featured. The referee was Lee Probert.

Man City perhaps edged the opening exchanges with Howard and our centre backs forced into action in the opening 10-15 minutes or so but I wouldn’t exactly say we were under pressure and our midfield appeared quite comfortable though with only tame efforts from distance to show for our efforts.

Fellaini was central to most things we did and was again paramount to our goal, the Belgians eighth of the campaign. It was Baines's lovely ball in which skipped off the head of a defender, Fellaini headed powerfully, Hart saved well but Marouane was on hand to bundle home the rebound. 1 - 0 Everton. The scourge of Manchester City denting the Champions again.

We looked comfortable following this and didn’t really look like conceding before half-time. We were utterly dismayed then when Probert pointed to the penalty spot following a corner kick. It was impossible to tell what had happened first time around whilst at the game but they showed it again on the giant screen at half-time and you just couldn’t believe Man City got a penalty for that. I’ve since seen it from quite a few different angles on Match of the Day and am still perplexed as to why this was given; we’ll never know what might have happened had we gotten to half-time a goal to the good. Tevez converted the penalty, going down the middle with Howard diving to the side. 1 - 1 at half-time and pleased with the performance – though not with that awful bit of officiating.

Into the second half and Man City started on the front foot, keeping quite a lot of possession and putting us under quite a lot of pressure. We withstood this undamaged, however, and I thought there was a great 20-minute spell when we were the team on top in this one. Typically of Everton, we were always just that one bad pass away from creating something meaningful and couldn’t force another goal despite some very clever midfield play by Gibson, Osman and Pienaar, and destructive offensive play of Fellaini. If I was to be critical of anyone it would perhaps be of Jelavic as, with just a bit more effort and running, I think he’d find more pockets of space and hence more opportunities – much like, and I don’t enjoy saying it, a certain Uruguayan does across the park.

Nevertheless, it was Jelavic who almost had the final say on this game when having been pole-axed by Zabaletta following a great release from Pienaar he struck a free kick goalwards only for Joe Hart to save – only just. Everton made nothing of the resultant corner and we had to settle for a share of the spoils – perhaps a sign that we’re on the right road if we’re coming away from Man City slightly disappointed with a draw… I certainly was anyway.

Speaking of roads, I got the same bus back into the city centre but, with the overspill of usual matchday traffic and Christmas shoppers, it was quite a lengthy bus journey. I’d agreed to meet some friends who live in Manchester for a few drinks to watch Reading vs Manchester United though it took so long getting back into the city centre that it was half-time when I got there. I found it unbelievable that the score was 3-4 at half-time though I didn’t get to see any further goals in this one. I stayed with my friends until roughly 10pm and jumped on the train back to Liverpool. It was a long way home from there. First the train and then my bus back to Wirral… from setting off at about 9:30am, I arrived back home, take-away in hand, at about midnight and it was great to get back into the warmth following a long, cold day at the match.

I’m encouraged by the last two games and am believing our sticky spell may be over. Sure we’ve drawn our last two (well actually seven of our last nine) but with injured players returning I go into the next few games at home to Spurs and away trips to Stoke and West Ham with renewed hope we can start converting these draws into wins and maintain our place towards the top end of the table.

Player Ratings:

Howard: Still needs to command more but did make some good saves at times. 6

Baines: Perhaps not fully fit as some of his deliveries weren’t quite up to scratch though he did provide another assist for the goal and combined well with Pienaar, particularly in the second half. 7

Distin: Good. Much more solid than earlier in the season. 7

Jagielka: Good and solid. Looks as though we’ve finally found the best centre back combination with what we have available. 7

Hibbert: I’m really pleased he’s back. Seems to have settled back into the team with no problem at all. 7 Gibson: Did very well. Always busy and always pressing the midfield to try and retain possession, equally so, hardly ever wasteful when in possession. Good for him to get the full 90 minutes under his belt also. 7

Osman: Had an excellent game in the middle, keeping the ball well and helping us tick over. I like the look of those two (Gibson and Osman) in the middle together. 7

Pienaar: Has looked much more like it thee last two games, hopefully he can really kick on now, starting next Sunday against his short-term club. 7

Naismith: Still the weak link in the midfield until Mirallas is able to return but was a bit more useful than in previous games I felt. 6

Fellaini: I could have given Man of the Match to Fellaini, Gibson or Osman but the goal makes Fellaini stand out for me and I don’t think he did anything wrong for the penalty decision so don’t lay any blame on him for that. Scored a goal and was a persistent menace. If he can keep fit and keep this form up all season, we’ve a real chance in pretty much every game. All teams seem to struggle with him and can’t find an answer to him. 7

Jelavic: With a bit more work we’d get more goals out of him, of that I’m convinced. Maybe a confidence thing though, perhaps when he does find that next goal we’ll start to get more out of him. 6

Oviedo (for Naismith): Didn’t quite get going, still adapting to the league I think. 6

Heitinga (for Jelavic): Not on for long at all, probably didn’t touch the ball so difficult to judge.

Reader Comments

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Dick Fearon
362 Posted 02/12/2012 at 21:17:15
How Probert deals with penalty area argy bargy in the future will interesting.
Will we see a huge rise in penalty kicks or is he just another big-four-loving hypocrite.
Ian Smitham
382 Posted 02/12/2012 at 23:45:43
Superb passionate article by what is obviously a loving Evetonian, excellent report, almost makes one feel they were there,sadly I was not
Tony Cheek
392 Posted 03/12/2012 at 05:30:02
Good report again, Paul. Wouldn´t it be brilliant if refs actually did their job at corners and free kicks and awarded penalties for every time some pushed, pulled a shirt, obstructed or downright wrestled an opponent to the ground. But they are so bleeding inconsistent.

Moyes has a right to be angry about this. Probert spent nearly all second half compensating for that decision as we got the lion's share of free kicks... pathetic!
David Stewart
418 Posted 03/12/2012 at 10:27:42
Matchday reports I can get anywhere, they're a dime a dozen all over the net, but Paul, I do enjoy yours. Especially with your matchday asides. I reckon it gives it that personal touch and for us that are now on the other side of the world, it brings that matchday experience a little bit closer.

But beware — you've been told off before for not keeping to the script. Well, I say fuck 'em; keep them the way they are, mate, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys them just as they are.
Christopher Arellano
741 Posted 05/12/2012 at 21:37:09
Thanks again for another great match report.
I, for one, enjoy all the chit chat about Stu, and the others.

But if the match reports themselves weren't so damned good, I wouldn't bother.
So good job all the way around.

Dave Brierley
771 Posted 06/12/2012 at 15:14:02
Nice one Paul. Always enjoy your reports. Keep it going mate.

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