A game at last after those frustrating international fixtures. I watched a few of them and in the main I found them boring so it was off to the Etihad for a three o’clock kick-off on a Saturday. The team as transmitted to devices was a bit of a surprise but not much made of it or the choice of subs as Big Ron is trusted with such matters.
Lads who had been to the bookies told us according to the odds offered we had no chance. Whilst I conceded that they were favourites, I also had faith that we would be prepared to make a scrap of it and not let them dictate tempo and play through us. As it turned out, I was on the right track as we set up to defend at all costs but with always the chance of a break with a speedy three upfront who were also expected to drop in. I am always interested with how managers play these days... so, looking down on play, I recall seeing 4-3-3 – 4-4-2 – 4-5-1 – 4-6-0 but the one I thought imaginative was often when we managed to break and keep the ball you could see plainly a 1-5-5 which served a few purposes both offensively and defensively. I thought it was encouraging that, after two seasons relying on one way of playing, we were now having players thinking for themselves and one another. If this develops, I am sure we will move from Martinez-ism to Koeinez-ism to pure Koeman–ism quite quickly.
We were under pressure from the off and Man City seemed to be targeting Oviedo’s flank and the lad Sane was no mug. It was taking Oviedo a bit of time to try and work him out, even with a bit of help from Gana, and I must admit I thought Deulofeu could have done a bit more. On 15 minutes, we had been under pressure but Bolasie had not been in the game going forward as it was all on the opposite flank. 20 minutes came up and it had been all City with just a couple of breaks from us; it was sure nervy times and not a lot of noise from our end. One sustained spell of pressure by City had us twitching nervously and it only ended when De Bruyne hit a chance wildly into our end so we all had a cheer. Some pretty build-up play by City had Silva in but he shot over — we cheered again.
Deulofeu swapped wings with Bolasie and we created a break that got him on his bike but his crossfield ball to the unmarked Bolasie was a touch off and got intercepted. Coleman had Sterling squealing like a pig after a good solid tackle so we all cheered again but louder. The clock reached 35 minutes and hearts were still in mouths as we kicked, hoofed and scrapped for every ball as we ensured our ‘They shall not pass’ attitude prevailed.
At last, we had a spell of attacking in a move that saw us look for an opening and killer ball. We would get to the edge of their box and, if nothing on, pull out and start again (I saw that 1-5-5 formation in action) and it went on for about 4 minutes. Now 4 minutes is a long time in this game, and it only ended when Bolasie had a cross blocked after good work between him and Oviedo.
5 minutes to half-time and I thought, "If we can get in all-square, big Ron will be able to impart some Dutch straight-talking and have us ready to resume battle on the front foot and concede nothing early doors." Oh dear; as soon as I thought that, Jags trips a bloke in the box and a penalty is awarded. It was hard for anyone to complain about the decision. De Bruyne stepped up. ‘Oh Hell’, I thought... but, as boot hit leather, the sight of the Stek diving to his left and pushing the ball away had some 2.5k Blues into a frenzied contorted mass. The ref added two minutes. With blood pressure boiling and the lads toiling, we attack as Bolasie broke up a City attack and headed up field but this ran down the clock and the ref blew his whistle for the break. Phew!
Half-time: 0-0 and the chat was varied from “lucky” to “solid defending” and all praised our keeper.
Out for the second half and no changes for us. We attacked first and Bolasie got put in down our left and his cross was just about cleared by Stones on the stretch. We had another attack and Deulofeu was played in down our left by Bolasie and he cut inside and fired a shot of some force that had the keeper making a fine save by tipping it over his bar — good save, that.
On 55 minutes, both managers made subs. Aguero for City – ‘cos they can’t score... and McCarthy for us – ‘cos we don’t want them to. We were concentrating on defence big-style but always looking to see if we could break which to me was heartening. I reckon every Evertonian in the ground, management, players and fans would not perhaps admit it but they would have taken a point at that stage because, such was City’s pressure and our memory banks still full of game fade out from a previous life, leaving us still a little negative.
But this is a different era and on 63 minutes our brains lost a bit of the old and welcomed the new embryonic matter as we witnessed our rearguard battling away some sustained City pressure and a quick break down our left saw the ball reach Big Rom. He outpaced Clichy, bore down on goal and from slightly wide left hammered a hell of a shot past the keeper. Total pandemonium ensued. One up away at City and defending like demons... we could be on for a coupon buster.
Just five minutes later, however, Jags was at it again, tripping Silva in the box. “Penalty,” said the Ref. Aguero was on now so, again, I thought ‘Oh Hell’, but, Lo and Behold, the Stek was at it again and he flew through the air to his left and pushed the ball well away. Oh, the adulation from those from Merseyside. I said to my mate, ‘It must be our day!’
From the restart, City came again and again. The Stek had to fly through the air and claw away a goal-bound shot. But on 70-odd minutes, I suppose it had to happen, although Koeman will not think that, as someone dropped off to sleep. City were doing their probing around our box but, with No Entry signs everywhere, they played it wide to Silva who was in acres. Big Ron will know who should have been with him but, as it was, he was able to demonstrate how well he can deliver a cross when given time. The sub, Nolito was in the middle of the box and he rose seemingly unmarked and placed a header out of even Stek’s reach and into the corner. Drat, I mumbled.
City were buoyed by this and went for it but we manfully got right into ‘They shall not pass’ mode which was great to see. I can remember times when we would have folded. Not only did we get organised again, we broke when we could, and with some purpose, and City respected this by leaving men back. De Bruyne cut inside and, just when you thought he would pass it, he let go a humdinger and yet again the Stek flew through the air and clawed it away for a corner.
The ref adds 4 minutes both teams make subs. Funes Mori for us and Kompany for them. Kompany went centre forward for them but didn’t get a sniff. Mori kicked one and headed one away. It seems a long 4 minutes. Barry went down after a clash, we cleared a free kick. We are all whistling but the Ref wasn’t; we whistle louder – now he does. Yippee!
MotM — Saint Stek of Gwladys
All told, a great day out. Coming off the ground, I somehow felt we are turning a corner and, from conversations held, so are some others. I think it may well take the manager this season and next to have the type of player he wants for every position to fully allow him to play the way he really wants to. When it comes to promoting youngsters, I don’t think he is averse to that but he will want them to be of a standard that putting them in the first team will pose little risk. For example, I think he would have put Rooney in but not Dowell. I reckon this guy is here to win.’
Today’s display pleased me but I can’t wait to see how we approach the Burnley game. They will battle hard and we need to match it and take nothing for granted. Our players will need to put in a shift that matches today and not think, just because it’s not City, we can stroll it.
I wonder if we will get the docks site. If so, will we change our nickname to ‘The Dockers’?
See you soon.
UP THE BLUES
Reader Comments (48)
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.