VIEW FROM THE BLUE
Everton 2-0 Manchester City
A billionnaire Arab owner and a seemingly limitless transfer budget can usher in record-signing thumb-sucking Brazilians, woo Argentina's star striker from neighbours Manchester United, persuade an Aston Villa stalwart to abandon Martin O'Neill's patient evolution, and leave Everton with little choice but to reluctantly sell one of their two best defenders.
What money can't buy at Manchester City, though, is chemistry, spirit, determination and a plain hunger to win and David Moyes's Everton, on their comparative shoestring budget, have all of those attributes in spades at the moment. Those priceless commodities, combined with no little skill and panache it should be said, was more than enough to see the Blues wrestle control of this match from their nouveaux riches northwestern neighbours and then comprehensively outplay them in all departments to win comfortably.
In Roberto Mancini, City may have found the man to eventually take them into the Champions League places and break the monopoly by the Sky Four of those all-important Premier League places, but time will tell and on this evidence he has an awful lot of work to do. Nothing could have outlined that any more starkly than the performance of Robinho who came on as an early substitute for Roque Santa Cruz and was subsequently hauled off himself having contributed nothing beyond a 14th-minute volley that, had it flown in rather than high over the bar, might have been the first line in a very different script this afternoon.
For Moyes and Everton, this, like last weekend's superb shift at the Emirates, was a performance that served to underline the tragedy of their awful start to the season and the criminal failure to strengthen the team either early enough or extensively enough in the summer. For if the start of the season had been the 1st of January and not mid-August, Evertonians would surely be dreaming of their own team's chances of cracking the top four instead of the side lying 12 points adrift.
This was the Everton of last season, the one that finished fifth in the League and reached an FA Cup Final, the team that David Moyes has patiently assembled and fashioned from both hand-picked transfer targets and emergency solutions into one that is a match for any team on their day and it was an absolute joy to watch.
Underpinning it all was a quite majestic performance by Marouane Fellaini. Virtually invincible as he patrolled the midfield, almost impeccable in the tackle, and a finger-tip save away from scoring Everton's third, the Belgian was immense today; a sensational display from a player whose transformation from big-haired misfit to cultured, truly world class midfielder now looks complete.
If proof were needed, one effortless moment of skill provided it late in the second half when he stepped into a challenge and spun 360 degrees out of it with a nonchalent drag back, making a monkey of his opposite number and earning rapturous applause from the home fans.
The opening exchanges of the match promised an altogether tighter affair than was ultimately the case. City, with the "new manager syndrome" in full effect and four matches unbeaten looked energetic and confident in the early going. Indeed, things were probably too even for Everton's liking in the first quarter of an hour, with Moyes's side lacking the rhythm and slick passing that characterised their display at Arsenal.
Martin Petrov had the game's first effort on goal when he cut in from the right wing and unloaded from 25 yards, forcing Tim Howard to push his shot away to safety. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, starting in place of the injured Leon Osman, then headed Phil Neville's cross at Shay Given, before Louis Saha mis-kicked Fellaini's header back across goal.
In between those two chances for the home side, Robinho's chance to shine arrived when Carlos Tevez flicked on Zabaleta's right-wing cross but, thankfully, the Brazilian put his left-foot volley into the Gwladys Street stand.
Not long afterwards, the Blues seized control of the game and didn't let go. In the 20th minute, home debutant, Landon Donovan, expertly dummied Phil Neville's pass forward and then raced to pick up the return ball which the stretching Saha did well to lay into his path. Although the American's first touch was a little heavy, it nevertheless took him past his marker but from a tight angle he tried to clip it over the advancing 'keeper and the his effort dropped a yard away from the back post.
A minute later, Donovan jinked inside and pulled the trigger but his shot deflected off a defender behind for a corner as the home crowd began to sense that good things were in the offing. Three corners followed in the next few minutes, one of which Fellaini could only steer into Given's arms before a throw-in from the right eventually ended at the feet of the Belgian but he sliced a 20-yard shot wide.
Everton were starting to come forward now with abandon and City were being pegged back into their own half by the home side's relentless pressing game. In the 27th minute, a deep cross was cleared only as far as Bilyaletdinov and the Russian chested it forward and smashed a shot on goal that Given did brilliantly to finger-tip over the bar.
Much criticism has come Bilyaletdinov's way in recent weeks and had Osman been fit it's unlikely the former Lokomotiv Moscow man would have started but he has clearly been listening to accusations that he lacks off-the-ball movement and doesn't track back enough because he took to this game like a man on a mission to change people's minds.
Indeed, from left to right, Everton's midfield was superb and they out-fought, out-thought and outplayed the visitors in the middle of the park for the vast majority of the match. Pienaar was combative and nimble, Fellaini a picture of composure and intelligent distribution and Donovan was always a threat, though he saw less of the ball today than he did against Arsenal.
Nine minutes before the break, Everton got the reward their increasing dominance deserved when Zabaleta flattened Saha as he cut inside from the left flank, setting up a free-kick opportunity on the edge of the box that had Pienaar's name written all over it. Sure enough, the South African whipped a shot through the wall and inside the post that Given got a hand to but couldn't keep out and the Blues were ahead.
Perhaps hoping to exhibit a bit more of a killer instinct, they kept driving at City but when Cahill was released in plenty of space on the left side of the area, he eschewed the opportunity to shoot first-time and instead tried to engineer a square pass to Saha and he was crowded out.
He nearly made amends a minute later, though, when he held off his marker to chest the ball off into the path of Bilyaletdinov and in a simillar scenario to his first effort, the Russian took it in stride before unleasing another drive that arrowed an inch wide of Given's left-hand post.
Mancini's side almost played injury-time spoilers at the end of the half, though, when Bellamy brought a save out of Howard, the USA international tipping his attempted curling shot wide for a corner that was safely cleared. Instead, the stoppage time drama would take place at the other end when Saha picked up the ball outside the City area and advanced into the box despite Micah Richards having a firstful of his shirt.
When the defender still didn't let go, the linesman flagged insistently on the right touchline before putting the flag across his chest to signal a penalty. So rarely is the letter of the law applied in instances like these these days, particuarly where Everton are concerned, that Saha's first reaction was disgust; he'd assumed a foul had been given against him! The City players protested, of course, but they had no legal leg to stand on.
Saha duly stepped up to take the spot-kick and calmly slotted the ball down the middle of the goal after Given had dived away to his left. 2-0 and Everton were coasting.
That made for a less urgent and somewhat less dominant second half. Though they never relinquished control in any department, the Blues did occasionally cede the initiative to City but so abject was their display going forward that they rarely threatened. Garrido caused a momentary cause for concern on Howard's part when he swung a free kick just inches past the upright and Bellamy fired over after a quick counter-attack but, for the most part, the visitors just couldn't compete with Everton's hunger to win the battles on the micro and macro levels.
That determination translated into a renewed desire to put City to the sword in the final quarter of an hour and when Fellaini rose to meet a Donovan corner with 13 minutes left, it looked as though he was going to cap a magnificent display with a goal but Given pawed his header onto the crossbar. Bilyaletdinov unfortunately hammered the rebound over when he might have done better or knocked it to Saha on his left.
Four minutes later, after Pienaar had released him down the left, Baines picked out Cahill with a perfect cross but his header would also come back off the woodwork, much to the frustration of the home faithful.
Had either of those chances gone in, it would have been deserved icing on the cake, but Everton can be emormously proud to have not only inflicted Mancini's first defeat in charge of City but to have done so in such emphatic fashion. On the evidence of the last two games, the Blues are in top-four form right now and, hopefully the psychological boost of having beaten a team from the top four (at least at the start of play) will translate into the sort of run of form that will close that yawning gap between them and the European places.
Most of all, it's vindication for Moyes, not only because he has once again steered his team around the proverbial corner and away from the relegation zone but also because his biggest signing is finally starting to look the part. Add in a vastly improved display by Bilyaletdinov, the remarkable bargain that was Pienaar and the gamble that is paying off in the form of Saha and there's yet more evidence why the determined Scot was, is, and will continue to be the right man for the Everton job. Just think what he could do with some real financial backing...
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1 Posted 17/01/2010 at 07:48:44
One thing that struck me during the game is what a petulant no-mark shithouse Gareth Barry is. Kept tripping over his lip!
Magnificent display from the entire midfield as Lyndon quite rightly said..... DM can expect a phone call from Ancelotti any day now.
2 Posted 17/01/2010 at 09:25:31
3 Posted 17/01/2010 at 10:02:19
4 Posted 17/01/2010 at 10:02:03
5 Posted 17/01/2010 at 10:36:28
6 Posted 17/01/2010 at 10:44:46
7 Posted 17/01/2010 at 11:42:07
The last 2 performances have been the best for a long time. Is this the real David Moyes? No Osman, Hibbert — I bloody hope so. Donovan is proving what pace on the right can and does do.
8 Posted 17/01/2010 at 11:53:43
I for one am glad we haven’t chased the Yankee Dollar or Russian Roubles. I am glad we remain a football club not a busines, franchise or global brand. I am glad we have a manager who wants to build a team with grit and determination and now a fair bit of skill. If we had had a full-strength team from the start of the season and had not been crippled by injuries, we could be challenging for the title — never mind top 4 having looked at the rest of the teams this season.
To call Kenwright a wanker is just stupid. I for one am proud we have an Evertonian in charge, someone who loves the club, someone who isn’t in it for money who would sell the heart and soul of the club to the devil as the Shite and Mancs are finding out now. And I will take being a pretty good team over being a brand any day.
9 Posted 17/01/2010 at 12:49:35
But once again let’s not talk about money, let’s just reflect on one of the great performances that we’ve seen in recent times
10 Posted 17/01/2010 at 13:45:56
11 Posted 17/01/2010 at 14:03:28
12 Posted 17/01/2010 at 16:32:09
Cahill has rediscovered his form and Fellaini who has been a terrific signing since day one just gets better and better. Bilyetidinov has come in for criticism but like Fellaini he will no doubt silence his critics. He showed us what a great player he can be. Piennar was superb, I could go on but all in all that was the complete performance.
Recently people had been highly critical of our midfield and praying for the return of Arteta, however as I stated then, I believe Arteta will find it hard to force his way back into the reckoning such is the quality of the side currently.
The return of Jagielka would be very welcome of course and he would be the final piece in the puzzle. This is without doubt the best side we’ve had in years and Moyes deserves to be applauded for that. I’ve been critical of his tactics in the past and his team selection on occasions but his activity in the transfer market alongside his team motivation skills is beyond reproach. Credit where it's due.
13 Posted 20/01/2010 at 13:05:59
And I can’t honestly believe it when fans on this forum moan about lack of money and wish to emulate the malaise of Man City/the Shite/Manure. Blue Bill’s an Evertonian — what else do you want as chairman of your club?
If Moyes ever wins anything — which he might even do this season, and came close last season — the plaudits for him, Bill, the club and us the fans will resonate throughout the game to a much greater extent than any success purchased by Chelsea/the Shite/Manure/ Man City.
That’s the prize.
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