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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 16 March 2013; 12:45pm
2 0
 Osman (32'), Jelavic (90' + 2')
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 36,519
Fixture 29
Referee: Lee Probert

Match Report

"If you could sum up Everton in two games, it would be those two"
@matt_sawer, Twitter

What a difference a week makes. From what was easily their nadir this season, Everton dug deep and rose to one of their best displays of 2012-13 to once more sink Manchester City at Goodison Park. With a rousing, determined, tireless performance, they snuffed out the Champions' threat, barely batting an eyelid when Steven Pienaar was sent off for a second bookable offence with half an hour of the contest still to go, and sealed the victory with one of the most welcome goals the Grand Old Lady has seen in years.

Evertonians were rightly fearful of just how much damage had been done to the team's psyche by their unfathomable collapse against Wigan. The sense of frustration and despair, coupled with the soul-searching and recriminations about the future of Everton and who is at fault for the club coming up short once again, had been palpable all week but, just as they did after last season's FA Cup disaster with an amazing 4-4 draw at Old Trafford, the players regrouped and delivered the stunning riposte. That day they effectively ended Manchester United's title hopes; today they crushed City's.

It was clear from the very first whistle that the Blues were up for the challenge of this one. To a man, their every move radiated commitment and determination, purpose and energy again, the contrast with last Saturday could not have been starker with Marouane Fellaini, in particular, embodying redemption. Indeed, it was that passion to atone for a dreadful personal showing against the Latics that saw him end up harshly as it turned out in referee Lee Probert's book after just seven minutes for a crunching, ball-first, sliding tackle on James Milner. It was the first of a number of abysmal decisions by an official showing few signs of improving and it meant a two-match ban for Fellaini for reaching 10 cards for the season.

Probert's incompetence was matched five minutes later by his assistant when Kevin Mirallas latched onto Leon Osman's header and lashed a fantastic, first-time shot into the roof of the net, only to have the goal disallowed for offside. Television replays would show that the Belgian was clearly level with the last defender and, once more at Goodison, the benefit of the doubt was not given to the attacking team.

Whatever Moyes had said to his team in the days and hours leading up to the game had clearly had its effect because Everton utterly dominated the first quarter of the game. Less a case of the opposition playing badly, City just weren't given a moment to compose themselves as Blue shirts chased, swarmed and harried them over every blade of grass. Save for a brief flurry after the 23rd minute when Carlos Tevez and then Edin Dzeko, twice, tried to test Jan Mucha with fairly tame efforts, Roberto Mancini's side just weren't able to make any inroads into the Blues defence in the first half.

Instead, it was the home side doing almost all the attacking and they went ahead just past the half-hour mark through a sublime strike by Osman. Not for the first or last time the little Irishman absolutely owned the Serb all afternoon Seamus Coleman tormented Alexander Kolorov down the Blues' right before laying the ball back to Osman who found the top corner from 25-plus yards with a stunning, bending shot off the outside of his left boot. Joe Hart could do nothing but admire it as it arced away from him and nestled in the back of the net; a beautiful way to notch your 50th goal for Everton.

Victor Anichebe, starting in place of Nikica Jelavic and rewarding his manager's faith in him with a beast of a display running the line up front, ended another excellent Everton move by smashing wide from the angle after Darron Gibson had collected a one-two pass from Coleman. And Mirallas came very close to doubling the lead just before half time when Coleman who else? floated a cross to the back post but the Belgian forward's header bounced off Kolo Toure's head and over the crossbar after Hart had flapped the ball into his path.

As they had to, Mancini's men emerged the from the interval with a bit more purpose but it was Everton who had the first chance of the second period, Anichebe just failing to get purchase on a good Leighton Baines' cross. Still, City sounded a couple of warning bells soon afterwards when Milner got goalside of Baines at the back post and set up Javi Garcia in front of goal but he couldn't convert and Gareth Barry flicked the resulting corner across the six-yard box and the ball just eluded Nastasic.

If the match needed a turning point from City's point of view, it arrived with just shy of an hour played. Pienaar, who had already been booked for an over-exuberant challenge in the first half, went in high to a 50-50 challenge with Garcia and caught the Spaniard on the shin with his studs. Referee Probert initially seemed unperturbed by the midfielder's three-roll histrionics but after being surrounded by claret shirts and being remonstrated with by Tevez, he reached for his pocket and flashed the South African a red card.

There can't have been many Evertonians who felt that all the team's hard work to that point including that of Pienaar who had been excellent up to that point, particularly in breaking up opposition play (not normally his strong suit) was in danger of being undone. Surely a resurgent City, even without the likes of Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, would have enough to break down the Blues' resistance with a man advantage?

That they didn't was down to Everton's simple willingness not to fold or even retreat into an entirely defensive posture and some inspired goalkeeping by Mucha who pulled off a double save in the 67th minute to deny Milner from close range after he's only been able to palm Tevez's effort into the Englishman's path.

And he did even better in the 79th minute when Pablo Zabaleta popped on the right side of the area and bore down on goal but the Slovak 'keeper came haring off his line to close down the angle and blocked the shot behind with his arm.

In between, in what was arguably the only questionable move he made all game, Moyes had withdrawn Mirallas in favour of Steven Naismith with 20 minutes to go. Granted, though he had been his usual enterprising and effervescent self, not much had come off for the Belgian (apart, of course, from his superb "goal"), he was, nevertheless providing an outlet for the 10-man Blues that was keeping the City defence on their toes. With Naismith, on paper, offering only marginally better protection defensively, it seemed an odd move but it would prove significant deep in stoppage time.

Having benefited from that offside decision in the first half and Pienaar's dismissal in the second, City couldn't argue that they'd been given a raw deal but any bleating they would do after the final whistle would ultimately concern Probert's mystifying decision in the 86th minute. A Tevez shot from distance stuck the raised arms of Fellaini a yard inside the area and Goodison's collective heart stopped when the referee blew his whistle. Instead of pointing to the spot, however, the official placed the ball for a free kick a yard outside the box! Kolorov fired the ensuing shot into the wall.

With the clock running down, that appeared to be that but there would be one more twist in the tale in stoppage time, and a wonderful one it would be, too, for Jelavic who had replaced the ceaselessly industrious Anichebe with a minute of normal time to go. Naismith's sliding tackle on Gael Clichy diverted the ball into the path of Fellaini and he set off on a giraffine gallop with Jelavic streaking forward to his right in support.

The Belgian laid the ball to the side at the ideal moment and with the defender in front of him back-pedalling, the Croatian jinked to his left and swept the ball into the top corner with the help of a slight deflection off his marker's shin before tearing his shirt off in unbridled joy as he ran towards the Gwladys Street end. He was mobbed by his teammates in a clear illustration of what the end of his four-month League goal drought means to all concerned and the points were sealed.

Fans will rightly question where on earth the team and spirit they witnessed today was against Wigan and while this handsome 2-0 win won't erase the pain or all of the anger at last weekend's capitulation, it does make a huge statement about the players' attitude and it demonstrates that Everton's Premier League season is by no means over.

Because if they can maintain this level of performance or something close to it for the remainder of the campaign and, crucially, break their duck under Moyes at one or two of Stamford Bridge, Anfield or the Emirates, then European football is not out of the question for next season. Still plenty to be decided even if they are to achieve what seemed impossible just seven days ago and finish fifth not least the manager's future and the size of the squad but being a Blue feels so much better tonight and that's down to an immense display by Everton's players.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

David Moyes has dropped Captain Phil Neville and striker Nikica Jelavic, with Gibson and Anichebe stepping in. Barkley starts on the bench, alongside Oviedo and Duffy. Howard, Jagielka and Hibbert remain sidelined with injuries.

The team is apparently set up to play 4-2-3-1 with Gibson and Fellaini in the holding role with rather a lot of empty seats at the kick-off. A couple of free-kicks until Distin went in over Dzecko, who wanted a foul and didi't get one, then having a go atr the referee. Baines was taken out on the byeline and a good free-kick opportunity was headed out for a corner that Baines swung in but it was cleared. Fellaini put in a rather spirited tackle on Milner, flying down the wing, earning a very early yellow card.

Anichbe was the next to be fouled in an increasingly fractious start but Gibson's effort was very poor, although Coleman won another corner that Mirallas floated in and it needed defending. Osman was fouled by Milner and in the follow-up, Mirallas was perhaps fractionally offside when he produced a brilliant finish into the top corner with his left foot. Baines and Coleman were both getting forward, Everton dominating the first 15 mins but that disallowed goal hurt.

Silva almost got loose but Distin blocked his cross but when Everton got forward again, Coleman dithered dreadfully and scooped his cross-shot over the bar. Baines put in a low cross that forced another corner but Osman's cross to no-one bounced out harmlessly. City were coming into it more, Tevez and then Dzecko getting shots in that Mucha handled confidently.

It was competitive stuff and Pienaar came in very late, getting a yellow card for a foul on Barry. From the free-kick, Kolarov fired in at Aniuchebe in the wall. Barry then took out Distin in an aerial challenge and the Blues fans screamed for a yellow card but nothing from Lee Probert. Kolarov was then booked to much applause for his rugby tackle on Osman. Baines's kick was floaed to Fellaini at the far post but he could get no power om the header.

The next foul was on Anichebe as Everton once again pressed with intent, Coleman dribbling in, laid it back to Osman who hooked an oustanding shot from great distance, curling away off tyhe outside of his left foot and into to the top corner of the Park end net with Hart rooted to his line, a brilliant striker, rewarded by the Gods with a swath of glorious sunshine bathing Goodison Park.

An excellent spell of play down the right ended with Anichebe spinning and firing a fierce shot just over the bar. At the other end, Tevez got loose and lashed one just wide of Mucha's post. Pienaar did well to intercept Tevez and set up something of a break but Mirallas didn't get the bounce of the ball.

A great cross from Coleman was pawed out by Hart, straight at Mirallas beyond the back post, whose header back was deflected over the bar. Silva got a yellow card for persistent fouling of Coleman. All round an excellent first-half from Everton, playing the sort of football with the sort of spirit and determination that is rightfully expected of them all qualities that were sorely absent last weekend,

City showed more effort from the kick-off as Everton were pushed back a little, although Anichebe did fluff what looked like a great chance for a header. City came very close on a couple of attacks. Anichebe got called for blocking the goalkeeper on a corner from Mirallas as the game went from end to end with few clear chances being crafted by either side. A Baines corner driven in was stuck well by Osman, and deflected just over.

Pienaar went in with a high boot, studs showing, then spun his body into Garcia and was shown his second yellow card, to much derision from the Goodison faithful. So Everton down to 10 men and holding on for the last half-hour. Milner's foul on Mirallas saw more derision from the crowd who felt that Probert was having a very poor game.

Tevez got in a save on Tevez, then a brilliant second save on Milner following in as City were able to pile on the pressure, But 10-man put a fair effort in down the left but with Mirallas tiring, David Moyes decided to bring on Naismith, a decision not met with universal approval by the Everton crowd, who wee now beginning to fear the inevitable equalizer.

There was a bizarre incident when Tevez cut across and fired in a shot that may well have gone over the bar but Osman slidding ahead of Fellaini whose raised hand blocked the ball down... a penalty, if called. But Probert decided it was a free-kick outside the are! An incredible let-off for Everton.

It was backs to the wall until Naismith stole the ball to start breakaway that that set Fellaini away down the middle and he released the ball neatly to Jelavic who tried to curl his shot but it deflected in over Hart to send Goodison and David Moyes into delirium with almost the last kick of the match.

So a tremendous performance to overcome the money bags from Manchester, and prove beyond all shadow of a doubt that this side with these players are capable of beating anyone... which only serves to deepen the inquest into how exactly they could be so awful in a game that was their only path to a trophy?

Answers on a Postcard...

Everton (4-2-3-1): Mucha; Coleman, Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Gibson, Fellaini Y:; Mirallas (70' Naismith), Osman (c), Pienaar Y:; Anichebe.
Subs: Springthorpe, Duffy, Neville, Oviedo, Barkley, Jelavic.

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, K Toure, Nastasic, Kolarov, Garcia, Silva Y:, Milner, Barry (70' Nasri), Tevez, Dzeko.
Subs: Pantilimon, Razak, Sinclair, Lescott, Clichy, Lopes.

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

It's somewhat apt that the date was 2nd February when Everton played Aston Villa and threw away another two points in their quest for Champions League football – one that had already been undermined by flaccid goalless draws against Southampton and Swansea in the preceding month – because, in retrospect, Evertonians have been reliving Groundhog Day ever since.

Narrowly-achieved victory over Oldham in the FA Cup and the 3-1 Premier League win over Reading look like mere smokescreens in the rearview mirror when viewed in the context of the consecutive defeats against Norwich and Manchester United and the horror show that was the Blues' 3-0 quarter-final defeat to Wigan Athletic last weekend. Realty has bitten hard once again and we're back into a cycle of recriminations, anger and fear for the future.

Such is the weight of hope and expectation that has built up among the faithful of England's fourth-most successful club that the reaction to Saturday's game – more specifically, the manner of it – has been explosive from many quarters and the frustration is palpable. Irreparable harm may have been done to David Moyes's relationship with supporters whose hopes and expectations he himself has raised, while, with dreams of silverware dead and the chances of European football at Goodison Park next season on life support, real pressure for change at the top will almost certainly return to the Bill Kenwright regime.

If there is a last chance to salvage what was once such a promising season, this weekend's home game against Manchester City is effectively it. The Blues dropped to seventh last Sunday as Liverpool took another step down a road to recovery that has merely made Everton's recent stall burn all the more acutely. Defeat to the Champions in Saturday's lunch-time kick-off wouldn't mathematically end the team's European hopes for another season but it would carry the risk of a complete collapse in confidence and form.

However temporarily given the wider problems that exist at Goodison, a win over City would provide an enormous boost to morale and reinforce somewhat the belief that grew out of the Reading game that the Blues were finding their feet again after the blow they took at Carrow Road and go some way towards painting the Wigan debacle as a serious aberration.

As he seeks to right the ship, Moyes has some significant challenges ahead of him this weekend, the least of which could be City's desire for revenge for the defeats they have suffered on Everton's turf in recent seasons.

Of greater concern is Marouane Fellaini. Having hauled the Belgian off with a quarter of the Cup quarter final left, the manager has a big decision to make over whether or not to start with a player who has been such a Talisman for Everton this season but whose own standing with the faithful suffered enormous damage last Saturday. Not only did he remonstrate angrily with a section of fans slighted by his lackadaisical attitude but it's believed that, after being substituted, he left the ground before his teammates had even finished playing.

If he can overlook, out of necessity, the disciplinary dimension, does the manager have the confidence in his top goalscorer's mentality to retain him in the starting line-up? Or does he take the equally difficult option of leaving him out and deal with the consequences that might have for Fellaini's attitude, possibly for the remainder of the season?

As if that weren't bad enough, Moyes will no doubt be uncertain what kind of atmosphere his players will find when they emerge from the tunnel for kick off – more so, God forbid, should his side concede early and be forced onto the back foot by a talented attacking team.

There is no question that the players will need a pumped up Goodison and the backing of that "12th man" against City but last weekend has clearly knocked the stuffing out of the fanbase as a collective and it remains to be seen just how much optimism and passion they will be able to rouse in support of a team who they felt let them down badly a week ago with Wembley in sight.

How much Moyes feels the same way could determine just how many changes he makes to his starting XI. By his own admission, Phil Neville had an abysmal 45 minutes against the Latics and it would be a real eye-opener if he were to retain his place. More likely, Darron Gibson will come back into the side, presumably to partner Leon Osman (even though the 31 year-old was utterly ineffective against Wigan), and he has the option of keeping the rest of the midfield unchanged or moving Kevin Mirallas forward and deploying some youth in the form of Ross Barkley in right midfield.

Up front, despite the Croatian's industry last weekend, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Nikica Jelavic make way for Victor Anichebe who, despite being fairly erratic when he has started games, has at least found the net on occasion in recent weeks.

As much as the last month or so, culminating in that horrendous performance six days ago, has left many Blues feeling as though the season is over, the fact remains that a win would put Everton back into fifth place, however temporarily given that their rivals for Europe play later in the day or on Sunday. As things stand coming into the weekend, they are a not-insurmountable seven points off fourth place and however unlikely it seems that the Blues could catch Chelsea or remain ahead of Arsenal, while the possibility exists, hope should remain alive.

Keeping that flame of hope going will take every ounce of Moyes's powers of motivation and the professionalism and pride of his team. When it comes to the latter, the players owe the fans that much.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Preview
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Match Report
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< Wigan (H) Stoke City (H) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Osman booked:90+1'
  Pienaar :26' :61'
  Mirallas (70' Naismith)
  Fellaini booked:8'
  Anichebe (89' Jelavic)
  Subs not used
  Hibbert (injured)
  Howard (injured)
  Jagielka (injured)
  Bidwell (loan)
  Gueye (loan)
  Hamar (loan)
  Lundstram (loan)
MAN CITY (4-4-2)
  Kolarov booked:30'
  K Toure (84' SInclair)
  Barry (70' Nasri)
  Milner (83' Clichy)
  Silva booked:45+2'
  Dzeko booked:34'
  Subs not used

Premier League Scores
Aston Villa 3 - 2 QPR
Everton 2 - 0 Man City
Man United 1 - 0 Reading
So'hampton 3 - 1 Liverpool
Stoke 0 - 0 West Brom
Swansea 0 - 2 Arsenal
Chelsea 2 - 0 West Ham
Sunderland 1 - 1 Norwich
Tottenham 0 - 1 Fulham
Wigan 2 - 1 Newcastle

Team Pts
1 Manchester United 74
2 Manchester City 59
3 Chelsea 55
4 Tottenham Hotspur 54
5 Arsenal 50
6 Everton 48
7 Liverpool 45
8 West Bromwich Albion 44
9 Swansea City 40
10 Fulham 36
11 Stoke City 34
12 Norwich City 34
13 Newcastle United 33
14 West Ham United 33
15 Sunderland 31
16 Southampton 31
17 Aston Villa 30
18 Wigan Athletic 27
19 Reading 23
20 Queens Park Rangers 23

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