There’s always a fear, no matter how well you are playing, that when you go away to the league champions you are going to learn some harsh truths. With Manchester City so formidable at the Etihad Stadium then, and Everton struggling against the most limited opposition in the past month or so, there did appear a real danger that we would get ‘found out’ in this game.
Instead though, the Blues came away from Manchester incensed that it took a penalty decision that was actually correct, but completely arbitrary, to give the home side even a point.
Both sides pass the ball well but, in the absence of Kevin Mirallas for the Toffees, lack any genuine pace, and so in many ways this was one of those encounters between a couple of the top teams where they pretty much cancelled each other out. In fact, for much of the first half Everton were the more positive and composed side, knocking the ball around confidently in midfield, sucking in light blue shirts before inevitably finding Leighton Baines as the extra man down the left. It’s what they do against everyone – but knowing the plan and stopping it are two different things, regardless of how good you are.
On 33 minutes the opening goal came from that very source when Baines’s ball to the far post was headed goalwards by Marouane Fellaini. Joe Hart made a save from close range but, in a scene reminiscent of all them meffs fighting over the Black Friday sales in America, neither he nor Pablo Zaballeta were going to prevent the marauding Belgian from forcing the loose ball home with his thigh.
Both sides dealt in half-chances throughout the game – neither keeper was ever particularly busy – and so that goal may well have been enough for Everton to edge a win and recoup a couple of the points they’ve wasted against the likes of Norwich, et al. However, as Everton defended a corner just before half time, referee Lee Probert awarded the home side a stonewashed penalty. It’s the sort that you only get in a stadium full of fellas who follow corpy wagons and put flyers through your door offering to Karcher your wheelie bin.
Fellaini was pulling Edin Dzeko’s shirt, which no one seems to have pointed out was a bit irresponsible of him, but as they commented on Match of the Day, there were at least two other fouls being committed in the box at exactly the same time. In short then, it was a penalty, but there is no fucking way it would have been awarded to the visiting team. In fact, it’s very rare that they are even given to the home side.
Carlos Tevez stuck the spot kick down the middle to even things up at the break.
City were a bit better in the second half but there was never the sort of onslaught that you would have to withstand it you were level at Old Trafford, for instance. Howard made a save from Maicon’s rasper but the Toffees always seemed relatively comfortable with City playing everything in front of them.
In the final few minutes Kompany brought down Nikica Jelavic to halt an Everton counter-attack 25 yards from goal. The Croatian always looked handy from free-kicks when he was at Glasgow Rangers so there’s always a little buzz of expectancy when he fancies his chances and takes over from Baines. This one was pretty weak and should have been straightforward for Hart, but the future of English goalkeeping almost continued his transformation into Robert Green by panicking and only barely ushering the ball around the post.
While not exactly one for the purists, Everton once again more than held their own against one of the Premier League behemoths. Results elsewhere mean that they are only three points off third place now as well. The hope is that we have now endured our worst lean spell of the season. We’ve pretty much had a good luck at everything the league has to offer and, quite frankly, there really doesn’t seem that much to fear. This genuinely does look like a season where anything is possible for the teams that seize their opportunities.
Although that will obviously all be up for debate again if we get dicked by Tottenham.