Manchester City 3 Everton 1

Aguero-Everton-Goal

According to the nice people at Newsnow, the reason that stories from this website haven’t been appearing on theirs is because they filter for cuss words and won’t publish articles that contain them. Which is fair enough, although if the worst things that kids are seeing on the internet is a potty-mouthed match preview you have to think that their parents are getting off quite lightly.

Still though, it’s their site so they makes the rules. However, it doesn’t exactly feel like the right time to get all puritanical when you have just suffered your first defeat of the season and witnessed something of a disastrous refereeing display. We’re always up for a challenge though, so let’s crack on with the delicate sensibilities of the little kiddywinkles foremost in our thoughts.

With Gareth Barry ineligible to play and Darron Gibson apparently only fit enough to start on the bench, Robert Martinez opted to add Steven Naismith to the attacking trio supporting Romelu Lukaku. You can’t help but pull a little nose-wrinkling expression when you see the Scot on the teamsheet but he ‘puts in a shift’ which is all you can really ask of him. To use boxing parlance, and not for the last time in this report, it’s all about levels, and you suspect that Naismith’s is slightly below Premier League. That said, he put Lukaku through with a great little first-time ball in the opening moments, only for Joe Hart to smother at this feet.

The gaff-prone England keeper has the spotlight on him at the moment, which is perhaps why he has replaced his Vyvyan off The Young Ones haircut with a much sleeker ‘do. With the pressure on him then he wouldn’t have appreciated the way his defence left him exposed on 12 minutes for the game’s opening goal.

Everton looked the far more composed side in the opening stages, with City showing that familiar unwillingness to put the hard yards in, and it really came as little surprise when Lukaku, looking electric again, beat an embarrassing offside trap in pursuit of Phil Jagielka’s slightly hopeful long ball. Joleon Lescott did well initially to recover, only to get bamboozled by the Belgian whose low shot had enough power on it to find the back of the net despite Hart getting a fairly solid touch on it.

A perfect start then, and all Everton had to do from that point was keep hold of the ball, one of the strengths of Martinez’s teams, and pick the home side off as they became desperate.

What they almost certainly didn’t want to do was concede an equaliser from the kick off.

Guess what they did.

A rare heavy touch from the masterful David Silva saw the ball break to Yaya Toure just outside the Everton box. Despite being surrounded by royal blue shirts the former Barcelona man showed his class, changing direction like another Raheem Sterling court case and threading a perfect ball inside Seamus Coleman who, despite his pace, couldn’t close down Alvaro Negredo before the Spaniard got off a low shot that beat Howard with its power, much like Lukaku’s at the other end only seconds earlier.

Great.

Everton continued to look threatening, especially on the counter-attack, but a number of promising moves broke down thanks to poor decision-making. Granted, there are few players who couldn’t learn from Silva, but Ross Barkley in particular would do well to observe the Spaniard’s pass selection and his economy in terms of touches. To go back to the pugilistic parallels, Barkley is guilty of headhunting at times, looking for that one knockout blow whereas Silva breaks opponents down with the accuracy of his jab, confident in the knowledge that if he keeps doing the right thing then the openings will present themselves eventually.

And indeed one did right on half time. With Negredo and Coleman arguing after the striker dived in the box, the Everton defence was all over the place. Silva fed the ball into Sergio Aguero and the Argentine, who for much of the first half appeared to have left his ‘shooting boots’ at home – he actually fouled himself at one point, with only Howard to beat – took advantage of the goaly and Sylvain Distin’s dodgy geometry and fired low into the far corner.

Drat.

Still, Everton had done more than enough during that opening 45 minutes to suggest that they could come back into the game. And that is what made the second half so disappointing.

City more or less cruised to victory after the break. Not for the first time this season, Lukaku played like Eusebio early on but then after his milky tea and half an orange came out and looked ‘a bit Jonathan Walters’.

Distinctly ‘playable’.

Likewise Barkley no longer posed a threat while Kevin Mirallas, one of the senior players at Everton now and one of whom big things were expected this season, again failed to make much of an impression. During a start to the season that’s been almost entirely positive, the wonky-haired wing Walloon has probably been the biggest disappointment so far.

Martinez, along with pretty much anyone with eyes in their head, recognised that his side were fading fast and, in a move akin to taking the batteries out of your telly remote and then rearranging them before pressing the buttons dead hard, attempted to get more from the team by replacing Mirallas and Leon Osman with Gibson and Gerard Deulofeu on 63 minutes.

Unfortunately for Everton though, they never got to see whether the change could give them a second wind because City, or more to the point referee Jon Moss, killed the game off five minutes later.

This clown not only broke Boy George’s heart but he’s been banished to the Championship since the start of the season for a phony decision he made at Old Trafford and this was his first game back in the big time. So, if it was the equivalent of a wrong ‘un at school returning after exclusion and signing one of them weird behaviour contracts well, Moss set off the fire alarm, gobbed a physics teacher and then drew a big knob on the blackboard before first break. His bookings were utterly random – City got away with some shockers and Silva was very lucky not to get sent off – but his crowning moment was the penalty award when Pablo Zabaleta went down after Coleman brushed his sleeve.

Absolute garbage.

Justice was done when Howard saved Aguero’s low spot kick, but then it was undone straight away as it rebounded off the post, hit the keeper on the head and went in.

The rest was a formality. We are clearly not Bayern Munich just yet and City remain a team packed with really good players who, when they are in the mood, are a match for anyone. The first half of this game showed that questions remain over their attitude and defensive capabilities though.

As for Everton, there were plenty of positives early on but youthful daring can quickly start to look like careless naivety when things aren’t going your way, and the second half was something of a chastening lesson. Only really James McCarthy came out of it with much credit, for his never-say-die attitude if nothing else. He could be a little bit more positive on the ball – even Giovanni Trapattoni has said that he needs a bit more arrogance – but you can’t fault his effort. He looks like one of those fellas who realises how fortunate he is to be playing top flight football. Coleman’s similar – he just happened to have a bit of a poor game in this instance.

There are certainly lessons to be learned from this performance, but ultimately you have to look at the standard of the opposition. A few more second half capitulations and people are going to start raising questions about fitness, but it’s too early for that just yet. A lack of concentration and experience in some positions look more likely at the moment.

So, in summary… Actually, do you know what, bollocks to it. Jon Moss is an incompetent, fat fuck-stump who goes the David Lloyd in a Marksies vest, Hi Tec Silver Shadow and a massive tubigrip on his knee. He always has a ratty bath towel around his neck and gets talc everywhere in the changies.

We’ll try again next time.

Manchester City Preview

Manuel Pellegrini

What are you meant to make of this lot?

Manchester City were once quintessentially British in their hangdog awfulness, the footballing equivalent of Hywel Bennet in Shelley, but now they are something almost alien. They have all this money from the Middle East and a big, antiseptic stadium and it should all be great but there is something distinctly hollow and out of place about the whole set up. This new City are a bit like that Ferrari that’s always on a plinth in the airport – it’s meant to symbolise the pinnacle of glamour and sexiness but despite clearly being worth a fortune it just looks a bit tinny close up and your eye is always drawn to the McFlurry carton that some scruff’s left under the wheel arch.

Their supporters, resplendent in their Voi jeans and lemon Crosshatch t-shirts, will probably disagree, arguing that everyone else is simply envious jealous of their newfound wealth, but the whole situation there just always looks slightly unsatisfying.

If being taken over by a sovereign state and having hundreds and hundreds of millions spent is what it takes to win the title, you have to start wondering whether the prize is actually worth it. What’s more, they only won it the once, and haven’t even had a sniff of the Champions League. Just how much cash is that going to require?

They certainly don’t look like winning it this season if Wednesday night’s game against the frankly incredible Bayern Munich was anything to go by. It might irk the purists but Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona were something of a turn-off – like American football they were ace in the highlights package, for Lionel Messi’s goals essentially, but pretty tiresome to watch for an entire match. His new side though, oh boy, they are simply raw sex.

That said, City were a disgrace for most of the game in midweek. Until David Silva, James Milner and 1950s Coney Island street-gang leader Alvaro Negredo came on there was a distinct lack of genuine desire to close the Germans down and make life hard for them.

When Manuel Pellegrini got the City job he was asked to stop haunting the nightmares of children and stealing their souls and transform Roberto Mancini’s disjointed misfits into a proper side but he appears to have his work cut out because when the going gets tough a number of his well paid players don’t appear quite as arsed as they should. They look a bit like the England national team sometimes: a lot of superstars who are happy when things are going well but not so chuffed about chasing, sacrificing themselves and making selfless runs when they are up against anyone with a bit of fight in them.

Given time then, will Pellegrini’s unnerving ability to look like he’s chain-smoking without ever holding a cigarette prove much use in transforming the atmosphere and outlook at the Etihad? That’s the question that isn’t on everyone’s lips. But maybe it should be.

Despite all those reservations about the City squad, they do have a pretty formidable home record in the Premier League and the ability to make a lot of changes to their side for Everton’s visit. The three subs from the Bayern game must be strong contenders to start, particularly Negredo who scored a cracking consolation goal. The Spaniard looks a far greater threat than Edin Dzeko – the Bosnian does have the skills of a Brazilian, unfortunately for him though it’s that lolloping shitbag Jo, the striker who not so long ago disgraced the shirts of both of these esteemed football clubs.

Of course Everton only loaned Jo from City, just as they have borrowed the services of Gareth Barry who unfortunately won’t be eligible for Saturday. That’s certainly a shame as, just like Darron Gibson before him, there was all the usual internet grumbling when he was linked but he has been a roaring success so far. Everyone has waxed lyrical about all those great footballing sound-like-you-know-your-shit qualities he possesses like ‘positional awareness’ and the ‘ability to read the game’ but the most impressive thing about him is the way he fouls people. Dead authoritative, but with the minimum of fuss, almost like your Ma’s new fella coming home and saying ‘Right, you’ve all had your fun but that’s quite enough’ he stops opposition attacks just as they are on the cusp of that ‘ooh definite booking’ stage. He then gives the referee a look of ‘come on, we’re all men, you could see what had to be done there’.

Fuck it, let it be known, right here, that Gareth Barry is football’s Atticus Finch and Hatem Ben Arfa is a rabid dog scaring the kids, we’ve just decided, just now, halfway through that last sentence.

Anyway, we’ll miss him on Saturday is what we were trying to say.

But while we are on the subject of fouls, it was interesting to hear Mark Halsey (possibly, some ex-referee anyway) doing his bit of commentary on the Manchester derby the other week and saying that some illegal challenge or other had gone unpunished because the official was ‘taking into account the size of the occasion’. Now, everyone accepts that sort of passing comment without turning a hair, but when you think about it it’s a bit of a wild thing to say.

Can you imagine, for instance, Andy Murray being let off with twatting the net because, you know, it’s Wimbledon and there’s a lot of pressure on him? Or Len Ganley saying ‘Go ‘ead lad, just put it back in the D, I know what it’s like here at the Crucible’?

No, you couldn’t, is the answer you were reaching for there, the rules are meant to be the fucking rules. The size of the occasion! Fuck me a bus. Isn’t every home game at somewhere like Old Trafford a big…

Oh, hang on.

And on that frankly cheap and tawdry note, see you at the match report, bitches. Over and out.

Everton 2 Manchester City 0

Britain Soccer Premier League

Oh Everton.

Football supporting in the internet age often seems to boil down to watching a match with a fixed perspective and then interpreting what unfolds in a way that fits with the ‘narrative’ that you have constructed for yourself. In which case you can pretty much view this result and performance in one of two ways.

It was either a brilliant reaction to what happened against Wigan in the FA Cup, and a reminder of what this Everton is all about and has been in the main. That’s certainly the way that David Moyes saw it, judging by his prickly post-match reaction and comments.

The other is that it only underlined what a disgrace last week’s defeat was and showed that the team and the manager are essentially bottle-merchants.

What’s not up for debate is that the Toffees gave their performance of the season, comprehensively outplaying the reigning champions for an hour and then, following Steven Pienaar’s sending off, outfighting them for the remaining 30 minutes. And when in injury time Nikica Jelavic scored the second goal to settle the home side’s fraying nerves the reaction in the ground was one of pure elation – the sort that reminds you why you bother – and the bigger picture, be it stalled managerial contracts, rebuffed £124 million takeover offers or the temperature of the Scouse pies, felt fleetingly, mercifully irrelevant.

The Everton manager’s decision to play Phil Neville ahead of Darron Gibson against Wigan will forever remain a mysterious blot on his copy book, whatever one of those is, and the Irishman returned to the side and ran Seamus Coleman close for man-of-the-match. He’s far from the identikit of the modern top-flight footballer, in fact looks like he should be playing for Derby County on Match of the Seventies, but his touch and most importantly his awareness of what is going on around him are invaluable. If given the choice, would you take Mikel Arteta back to play in the same role?

After his contretemps with the Paddock last week there were some questions over whether Marouane Fellaini would retain his starting place – he did, and it was Jelavic who made way instead for Victor Anichebe. The Nigerian international centre-forward only really threatened the visitors’ goal once, blazing over on the turn in the first half, but still he gave as good a performance as he ever has in a blue shirt. He chased down the City defenders at every opportunity and held the ball up so well that his confidence grew to the point where he felt comfortable enough to gee up the crowd with whom his relationship has often been frosty at best. His standing ovation when he made way for Jelavic in the closing stages had a touch of Hollywood redemption about it. It also demonstrated that the Goodison crowd, as harsh as they can be, are always willing to recognise when someone is holding up their end of the deal.

Like Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez, Roberto Mancini is a foreign manager who seems overly concerned with the physical aspects of the English game – as a result he has built a team of talented but primarily big fuckers who won’t be pushed around. That seems to come at the expense of the genuine pace that runs through the Premier League’s standard bearers, Manchester United, and City are far easier to combat as a result. Like Everton on a bad day they all want the ball into their feet, hardly anyone makes unselfish runs, and apart from the isolated piece of invention from Carlos Tevez they were entirely predictable.

Everton were all over them from the first whistle but still it required a breath-taking goal to make the initial breakthrough. The outstanding Coleman appeared to have noodled his way into a bit of a jazz solo cul-de-sac before he rolled the ball back out of the box towards Leon Osman, lurking midway between the centre-circle and the edge of the penalty area. The England international subsequently struck a left-footed shot whose arc could only really be described using an equation that would in turn require several sheets of supplementary paper and a treasury tag. Joe Hart was certainly left bamboozled – granted, he’s not exactly Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting – as the ball announced itself joyously in the top corner of the Park End goal.

The shape of the game changed 15 minutes into the second half, from a footballing lesson to a display of grit and defensive brilliance, when Pienaar’s reckless tackle caught Javia Garcia high on the shin. The South African’s first half booking for a lunge on James Milner looked borderline given some of the tackles the badly-drawn snowman dished out unpunished, but he was always going to walk once he made contact with Garcia.

Mancini dipped into his catalogue of cunts, threw on Samir Nasri and City finally started to look slightly menacing. Rather than crumble though, as Everton are perfectly capable of doing with 11 men, never mind ten, this setback only seemed to inspire the players and the crowd to greater heights. As anyone will tell you, there’s no more glorious assault on the senses than the one you experience at an indignant Goodison Park.

If the atmosphere was any rawer someone would have killed a fat kid with a conch shell in the Top Balcony as Coleman denied Tevez with a courageous diving header that could have easily ended up in his own net. The fullback had already thwarted the Argentinian and his teammate Silva with an outrageous burst of pace and recovery tackle that left the two superstars shaking their heads in despair. Incidents like that were legion during the final stages, not least when Osman threw himself into a tackle on Pablo Zabaleta that had the crowd seeing spots in front of their eyes, such was the effort of expressing their approval.

There was some debate over the referee’s decision to award a free kick on the edge of the Everton box when a Tevez shot struck the hand of Fellaini a fair distance inside the area. It’s been said that Lee Probert indicated at the time that there had been two handling offences and the first, by Osman, occurred exactly where the kick was taken from. However, who cares? There’s no way that City deserved a point because a shot that was bound for Stanley Park inadvertently touched Fellaini’s mitt. How much fucking luck do these twats want anyway, especially after Kevin Mirallas had a perfectly good goal disallowed in the first half, Fellaini was blatantly fouled in the area with no penalty given and, let’s not forget, they have already benefitted from a sham of a decision that gifted them an equaliser at the Lonsdale Leisurewear Arena.

In short, sling your hook, scruffy.

There were a number of outstanding performers for the Blues, including official envelope dodger Jan Mucha. The Slovakian keeper’s belief seemed to grow with every save and by the end of the match he clearly felt invincible, coming for everything and making one double save from Tevez and then Milner that brought the crowd to their feet.

If City had forced an equaliser the main focus would have been on Moyes’s decision to withdraw the dangerous, counter-attacking Mirallas on 69 minutes and replace him with the Highland Holtby, Steven Naismith. It seemed counter-intuitive to everyone except the manager, but to be fair to Naismith it was him who won the ball from Gael Clichy in injury time and set Fellaini free to charge through the heart of the City defence. The Belgian’s pass out to substitute Jelavic wasn’t the best, and the chance looked to have gone as the Croatian fought to get the ball out of his feet. He cut back onto his left though, and with the now immortal words ‘Just fucking hit it’ ringing out from the Gwladys Street, his shot took a nick off a defender that sent it curling past Hart and into the net.

Beautiful bedlam.

Dissect it, analyse it, extrapolate your thoughts and try to find some deeper meaning and broader perspective. Or just revel in being there through all the shite just so you can experience these inexplicable, indefinable moments of bottled lightning.

We’ll probably get beaten by Stoke like.

Manchester City 1 Everton 1

Will he please give it a rest about being a defensive midfielder

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.