Everton 2 Man City 0: Four lessons as 10-man Toffees stun champions
Everton 2 Man City 0: What lessons did we learn as the Toffees left the Citizens' Premier League title bid in tatters at Goodison Park?
Everton exploit Man City’s right-hand side
Gael Clichy has largely been preferred at left-back this season but with Roberto Mancini opting for a 5-4-1 formation for the trip to Goodison Park, Aleksandar Kolarov was handed a starting berth at left-wing back. The Serbian, who has spent most of the season as understudy to Clichy, struggled to temper Everton’s Seamus Coleman and Kevin Mirallas. The Republic of Ireland international was an ever-willing runner as the Toffees looked to exploit City’s obvious weak spot. It was no surprise the home side’s opener originated down the left wing as Coleman raced to the byline, producing a repertoire of mind-boggling step overs, before pulling a pass back to Leon Osman, whose banana shot arched into the top corner. Mancini reacted to the setback by switching to an orthodox 4-4-2, but it failed to thwart Coleman and Mirallas, with both continuing to target Kolarov. With Everton’s 2-0 victory all but handing the Premier League crown to Manchester United, Mancini will be left to ruefully reflect on how this 4-5-1 tactic has struggled to pay dividends for the Citizens this term – don’t forget it cost them a place in the latter stages of Champions League, too.
Osman caps England call-up with special strike
When Osman was called up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad for their friendly against Sweden last November, it was deemed fitting reward for one of the Premier League’s unsung heroes. Despite obviously deserving a Three Lions cap for his consistent performances at Everton over the past decade, it was difficult to envisage Osman being a permanent fixture in Hodgson’s England plans. But the 31-year-old was named among the 26-man party for next week’s World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro, hinting that the Toffees star is a serious part of Hodgson’s thoughts. With Phil Neville dropped to the bench, Osman assumed the armband and made a captain’s contribution with a scintillating strike in the 32nd minute. Coleman found his skipper unmarked on the edge of the area and Osman hit across the ball, with his effort arcing out of Joe Hart’s range and into the top corner of the net. Everton pressed for a crucial second which would settle nerves after last weekend’s 3-0 loss to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup. With City much-improved following half-time, Osman was presented with Everton’s best chance to double their lead before Steven Pienaar’s sending off, as Mirallas’s corner dropped to the midfielder but his effort floated narrowly over the crossbar.
Forget Fellaini, Everton have another Belgian diamond
With Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku among the Belgians starring in the Premier League this season, it is easy to forget about Mirallas. The 25-year-old has enjoyed a quiet but steady introduction to the English top flight after completing a £6m move from Olympiacos last summer. Mirallas netted in a 3-1 victory in early September before spending large parts of November, December and January sidelined with injuries. Since returning to the Everton starting line-up, the former Standard Liege man has impressed and he continued his good form against City. Mirallas showed signs of a blossoming understanding with Coleman down Everton’s right wing, with his deft feet and clever movement proving difficult for City’s defenders to handle. He can count himself unlucky that his 12th-minute strike was ruled out. Anticipating Osman’s lofted pass back into the City area after a poorly cleared corner, Mirallas unleashed a powerful drive past Hart, only for his goal to be incorrectly ruled out for offside. The Belgian diligently carried out his defensive duties too, ensuring Kolarov was not afforded any space to attack Coleman, while time and time again, gathering possession on the edge of Everton’s area and counter-attacking. Mirallas will be on to watch next season with the benefit of a full pre-season training.
10-man Everton cling on
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Moyes has masterminded more victories against City than any other manager in the Premier League. The Scotsman was bidding for a sixth win and his troops were fired up for the clash against the defending Premier League champions following last Saturday’s tame FA Cup exit. Fellaini and Steven Pienaar were both booked for overly boisterous challenges in the opening 26 minutes as the Toffees were roared on by Goodison Park. Referee Lee Probert was having an increasingly difficult challenge keeping a lid on a spicy clash and it was no real surprise to see a red card emerge in the second half. Everton’s South African midfielder was rightly issued with his marching orders for a late tackle which scraped down Javi Garcia’s right shin. It was Everton’s 76th in Premier League history, tying Blackburn Rovers’s record. The Toffees have only kept two clean sheets in 23 Premier League games but David Moyes hung on, thanks to the efforts of Tim Howard’s stand-in Ján Mucha. The Slovakia international denied Carlos Tevez midway through the second half before smothering Pablo Zabaleta’s late effort. City were denied a late penalty when Probert bizarrely awarded a free-kick – and not a spot-kick – for Fellaini’s handball despite the Belgian being stood in Mucha’s area. And Everton capped a fine performance when Nikica Jelavic scored his first goal of 2013 with a deflected shot in added time to push the Toffees above Liverpool and end City’s Premier League title bid.