Manchester City put their last two bad results behind them to comfortably dispose of Everton 3–1 in Saturday’s early English Premier League kickoff. City’s win put paid to the last unbeaten record in the Barclays Premier League.
Sergio Aguero got the Citizens their second goal and scored on a penalty that was recorded as an own goal on Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, but he also missed a couple of sitters. The increasingly impressive Alvaro Negredo grabbed City’s other goal, while Romelu Lukaku kept up his excellent start to the campaign with the opener for the visitors.
Pellegrini Rings the Changes
“It is important to refresh the team,” said City manager Manuel Pellegrini when interviewed by Fox Sports prior to kickoff, and it came as no surprise that the Chilean made six changes to the side that started against Bayern Munich last Wednesday in Champions League.
David Silva and James Milner certainly breathed life into what had hitherto been a thoroughly turgid performance against the European champions, so it was logical for the pair to play from the start against Everton. Joleon Lescott was given the nod to play in the center of defense against his old club with Aleksandar Kolarov replacing Gael Clichy on the left side of that back four. Negredo deservedly played from the beginning after his excellent consolation goal in Wednesday’s match.
Another ex-Evertonian, midfielder Jack Rodwell, was unable to face his former club through injury, but is on the road to recovery. However, defender Martin Demichelis, who has a knee problem, is unlikely to be back for some time.
With the “on loan” Gareth Barry ineligible to face his parent club and Steven Pienaar still out with a hamstring injury, Roberto Martinez was short of options in midfield. Darron Gibson was still suffering the effects of a knock and started on the bench with Steven Naismith chosen to take on Barry’s role.
Kevin Mirallas started, though it is debatable as to whether he is a 100 percent recovered from his ankle injury
Before this match City had won just two of their last 12 Premier League meetings with Everton, losing nine, and in fact the Toffees have won 17 Premier League games against Manchester City—more than they have managed against any other club except West Ham who they have downed 19 times.
Everton Starts Impressively
Everton went into this game with the same record of three wins and three draws after six games as they did in 1986–87 when they last won the league title. If the club wanted to prove to the world that they are serious contenders, then this was as good an opportunity as any. They certainly started impressively and deservedly went ahead on 16 minutes.
Not for the first time this season, City was undone by a long ball from the back. Lukaku latched onto it, wrong-footed Lescott, and slotted the ball past Joe Hart.
Some were expecting the England keeper to have been dropped after a string of mistakes this season, both for club and country, but his manager decided to keep faith with him. It would be hard to blame him for this one but, having got a piece of it as he did, a keeper of his caliber might be expected to have kept it out. However, Everton’s lead was short-lived and City was back on even terms just a minute later. The excellent Yaya Toure split the visitors’ defense with a glorious little pass slid through the penalty area to the feet of Negredo cutting in from the left side.
Howard managed to get something on it but there was never any doubt where the ball would end up. It was Negredo’s first goal as a starter with his previous three all scored coming off the bench.
Notwithstanding City’s equalizer, Everton continued to hold their own and, when Vincent Kompany took a knock and departed, with Aguero having recently spurned a golden chance, it seemed as if it might just be their day.
City Dominate Second Half
We can all remember occasions when City has rather fallen apart without their skipper on the field, but this was not one of them. They fully stamped their authority on this match as the first half drew to a close, and dealt the visitors a killer blow in the last minute of normal time.
Aguero was put through down the right by yet another lovely ball from the imperious Silva. The angle was not the best, but Aguero simply drilled his shot across the keeper into the net with power and accuracy.
City began the second period as they ended the first and really treated the spectators to some sparkling stuff. Yet when the third goal finally came in the 68th minute, it was decidedly harsh on Everton.
Pablo Zabaleta went down in the box very easily indeed under the gentlest of contact from Seamus Coleman, but referee John Moss pointed to the spot. It was not the best penalty from Aguero and for a split second it seemed as if justice might be done.
Howard guessed right, and turned the shot onto the post but the ball bounced back onto the sprawling keeper and crossed the line.
The visitors felt especially aggrieved since Lukaku had been blatantly shoved to the ground in the City area but nothing was given.
There was no way back for Everton after that, and at the end of the day it was a pretty routine win for the home side. Barry had been a huge factor in Everton’s great start to the season and there is no doubt that his ineligibility for this game was a severe blow.
They will be more than grateful to have him back next time out. The victory meant City leapfrogged Everton to join Spurs on 13 points. But with a better goal difference, it is City that now occupies second slot on the table pending completion of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.