A Darron Gibson volley on the hour mark capped a miserable day in Merseyside for Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City. The former Manchester United midfielder took advantage of Landon Donovan’s poor control from Leighton Baines’ teasing cross and powered in the winning goal via Gareth Barry’s backside. It was the Irishman’s first goal for Everton and handed his former club a massive boost in the race for the title. City’s defeat sees them end January still top of the league but only on goal difference.
It was a bizarre game at Goodison Park. Manchester City, boosted by the return of their influential captain Vincent Kompany who had missed the previous four matches through suspension, started slowly in contrast to Everton. Five minutes in Joleon Lescott was forced into clearing a header by the excellent Denis Stracqualursi off the line after a corner saw the unmarked Argentine rise and head the ball past Joe Hart. Lescott duly received a torrent of abuse from the terraces of his former club.
Ten minutes into the game City got their first real chance to take the lead. Some fine passing between Sergio Aguero and David Silva cut Everton’s determined, albeit makeshift, defence apart. James Milner’s dangerous cross evaded the incoming Edin Dzeko and fell to Gael Clichy, who proved to the nation why he’s a defender, with the full-back blazing his shot over the bar.
The Blues dominated the possession but lacked a cutting edge, their best effort on goal coming after 35 minutes. Samir Nasri’s long range effort look destined for the back of the net, swerving wickedly past Tim Howard before rattling the cross-bar. Even at that point it seemed like it just might not have been City’s night. Everton constantly pressed forcing City to misplace passes and the Sky Sports microphones regularly picked up the screams from the Toffee’s manager David Moyes, demanding his players put City under pressure and “get tighter”. It certainly worked. Everton were well organised, disciplined and ensured the fixture remained a bogey one for Mancini’s men.
The match was paused briefly moments before half time when “Jimmy Jump” a notorious pitch invader handcuffed himself to the goalpost in Joe Hart’s net. It was an incredible scene which lasted for about five minutes before he was eventually removed by security. His previous stunts include running through the starting grid during the parade lap of the 2004 Spanish Grand Prix and running onto the pitch during the 2007 Champions League Final between AC Milan and Liverpool.
After Everton’s breakthrough City eventually began to respond after about 70 minutes where they proceeded to try and find an equaliser. Their efforts were fruitless and Everton hung on to take all three points and leave City yearning for the return of Yaya Toure. City have won just five of their last 12 matches, also losing five. As we enter the final few months of the season the title race is rapidly heating up. The two Manchester sides are now only separated by goal difference.