Distin 65, Osman 72 – Toure 28
Everton produced a rip-roaring comeback to beat Manchester City 2-1 at Goodison Park. Trailing a Yaya Toure goal at half-time, headers from Sylvain Distin and Leon Osman gave David Moyes’ side the points and left Roberto Mancini’s outfit seven points ahead of Liverpool in the race for the Champions League.
Edin Dzeko started in place of Mario Balotelli for City, with Patrick Vieira and James Milner also coming into an XI that retained the usual 4-2-3-1 shape with goal scorer Toure the principal support to Dzeko. Everton named John Heitinga in a midfield containing no legitimate wide players – instead, Mikel Arteta was stationed on the left and Jack Rodwell playing narrow on the right, with Leon Osman supporting Victor Anichebe. If Moyes was attempting to match City man-for-man and pack the midfield, wary of the runs from deep of Toure and Milner and David Silva’s surges from the left, the only real outcome was to leave Everton looking ragged, unsure of who was marking who and with too many defensive-minded players to make an attacking impression on the first-half.
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Osman soon switched with Rodwell but the effect was negligible – City were rampant for much of the opening 45 minutes and should have been three goals up at the break. Instead, they had only Toure’s effort to show for their endeavour, while Vieira flashed a shot over the bar after Silva carved Everton open. City’s organisation and intelligent running was of the utmost class and Everton were unable to cope. Silva orchestrated move after move as City overloaded on their left flank, and when half-time approached it seemed more a question not of if City would win, but by how many, such was their dominance and Everton’s vulnerability. What transpired after the break, then, defied prediction.
Whatever Moyes said or did at half-time brought a complete and total turnaround to the game. The introduction of Jermaine Beckford in place of Tony Hibbert, with Phil Neville dropping to right-back, was the only change in personnel – Osman and Anichebe also moved to the left and right wings respectively. The greatest difference was perhaps Everton’s attitude. Suddenly, whereas City had strolled through the first-half, Everton’s players were harrying and harassing and snapping and snarling, and the Goodison crowd responded in kind, turning the atmosphere from an end-of-season day in the sun to a raucous bear pit. Rodwell overstepped the mark with a lunge on Pablo Zabaleta but when they inevitably won possession Everton used it in much more thoughtful ways, drawing level from Distin’s header. Arteta took up a central berth and his influence on the game grew but there was no star, more a team improvement. City remained dangerous – Dzeko flashed a shot agonisingly wide of goal – yet it was Everton doing most of the pressing, eventually finding a reward through Osman’s brave header, out-jumping the towering Vincent Kompany and being clattered in the process. Joe Hart then saved an Anichebe shot at the near post as Everton threatened to extend their lead, leaving City waiting to confirm their presence in next season’s Champions League.