Everton bounced back from their shocking FA Cup exit last week, by defeating Manchester City and destroying their chances of retaining the Premier League title.
David Moyes left out Phil Neville and Nikica Jelavic, and introduced Darren Gibson and Victor Anichebe to the starting lineup. It was Moyes’ traditional 4-4-1-1 that saw Marouane Fellaini play behind Anichebe, while Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman joined Gibson in the midfield.
Roberto Mancini included Javi Garcia, James Milner, Matija Nastasic and Joe Hart in the starting line up. Joleon Lescott, Samir Nasri and Costel Pantilimon were dropped to the bench. Yaya Toure was unavailable as the Ivorian midfielder suffered from a migraine, while Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero were sidelined.
The news that left many fans puzzled pre-match was Mancini opting to play in a 3-4-3. His decision could’ve been based on how effective Wigan’s 3-4-3 was against Moyes’ side a week ago. Mancini picked up mixed results when opting for a back three, but with City having only three natural attackers at his disposal, he took a gamble.
Without the ball, City was ultimately a 5-3-2, as Silva tracked back periodically to help defend. The problem was Milner and Kolarov were unable to deal with overloads. The movement from Mirallas and Pienaar dragged City’s wingbacks and defenders out of position, leaving space for Coleman and Baines to exploit. Fellaini was also able to drop into pockets of space unmarked, to receive possession far too easily. City’s shape allowed Everton to dominate, and they should’ve been down a goal 11 minutes in, when Kevin Mirallas was wrongfully ruled offside.
Everton started the match at a high tempo, pushing their defensive line high and pressing effectively. They were quick to close down the City players throughout the match, and City conceded possession easily. The champions were unable to settle into the game due to the Toffee’s will to win the ball back instantly.
Victor Anichebe worked extremely hard to close down City’s defenders and force them into conceding possession. On the other end, Edin Dzeko was lackadaisical when he pressed, and it allowed Everton’s defenders to play balls into the midfield. City was unable to settle into the match with Everton’s high tempo pressing, and it led to an Everton onslaught throughout the first half.
Leighton Baines has provided the width, and created several chances this season for the Toffees. Surprisingly he wasn’t the main source of attack against City, and it could be down to Mancini playing Milner ahead of Zabaleta in hopes to nullify the English fullback. Baines did get forward occasionally, but Coleman’s surging runs made a significant impact on the match.
The downfall to playing with wingbacks is that they’re vulnerable to overloads when fullbacks decide to get forward, and Coleman did so frequently. Mirallas and Pienaar swapped flanks, and Pienaar drifted centrally dragging either Kolarov or Nastasic out of position, which left space for Coleman to exploit. When there wasn’t space to exploit, Coleman simply dribbled by Kolarov several times, and the Serbian had no answers for the Everton fullback.
There was no surprise that Coleman was involved in Everton’s opening goal, providing Osman with the assist. Osman’s fantastic strike from outside the box swirved into the top corner, and Hart could only watch it.
When Mancini reverted to a 4-4-2, it pushed Silva to the left flank. This didn’t help Kolarov, because now he was left with no cover and Coleman used his pace to beat him 1v1. Silva isn’t the greatest defender, and even when he did trackback, Coleman imposed his superiority on that flank.
Tevez came into the match netting six goals in four games, and was City’s hottest player. Due to Everton’s effective pressing, Tevez, Dzeko and Silva didn’t see much of the ball in the first half. Tevez was dropping into pockets of space and working hard through the channels to receive the ball, and he troubled Mucha on a few occasions. Tevez was one of the better City players on the day, but he came across a goalkeeper that was determined to end his scoring streak.
10 v 11
Steven Pienaar received his second yellow card, and was sent off with 30 minutes to play in this match for a clumsy challenge on Javi Garcia. This didn’t affect Moyes’ shape, but it did force Everton to sit deeper than they expected. Leon Osman pushed over to the left, while Fellaini dropped deeper and played alongside Gibson.
They sat in two compact banks of four and threatened City on the break. Everton’s possession dropped from 52 to 28 percent in the second half when going down to 10 men, but their work ethic off the ball was still impressive. They worked hard to close down space/City players, and it frustrated Mancini’s men, who struggled to cope.
Pienaar’s sending off opened up space for David Silva to drift into, and the Spanish midfielder created six chances. City looked likely to score with 30 minutes remaining, but Mucha made a few glorious stops to deny Tevez, Milner and Zabaleta from equalizing.
Mancini waited until the 70th minute to make his first substitution, by bringing on Samir Nasri for Barry. The change was about 20 minutes late, but it was refreshing to see Nasri play in his natural position. During his time on the pitch he had a 96 percent pass completion rate and half of the passes were in the final third. Nasri has had his discipline issues and isn’t as effective when playing on the wing, but in a game that you need to win, it was a surprise that Mancini waited until the final 20 minutes to include creativity into his midfield.
The final minutes saw Mancini revert to a back three once again, by introducing Gael Clichy and Scott Sinclair. Clichy dropped into the back and pushed Kolarov higher up the pitch, while Sinclair moved to the right. Mancini’s changes would’ve been suitable had City been leading the game, but the players he brought on didn’t possess the attacking impetus to spark a comeback.
Moye’s brought on Steven Naismith to replace Mirallas, who worked hard on the flanks during his time on the pitch. Mirallas ran out of energy and Naismith is ideally a like-for-like swap. Jelavic came on for Anichebe in stoppage time, and it was fitting to see the Croatian striker put the game out of reach. Fellaini launched the counter and he played in Jelavic, the Croatian cut inside and his deflected shot beat Hart.
The stoppage time goal saw the Croatian’s 12 game goal drought come to an end.
Moyes was able to bring on players of the same quality, and stick to his game plan, which ultimately paid off. Mancini looked to his bench when it was too late, and he simply didn’t have the quality to turn this result around.
Mancini’s back three was unsuccessful, as David Moyes earned his fifth Premier League victory against the City manager. His changes were late and ineffective, and this result has ended City’s chances of retaining their title.
Mancini will receive a lot of negative comments for his tactical approach, but what was disappointing was his inability to immediately locate and fix the problem his side encountered in the first half.
Everton has built a gap between themselves and their Merseyside rivals, and they keep their Champions League hopes alive with this victory. Moyes’ ability to target Kolarov was essential to Everton’s first half dominance and vital to his side picking up three points.
1. Seamus Coleman
2. Leon Osman
3. Jan Mucha
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