CITY 0 EVERTON 1
13th December 2008
Ref Mike Halsey
City Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne, Ball, Ireland, Kompany, Elano, Wright-Phillips, Robinho, Benjani – subs Vassell(82), Jo(45), Schmeichel(unused), Ben Haim(unused), Onuoha(unused), Fernanades(unused), Hamann(unused)
Everton Howard, Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Osman, Pienarr, Fellaini, Castillo, Arteta, Cahill – subs all unused Nash, Hibbert, Baines, Van de Meyde, Rodwell, Jutklewicz, Gosling
WHAT THE PRESS SAID
SPARKY ON ICE, they ought to call this winter spectacular in which the central character continually fails to generate cohesive performances from a star-studded line-up. As the final whistle sounded, seconds after City had capitulated to Tim Cahill’s stoppage-time winner, Mark Hughes thrashed a loose ball towards the Everton goal in irritation. For too much of this inept display by his team, one that he deemed lacked “personality” on the ball, it was more than his players had done.
The City manager will regard the coming weeks with trepidation. With Roy Keane having departed Sunderland and Paul Ince on the brink at Blackburn, it is not inconceivable that the next few weeks could bring a triple-hand of Sir Alex Ferguson proteges toppling under the demands of expectation.
Remember all that buoyant chatter in the summer about Champions League contention and the illustrious names who could become part of the Middle Eastlands adventure? City’s position, two points above the relegation places, does not form the basis of the most attractive sales pitch. They have accumulated five points from eight league games. At this stage last season they were 15 points better off under Sven-Göran Eriksson.
Admittedly, it is a surreal atmosphere. On Thursday the two latest names broached as possible January arrivals were West Ham’s Craig Bellamy and Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero. In Hughes’s wry estimation, they were the 49th and 50th players to be linked with his newly enriched club.
Yet who will be persuaded to sign for a team that were overcome by opponents who didn’t field a recognised striker. In the absence of Louis Saha and Yakubu, Everton had to use Cahill as a lone frontrunner. They still proved themselves capable of laying a hefty glove on the home rearguard. “I tell them they play injured, out of position, and they get on with it,” said Everton’s manager, David Moyes. “We don’t feel sorry for ourselves.” There were some excellent contributions, especially from Mikel Arteta, whom Moyes described as “terrific”.
Occasional flashes of genius from Shaun Wright-Phillips and Robinho nearly brought City reward but the first half was Everton’s. Arteta’s free kick struck woodwork, then City defencer Michael Ball appeared to wrestle Leon Osman to the ground in the area as they challenged for Marouane Fellaini’s deep cross, although the referee was unmoved. The sheer velocity of an Arteta effort knocked goalkeeper Joe Hart off his feet. At the end of the half Fellaini, having just missed Joleon Lescott’s cross, forced a good save from Hart.
After the break the visitors repelled whatever City threw at them until, in stoppage time, an Osman corner was headed home firmly by Cahill. It was a result and performance received rapturously by Moyes, who can sum up in one word what money he has available in January. None. His counterpart, for all the resources at his disposal, is on thin ice.
NICK TOWNSEND WRITING FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES 14TH DECEMBER 2008