Man. City. Won. Away. – Honestly.
A hugely impressive performance from City on Saturday afternoon gave them a fully deserved three points and only a second away victory of the season. Mark Hughes saw his side at their very best, with sensational performances from the whole team and Stephen Ireland and Robinho in particular. Goals from the afore-mentioned duo, along with an injury-time consolation from Everton starlet Dan Gosling gave the scoreline the look of a competitive match, but the final result more than flattered the Toffees, who were left with a sour taste in the mouth after an insipid showing.
Thanks to their first win on their travels since August, City move up into ninth place in the Premier League, three points behind Fulham, who defeated Stoke 1 – 0, in seventh. The Europa League is now in sight for the Blues, and it can be hoped that the Citizens replicate this performance in their remaining away matches in the season; Manchester United and Tottenham. Everton remain in sixth position, two points behind Aston Villa, and to add further insult to injury, (no pun intended) key defender Phil Jagielka is very doubtful for the FA Cup final after suffering a serious injury in this match.
Mark Hughes guided his side to a rare away victory
Blues boss Mark Hughes made only one change from the side that defeated West Brom, with Micah Richards, who reportedly had had a training ground bust-up with the manager on Friday, restored in place of the injured Pablo Zabaleta. Holding midfielder Nigel de Jong passed a late fitness test to resume alongside Vincent Kompany, whilst for some reason, Hughes again opted for the battering ram that doesn’t batter; Felipe ‘Move’ Caicedo.
David Moyes opted to make a few alterations from the team which valiantly drew with Chelsea, as the former Preston boss decided to rest Jolean Lescott and Tim Cahill, the latter of whom scored the winner when these sides played earlier in the season. Louis Saha was recalled in place of Jo, with the on-loan striker ineligible to play against his parent club. Segundo ‘No Relation to Nery’ Castillo was handed a rare opportunity, but the Everton side had a decidedly different look without a number of their stars.
City Line-Up (4-2-3-1)
Richards Dunne Onuoha Bridge
de Jong Kompany
Elano Ireland Robinho
Subs: Hart, Garrido, BERTI, Useless, Petrov, Evans, Bojinov
Tim ‘Amir Khan’ Cahill was surprisingly left on the bench for the home side
Clearly boosted by Mark Hughes’s pre-match words that they needed to be more aggressive away from home, City started strongly and Robinho could have won a penalty early on after a foul by Leon Osman, but referee Alan Wiley, who should look at the advantages of a diet, declined the vociferous appeals. Replays showed limited contact, but we have definitely seen those given.
City were trying to press home their advantage and visitors, seemingly suffering from their midweek exertions, were struggling with the tempo of City’s play. Robinho saw his rasping effort saved theatrically and only a last-ditch goal-saving tackle from Leighton Baines denied Ireland from opening the scoring.
But City weren’t to be denied for long, as just after the half-hour mark, an Everton corner fell to the feet of Elano, whose stunning defence-splitting pass set his Brazilian team-mate Robinho racing through. The Premier League’s most expensive player turned Phil Jagielka inside out before rifling a left-footed shot through the legs of Howard to give City the lead. It was a fantastic counter-attack from the pair of South American stars, and the question now was whether they could hold out for the win.
Robinho slots home the ball between Howard’s legs before celebrating by cleaning Elano’s boots
As the first half drew to a close, there was a humorous moment when Robinho was clean through on goal, only for Howard to rugby-tackle the Brazilian to the ground. Adamant that he was fouled, Robinho demanded a penalty, but comically, having failed to realise the offside flag, he was left on his own in the box as play continued. Wiley then brought the first period of the encounter to a halt, and City went into the half-time break much the happier side.
Within minutes of the second half starting, Everton should have been level, and would have been if it was not for a piece of miraculous goalkeeping from Shay Given. Steven Pienaar’s cross was brilliantly controlled then volleyed from close range by Fellaini but with the ball arrowing in Given showed why Mark Hughes shelled out big money to bring him from Newcastle with a world-class reaction save to stun the home fans.
And just moments later, the home side were left to rue that miss, when, following an Everton attack, the ball fell to Felipe Caicedo who found Robinho in space of the left wing. With Stephen Ireland bursting out of nowhere to sprint into the box, the Brazilian maestro laid an inch-perfect chipped pass into the path of the Irish midfielder, who calmly finished passed the advancing Howard to extend the Blues’ advantage. Micah Richards had to be carried off injured just after the goal, having injured himself making a crucial block, so on came Gelson ‘I Hate You’ Fernandes; a move which forced a reshuffle of City’s defence, with Nedum Onuoha going to right-back, Vincent Kompany dropping into centre-half and Fernandes trying to add solidity to the midfield.
Stephen Ireland smiles for the camera after scoring City’s second goal
Everton boss David Moyes made a triple substitution as he tried valiantly to get a foothold in the game. With Cahill, Gosling and James Vaughan replacing Fellaini, Castillo and Saha respectively, the last thing Moyes required was another injury, but his worst fears became reality when Phil Jagielka, under no contact, suffered a horrific injury, severely damaging his anterior cruciate ligaments; a blow which rules him out of the FA Cup final.
As the home side pushed forward, more space opened up for City’s attacking trio of Elano, Robinho and Ireland, and the Blues hit the outside of the post twice in the final minutes, firstly through Robinho’s drive and then Ireland, but the third and decisive goal would not come. And City were made to rue their missed chances as, in the fourth minute of seven in time added on, Everton fledgling Dan Gosling scored with a left-footed finish after Kompany slipped in the box. However, it was only a consolation, and City closed out the match with relative ease to record their first away league win since August.
Everton defender Phil Jagielka suffers heartbreak as his injury will rule him out of the FA Cup final
Lars Jacobsen or Tony Hibbert ‘v’ Robinho
Hibbert had been out of favour in recent matches, but was recalled ahead of Jacobsen and was given the (sometimes) arduous task of marking Robinho. He allowed the Brazilian far too much time and space on the ball, allowing the Premier League’s most expensive player ample time to display his full arsenal of talents. Robinho scored one goal and set up another so the winner, by a margin bigger than Felipe Caicedo’s backside, is Robinho.
Marouane Fellaini ’v’ Vincent Kompany
The two Belgian midfielders came face to face in bruising encounter. Despite the close friendship between the pair, there was no lack of effort, with Fellaini in particular guilty of a number of heavy challenges. Kompany did very well alongside Nigel de Jong in defensive midfield, and although Fellaini had a shot brilliantly saved by Shay Given, the winner is Kompany.
Leon Osman ‘v’ Wayne Bridge
Bridge has looked susceptible recently, but he was back to somewhere near his best against Everton, getting forward well and defending solidly. Osman tended to drift inside an awful lot, and despite putting over a couple of decent crosses, he had limited impact. The England international was much more impressive than usual, so the winner is Bridge.
Look-a-like: Marouane Fellaini and Screech from Saved by the Bell
Given – Made one fantastic save from Fellaini and gave confidence to the defence – 7.5
Richards – Had a small bust-up with Hughes in training on Friday, but showed no ill-effects as he produced a solid, if unspectacular, performance – 7.5
Dunne – Led by example from the start. Won everything in the air and was good to see him retain focus for the whole game – 7.5
Onuoha – Started at centre-back and finished up on the right of defence, but was assured the whole time and was never beaten – 8
Bridge – Much better than normal. Supported attacks well, and handled Osman with relative ease – 7.5
de Jong – Adds solidity in front of the defence. Alongside Kompany, he managed to snuff out a plethora of Everton attacks – 7.5
Kompany – Had a battle with Fellaini that was not for the faint-hearted, and just about came out on top. Could have maybe got tighter to Gosling for Everton’s goal – 7.5
Elano – Superb pass for the first goal and looked bright throughout the match. Three games on the trot that has been fantastic, so it is hoped that he can keep this up – 8
Ireland – Scored the second goal with a lovely finish. Showed excellent amounts of energy during the game, and linked up very well with Robinho – 8.5
Robinho – Well well. What a surprise! Worked hard and put himself about. Caused Hibbert umpteen problems with his trickery. Scored one and set up another. Much more of this please! – 9.5
Caicedo – Surprisingly mobile. Ran a lot more than usual which was a pleasure to see. Put himself about, but he needs to add more goals to his tally – 7
Fernandes – Brought on to shore up the midfield, which he didn’t do. Got booked and was largely ineffective – 1
Petrov and Evans – No time to mark
Robinho was jumping for joy as he helped City overcome Everton
Man of the Match – Robinho
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