City earned a deserved and hard fought victory over Everton yesterday lunch time. City ran out two-nil winners in Manchester courtesy of strikes from Mario Balotelli and James Milner to finally overcome the stranglehold which Everton have had over City in recent seasons. Everton, going into this game, have won the last four Premier League encounters with City.
The game offered a different spectacle to what we have become accustomed to this season and this was mainly down to the negative tactics employed by Everton’s manager David Moyes. City had to work hard and be patient as Everton put all their players behind the ball in an attempt to stifle City’s attacking flair. This seemed to be working until the hour mark when Roberto Mancini introduced Mario Balotelli in place of Edin Dzeko.
The Italian youngster seemed to change the game in as much that he scored a goal to put City into the lead but he also added a different dimension to City’s attack. His pace, quick feet and directness was something that Everton could not cope with. Balotelli put in a fine performance against Birmingham earlier in the week and Mancini had clearly taken note.
After Balotelli scored it was notable to see him run straight towards Mancini and embrace him before acknowledging the delight of his team mates. Not that one can read too much into it, perhaps this demonstrates that Mancini has taken Balotelli under his wing and has been working closely with the, on occasion, fiery Italian so that he can fulfil his massive potential. After the game, Mancini praised Balotelli’s patience and work ethic this season as he has had to wait on the sidelines for his chance to shine. Perhaps his celebration was merely a thank you to his manager.
As the game wore on, Everton did not adjust their tactics in response to the goal and seemed to be happy to resort to damage limitation. However, in the dying embers of the game David Silva took advantage of some sloppy midfield play from Everton substitute, Drenthe, to gain possession. The little Spaniard superbly held up the ball before feeding a sublime through ball for James Milner to tuck the ball home.
All in all, the victory was deserved and notable for the different approach that City had to take to secure the points. It may well be something City will have to get used to as the season wares on as few teams will try and take the game to City. It is comforting to see that City have the guile and temperament to overcome the sternest of defences, like Everton’s, as well the flair and swagger to tear apart teams, like Tottenham.
Words by Rob Toole