Martinez made one change from the Newcastle win with Naismith surprisingly coming in on the left flank with Leon Osman moving inside with Gareth Barry ineligible. The Blues maintained their 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 ish setup. Man City made a plethora of changes from the side that was given a chasing by Bayern in midweek with Aguero and Negredo up front in a 4-4-2 and a recall for former toffee Joleon Lescott in defence.
Lukaku Strikes First
The Blues came out fighting and looked a menace on the break with Lukaku carrying on his impressive early season form. In general we looked a real threat on the break and had a couple of early opportunities with Mirallas and Naismith both getting into good positions before failing with the final ball. City certainly looked susceptible to our fast tempo counter attacks.
On the 16th minute we got the breakthrough we had been threatening when a decent long pass from Jagielka found Lukaku who outfoxed a bewildered Lescott to drive through on goal and dispatch past ‘under fire’ keeper Joe Hart. Sadly for us, rather than this being the start of another great win it marked the beginning of the end as the lead lasted just 90 seconds.
Most of the game’s key events surrounded its stand out performer, Manchester City’s David Silva. The Spanish schemer previously had just one assist and no goals in his six games against us and has largely been ineffectual due to our tightness in midfield, usually leading to him bin dipping for space on the flanks. Yesterday, however, we gave him a free rein and he was able to come off the left flank and receive inside in dangerous areas and often untracked which enabled him to play a part in all three City goals as the Toffees folded. He also ‘put in a shift’ defensively along with the City forwards to make it difficult for us to find passing angles to Barkley and Lukaku in the second half.
Our midfield played its own part here and were not fit for purpose on the day. Osman and McCarthy were as bad a combination to watch as the two biffs off Masterchef with Osman playing the role of the bald greengrocer. They weren’t helped by wide players Mirallas and to a lesser extent Naismith who failed to tuck in and assist numbers wise. If you look at how we worked well to compress space in the middle yesterday compared to our most recent win against City the data is interesting, sort of.
In general I felt we didn’t work hard enough off the ball and were at times overrun, perhaps lacking someone who could disrupt City’s rhythm and break the game down, like Fellaini who can hoover up the second balls, or a Barry whose experience to slow play down or kick someone up the arse was sorely missing.
In last season’s game – due largely to our miserly tactics – SIlva created no scoring chances, however yesterday he setup 6 scoring chances – mostly for Aguero – and received the ball DOUBLE the amount of times. His combination play with Toure was particularly good and Aguero could have scored a hat trick by half time alone thanks to Silva’s impudence and craft.
It was Silva’s nudge to Toure which enabled the Ivorian to setup Negredo for the equaliser as he ghosted in behind a square Seamus Coleman.
Soon after, Silva was as it again, teeing up the Argentine for another opening which this time he gobbled up ruthlessly for goal number two. It was a bit of comedy of errors from us with Mirallas initially losing the ball in the City half and then Coleman and Distin’s positioning compromised by a ridiculous argument with Negredo in our 18 yard box. It was one of those days.
Whether Silva should have even been on the pitch however was another story altogether after two clear yellow card offences which denied us promising counter attacking opportunities were missed. Referee John Moss – clearly way out of his comfort zone – had already missed a common assault as James Milner, who presumably celebrated the win with a night in with a John Bishop DVD and a glass of ginger ale, took out James McCarthy at waist height with two feet off the ground making no connection with the ball.
Unfortunately for us, Moss hadn’t finished and his final act of ineptitude would be to give City a gift of a penalty. Again, it was Silva and Toure who combined to free Zabaleta in our penalty box. Whilst there was ‘contact’ (it’s a contact sport!) there was significantly more contact than Nastasic on Lukaku in the first half which was ignored. Lets not kid ourselves though, City had been dominating the game for a while at this stage and it seemed a goal was imminent. At this point in the game we hadn’t even had a shot since the first 15 minutes so the idea of us scoring twice was incredibly optimistic. Game over.
This was a disappointing second half that ended our unbeaten run to the season. On the plus side we won’t have to face a side as competent as City every week – they played some top notch stuff after going a goal behind, nor will we have to encounter John Moss who after this display will likely be demoted and/ or forced to go full time at Wetherspoons. Our first half display showed again that we can compete with the best but we were undone by poor tracking of Silva in particular. The start to the Martinez reign has been superb however and at least we have the tantalising prospect of Paul McShane on site at Goodison marking Lukaku in a fortnight to look forward to.