Everton went to the Etihad stadium with a clear game plan – stifle Manchester City and possibly hit them on the break. Moyes would have loved all 3 points but set out hoping to earn 1. City on the other hand wanted to impose their attacking will on Everton and hopefully set the gauntlet for their neighbours who would take on Stoke City later on.
The starting lineup for City these days is a foregone conclusion with only injuries or Carling Cup forcing Mancini to alter his plans. Moyes went for a 4-1-4-1 with Phil Neville playing in the holding role and Tim Cahill up-front.
City vs Everton – starting line-ups
Mancini’s game plan involves Yaya Toure and Barry lying deep and letting Nasri, SIlva, Aguero and Dzeko do the attacking. City’s attacking quartet do not have a fixed positional role and they tend to shift and interchange positions with each other – making marking them a painful job. This is evident from Nasri, Silva and Aguero’s positions during the game – they were everywhere. Since Barry and Toure sat deep, the attacking midfielders had the liberty to roam out of position.
Aguero, Nasri & Silva – roamed out of position at will
David Moyes sought to counter City’s attacking threat with the vintage art of man-marking. He assigned young Jack Rodwell to mark City’s most creative player – David Silva. It worked like a dream too as Rodwell harried the Spaniard and snapped into tackles. All this was good for 18 minutes when SIlva’s trickery induced a rash challenge from Rodwell and earned him a yellow card. Moyes promptly handed over the man-marking duties to Phil Neville. But 8 minutes later, Silva made sure that Neville got a yellow as well. Everton competed gamely for the first half an hour in which City were able to muster only 2 shots (off-target) and that too from long range. After a rash of cards, Everton had to roll back their aggresiveness in tackles and City took over. The last 15 minutes of the first half saw City registering a further 6 shots at goal.
Everton hung in gamely for 65 minutes when the game changed because of two substitutions. Mancini sent in Mario Balotelli for the disappointing Dzeko and Luis Saha was brought on by Moyes for Cahill who injured himself flying into a tackle. Cahill, eventhough operating as a striker, tracked back regularly to help his team out whereas Saha pretty much tended to stay upfront. Thus Everton had one less player to counter City’s attacks.
Cahill tracked back, Saha didn’t & Everton suffered
Balotelli scored and both managers started ringing in the changes as Moyes making attacking substitutions and Mancini bringing defensive cover – the frittering away of a 2 goal lead at Craven Cottage in mind obviously. Moyes’ strategy of playing the pacy Drenthe down in the middle instead of his favoured left back-fired as Drenthe’s poor back pass allowed Silva to real in a peach of a pass to Milner to score and kill the tie.
The investments that has been made to construct both squads are different and hence a gulf in class. But Everton hung in there and refused to be cowered. But this time, the irresistable force was not to be denied.