Manchester City found a way through at Etihad Stadium against a venerable Everton group, earning the 2-0 victory and a share of first place in the Barclays Premier League.
City set up in the same formation they’ve used in the league since the close of the transfer window. It’s 4-2-2-2, marked by no wide players in the front 6. David Silva and Samir Nasri like to stay in tight, allowing Gael Clichy and Micah Richards to roam the flanks freely, which they do very well. Gareth Barry’s role is primarily to break up runs at the defense, while Yaya Toure is a little more fluid in moving forward and contributing in the offense.
Everton’s formation was a 4-4-2, with a couple of wrinkles from David Moyes. Tim Cahill is normally in the forward two, often behind a more attacking player, but in this scheme Marouane Fellaini played as a deeper forward. The midfield four was really three in formation, and Jack Rodwell who man-marked Silva for nearly the entire match.
As one would expect, the home team carried the play with exceptional talent in their lineup. Everton’s lack of firepower mean they are often playing defensively, and that was the case here. For a lot of the match, the Toffees stifled the Blues. Most of the early discussion was around the referee, as Howard Webb got on an early streak of pulling the yellow card for modest challenges. Perhaps he saw the opportunity for this rivalry to escalate. Realistically, Silva did well to draw attention to Rodwell’s very tight marking, though Toffee fans would probably disagree. Once Rodwell was cautioned, Moyes opted to move Phil Neville into the role of marking Silva out of the match. Within 5 minutes of this change, Neville had picked up another controversial yellow. At that point, only 25 minutes into the match, Moyes restored his original tactic.
Everton’s offense was sporadic, they tended to stay well entrenched, trying to squelch City’s progress. They did have room to play wide, but Leighton Baines and Tony Hibbert were very concerned with the potential for a quick break against the defense, so they remained at home much of the time. When Baines was able to get forward, his crosses weren’t particularly strong. While they were level with City, Everton only managed 4 attempts, indicative of both a defensive strategy as well as a lack of imagination in the side.
Rodwell was able to neutralize Silva for the majority of the match. Most of the quality chances for City came from either Toure, Richards, or Nasri. The match was tight for over an hour, but Everton’s defense couldn’t hold the entire 90 minutes. Mario Balotelli, after coming on at the hour mark, took a short Sergio Aguero layoff and blasted a shot at goal. Everton defender Phil Jagielka dove to block, but the ball glanced off his leg and past Tim Howard for the decisive goal. As full time approached, Everton committed too many bodies forward, and substitute James Milner was played through into the open by Silva on the break. His calm finish marked his first Manchester City League goal, and iced the cake for the Blues.
Everton probably were on the wrong end of a few calls, but City outplayed the Toffees in respects of possession. The score reflected the match well, and Everton did well to limit a potent City squad to 2 goals through stout defending and tactical considerations.