Manchester City thrashed in an agony of frustrated ambition and a terrible sense that they are the team whose most dangerous opponents are themselves.
Carlos Tevez was back as the symbol of their best hopes and possibly their worst betrayal and his manager Roberto Mancini resigned himself to another night on a perilous divide between the enforcement of discipline and the need to make the best of the most bizarre riches a football manager ever owned.
In the end he had the bleakest of results. The compromises worked out on a day of tension at the Eastlands ground brought what they often do ... another source of the deepest regret. This was a terrible defeat at the hands of Everton. It was not so much a failure to reach for the top of the League but rather one to produce any evidence that they are any nearer to being a serious team.
The first half was less a football match and more a morality tale, the moral being that however much you spend on your team it doesn't mean a lot if you persevere with a captain who has turned the season into a one-man insurrection.
You are sending messages which are so mixed they might be coming out of a tumble dryer.
City appeared to be toughening their stance over Tevez, telling him to get back into the ranks and take the legal consequences of any continued rebellion against a contract reputed in some quarters to be worth around £1m a month. But he would keep the captaincy, normally the badge of the man most committed to the cause, by the simple device of withdrawing his transfer request.
City's resulting body language was so sullen it was hardly a surprise that Everton, for no better reason initially than that they looked like a team operating on roughly the same wave length, swept into the lead after just four minutes, Tim Cahill accepting, as he generally does, the offer of a free header. Then, almost cruelly in the circumstances, Everton started to look like a genuine football team as opposed to something dangerously resembling the richest rabble in all the game.
There is as yet no collective term for a group of disorientated super-rich footballers performing in sub-zero temperatures but given the demeanour of Tevez and his almost equally rewarded team-mate Yaya Touré a "snood" might do for the moment.
City's mood worsened, and Mancini's touched distraction, when Everton moved further ahead with a quite beautiful strike in the 19th minute. Victor Anichebe ran freely along the left, fed Cahill, who played in Leighton Baines for a fine shot across Joe Hart.
This was supposed to be the night City laid claim to the top of the Premier League but what was staring at them now was something entirely different. There could only be one response and, with some assistance from the reckless Anichebe, who was sent off for a second yellow card, the worst possibility of all, a total melt-down of a £250m team investment, was avoided.
City began to play, not with overwhelming coherence, not by any means, but with certain evidence that there was some considerable power and talent within their ranks. A Phil Jagielka own goal reduced the lead and with Adam Johnson on for another visit from the bench, 10-man Everton were plainly going to be stretched to some rather impressive levels of resistance.
Even Tevez rallied himself into a little more more meaningful action and Mario Balotelli came within an inch of a equaliser which would surely have come against less resolute defence. But then Everton held, despite being one man down until the last 30 seconds. They had hung on desperately enough – but they did look like a team.Reuse content