Everton 2 Manchester City 0 match report: Roberto Mancini is haunted by Everton as weak City surrender title
Sunday 17 March 2013
When he leaves Manchester City you will find "Everton" engraved on Roberto Mancini's heart. If this was the afternoon when City surrendered their title, it was appropriate it should have been at Goodison Park.
Everton have been such a bloody thorn in Mancini's side that they have accounted for a quarter of the points he has dropped as manager of City. Here, even reduced to 10 men for half an hour following the dismissal of Steven Pienaar, Everton still won.
As the gap between Manchester United and City has grown, Mancini's temper has become shorter. After the 3-1 defeat at Southampton in January, he was said to be too angry to enter his dressing-room; here he was too upset to climb the many flights of stairs to Goodison's press room.
He was upset not just at the referee Lee Probert's refusal to award what appeared to be a blatant penalty against Marouane Fellaini for handball, but by the sheer insipidness of City's performance. They had driven themselves to the final seconds of last season to snatch the title, and now they surrendered it with little more than an apologetic shrug of the shoulders.
"Roberto is not just angry at the penalty, he is angry at the way the game has gone," said his assistant, David Platt. "It is the whole afternoon, really. That is why he is not here."
There were four minutes left to dribble away when Leon Osman threw himself at Carlos Tevez's shot. The midfielder said the ball "licked my arm" before striking Fellaini's three yards inside the Everton area.
Probert gave the free-kick roughly where it struck Osman, who was captaining the club in the absence of Phil Neville, one of two players dropped in the wake of last week's capitulation to Wigan in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Aleksandar Kolarov drove the free-kick harmlessly into the wall.
Then, as the final embers of City's challenge flickered and died, Fellaini broke clear and fed Nikica Jelavic. Clichy made a not particularly committed attempt to stop him and the Croat delivered a shot that flew over Joe Hart and dipped under the post.
Jelavic tore off his shirt, much as Sergio Aguero had done when seizing the title in the last seconds for City, and plunged towards the crowd at the Gwladys Street End.
The quarter-final loss to Wigan had appeared so crushing that it seemed hard to imagine how Everton's manager, David Moyes, who has given no indication he will be at Goodison next season, might revive them. In retrospect, it seemed ridiculous to have doubted him. "Did I expect a reaction?" said Moyes, for whom this match marked his 11th year at the club. "I would have been surprised if there hadn't been one."
He condemned the referee for dismissing Pienaar, although the South African's challenge on Javi Garcia was high and seemed to merit a second yellow card, and for failing to allow what appeared a perfectly good goal from Kevin Mirallas.
There was little time, too, for those reporters who had questioned his team. "Yes, we were rubbish last week, but you should be careful what you say because this is a very good Everton side," he said. "It has the same attitude I found when I came here 11 years ago. They were resilient, they were hard to beat, they threw themselves on the line for their team-mates."
That attitude was shown in the way that Jan Mucha, a goalkeeper sometimes best watched from behind a sofa, made an outstanding double save from James Milner and then Tevez. It was shown in the way Seamus Coleman, who had tormented Kolarov, picked out Osman on the edge of the box for the opener. Osman swung his foot at the ball, sliced it and saw it arc past Hart. The method was from the playing fields of Billinge, where the midfielder grew up, but the result looked Brazilian.
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