Everton 2 Manchester City 3: Manuel Pellegrini’s men demonstrate precisely why they are paid so handsomely


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The Independent Football

One of David Moyes’s few lost arguments during his years as Everton manager was his idea to ditch the Z-Cars theme as the music to which his players ran out. It was from an era when the Ford Anglia was the police pursuit vehicle of choice and was, frankly, dated.

However, to Manchester City ears, it has sounded like “Approaching Menace”, the theme from Mastermind, another staple of the BBC of the 1970s. To win the title they realistically had to take three points from a ground where they had won once in 21 years. Psychologically, this was not a hurdle, it was a north face of an Eiger. The way they reacted on the final whistle demonstrated what summit City knew they had conquered.

Yet Manuel Pellegrini possesses men with the mentality of mountaineers. The Abu Dhabi oil money buys you players who come to Manchester having won titles with Barcelona and in the Bundesliga. They do not pay the highest wages in the sporting world for footballers who have to be brought on.

There is a cold ruthlessness about Manchester City. Last Sunday when they knew Liverpool had been broken on the rocks of Chelsea’s defence at Anfield, they had to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Edin Dzeko and Yaya Touré, the men who had defied the galacticos of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to win championships, scored the goals.

Here, they were the pivotal figures once Sergio Aguero had been forced off. With Fernandinho brought on to protect the back four, Touré drove himself further forward while Dzeko remained icily efficient in the penalty area.


He had scored the first of the stoppage-time goals in the final seconds of the season that had snatched the title from Manchester United two years ago, although had Roberto Mancini stayed, then Dzeko would not have done.

They have two home games against Aston Villa and West Ham in which to hold  their nerve. Given the chaos Sunderland have wrought on the great grounds of England, no Premier League fixture will be counted straightforward but Villa and West Ham have each lost their last four matches at the Etihad Stadium while conceding 29 goals. If Goodison was an Eiger, this is flat Alpine pasture.

Everton were in the unusual position of knowing that even a draw would probably take the title to Liverpool. On the final day of the 1995-96 season Newcastle’s bid for the Premier League, which was every bit as thrilling and romantic as Liverpool’s, depended on a Middlesbrough side, managed by Bryan Robson, halting Manchester United. Resistance at the Riverside Stadium was not fanatical.

Everton fought rather harder. Ross Barkley had begun the season with a fabulous goal at Norwich and now he marked his final game at Goodison with something similar.

The way Goodison screamed their team forward after Romelu Lukaku scored was decisive proof of what kind of result the blue half of Merseyside demanded. They wanted to win, not for Liverpool but for themselves.

This was their third and last defeat at Goodison and in their way all were unexpected – Sunderland, Crystal Palace and now the team they always had a hold over. It has cost them the Champions League – a competition they were denied in 2005 by Pellegrini’s Villarreal. For him, at least, the music of Goodison holds no fears.