Fowler fails in attempt to stop Everton marching on

Everton 2 - Manchester City 1

Everton's unexpected glory march continues, thanks to a well-orchestrated response from Marcus Bent and Tim Cahill, who both ended their long-running goal droughts.

But, as usual on Merseyside, the talking point was the former Anfield striker Robbie Fowler, who did his fair share to wind up the Everton fans and was booked into the bargain.

On top of that, there was a double-quick red card to add more spice to the occasion. City's Christian Negouai had only been on the pitch two minutes, after replacing Danny Mills, when he was given a red card for a foul on Bent by the referee Phil Dowd.

With all this combustible material, it was probably a wise decision by the City manager Kevin Keegan not to play Joey Barton, who had disgraced himself at the Christmas party.

On this occasion it was Fowler who took centre stage as he scored for the fourth consecutive time in recent Boxing Day fixtures. The striker may be slowing down these days, but you can always count on him for controversy back on his native soil.

The 29-year-old not only headed an equaliser in front of a packed 40,000 Goodison Park crowd, but he also inevitably rubbed it in. After cancelling out Cahill's earlier strike for Everton, Fowler was in the right place at the right time to level matters just before half-time as he bulleted home a cross from Jon Macken.

Naturally, the packed Gwladys Street end of Goodison gave him plenty of stick, chanting "Smack Head", a taunt referring to previous media speculation about some footballers' use of recreational drugs.

Fowler has always vehemently denied any personal involvement. Even so, he ran towards the Everton fans, smacking his head with a hand. It was a typical Scouser's response to provocation, but one which earned him a booking for leaving the field of play.

His manager Kevin Keegan refused to be drawn on the issue when he said: "He got his goal which he enjoyed. He has a lot of emotion and I think the ref booked him for simply leaving the field of play." Keegan denied that the police had spoken to him about Fowler's apparent provocation of the crowd, adding: "I'm not going to go down that road. I think they call him Smack Head here. They give him stick but the humour in this part of the country is legendary. You have to take it."

Of the red card, Keegan said: "I think it was poor refereeing. When the ref looks at it he will see there was a bad tackle on Sylvain Distain. The ball then broke and Christian went for it. The maximum should have been a yellow card. It's a very harsh decision and I don't think it would have been made if Bent had gone in on him in the same way."

It was no matter to Everton, whose surge to the top continues to confound the pre-season pundits. David Moyes' men have now gone seven games unbeaten and have lost only twice at home - and that is the kind of form that could yet push the Unlikely Lads into Europe.

As it is, they have reached their pre-season safety target of 40 points, one more than was achieved in the whole of last season, and deputy manager Alan Harper said: "You're always happy to get to the 40-point mark. Who knows where it will take us at the end of the season." Moyes has £10m to spend in January, and that is without the near £13m coming his way once the promised cash injection arrives from the Brunei-based Fortress Sports Fund investors.

But for now, Bent and Cahill seem to have put their barren spell behind them, to ease the Toffees' goalscoring problems. Cahill made no mistake in the 22nd minute to break his 13-game duck, from Thomas Gravesen's free-kick. The Australian was unmarked to give David James no chance with his close-range header.

In a heated second half both sides threw in everything, but it was Bent who claimed the match-winner. Again, the influential Gravesen set it up, with a delightful chip which Bent headed home despite James getting a hand to the ball. It was Bent's sixth of the season and his first in nine games, which left Everton in third place, a point below Arsenal.

Goals: Cahill (22) 1-0; Fowler (43) 1-1; Bent (62) 2-1

Everton (4-5-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Pistone; Watson (Ferguson, 74), Carsley, Cahill, Gravesen (Yobo, 81), Kilbane; Bent (McFadden, 90). Substitutes not used: Wright, Naysmith.

Manchester City (4-3-3): James; Mills (Onuoha, 81), Dunne, Distain, Jordan; S Wright-Phillips, Bosvelt, Sibierski; Fowler, Macken (Negouai, 81), Anelka. Substitutes not used: Waterreus, Barton, Flood.

Booked: Manchester City: Fowler, Mills. Everton: Carsley.

Sent off: Manchester City: Negouai.

Man of the Match: Gravesen.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Attendance: 40,530.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'