Silva inspires City to tough it out and become real title contenders

Manchester City 2 Everton 0
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The Independent Football

The crowd at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday saw a team capable of ending a decades-long wait for the championship. Enough of Lancashire's cricketers and their half-time appearance, though; this Manchester City victory, whisper it, warranted comparison with the team from the other Old Trafford.

For all their flair, Manchester United have shown – last term in particular – that eking out wins when the football is not flowing is the key to collecting league titles. Hence the significance of this hard-earned City success over a stubborn Everton side which brought Roberto Mancini's men back level with United at the Premier League summit.

As James Milner, a goalscoring substitute along with Mario Balotelli, noted afterwards: "Maybe we would not have won that game in seasons past."

In seasons past, of course, City did not have an array of A-list attacking talent acquired at huge expense; by way of comparison their previous home victory over Everton back in January 2007 came virtue of two goals by a substitute called Georgios Samaras.

On Saturday, despite Everton's best attempts to smother City with a blanket defence, despite Sergio Aguero firing a blank and a quiet display by Edin Dzeko, they still had enough to gather three points. It was Balotelli whose deflected 20-yard strike broke the deadlock but David Silva was the shining light.

"He has been on fire since the start of the year," was Milner's verdict afterwards and David Moyes, the Everton manager, evidently concurred given he had sent Jack Rodwell out to man-mark the Spaniard.

Even with City not at their fluid best, Everton could contain him for only so long. After Balotelli's introduction, Silva switched to a central position and took over. He hit a post, had a goal ruled offside, then set up Milner to score the second with the pass of the match.

Moyes showed his admiration for Silva afterwards when making a beeline for him as the player stood talking to reporters and shaking his hand. The close attention he had earlier received out on the pitch was "unusual" for a Premier League contest, Silva suggested, yet his response embodied the persistence that could take City far.

"[Everton] defended very well but we also played well and got the victory. We're very pleased knowing that in these difficult matches if we keep on winning and doing what we are doing, we'll be in the running," he said.

The win ensures City fly out to Bavaria today in good heart for tomorrow's Champions' League encounter with Bayern Munich – currently top of the Bundesliga with six wins out of six – and Silva spoke with confidence about the challenge that awaits. "We don't have to change our style. We know they're a tough opponent but we have great players ourselves and can play a good game there."

City's gatecrashing of Europe's elite leaves Everton's days of knocking on the Champions League door looking like an ever distant memory and despite a run of four successive wins in east Manchester prior to Saturday, this felt more like one of their visits to Old Trafford, where they last prevailed in 1992.

And as can happen at Old Trafford, there were complaints in the away camp about several refereeing decisions going their hosts' way, notably a stamp by Vincent Kompany in a challenge with Tim Cahill that put the Australian out of the game, while also earning him a yellow card from Howard Webb. Moyes said: "The boy does him. He definitely sees his shin going in and stands on it." The one blessing for Moyes is that it was just "bruising", meaning Cahill should be fit for Saturday's Merseyside derby at Goodison, when Everton will have to fight fire with fire.

Euro watch

* Bayern Munich warmed up for tomorrow's visit of Manchester City with a sixth successive Bundesliga win, beating Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 on Saturday. Goals from Thomas Müller, the former City midfielder Daniel van Buyten and Arjen Robben – returning from a month out with a groin injury – kept Jupp Heynckes' side two points clear of Borussia Mönchengladbach and Werder Bremen at the top.

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