Zinchenko, Mykolenko and Ukraine take centre stage before Man City narrowly beat Everton

Everton 0-1 Man City: A late Foden winner kept City clear at the top after the Toffees had threatened an upset

Melissa Reddy
Sunday 27 February 2022 03:07
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<p>Vitaliy Mykolenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko embraced in solidarity over Ukraine before kick-off</p>

Vitaliy Mykolenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko embraced in solidarity over Ukraine before kick-off

There was a contest affecting both ends of the Premier League table at Goodison Park on Saturday evening; dimmed by the seriously more significant fear, hurt and helplessness affecting Everton’s Vitaliy Mykolenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko of Manchester City.

The Ukrainian pair, who engaged in a pre-match embrace, were understandably enveloped in emotion as Goodison Park supplied a strong, moving show of support to their country – victims of a war materialising from Vladimir Putin’s poisonous megalomania.

In scenes soundtracked by ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,’ Mykolenko was fighting back tears as Zinchenko succumbed to them.

Everton’s players had entered the pitch draped in Ukraine flags, while City had the horizontal bicolour of blue and yellow painting their jackets above a “No War” cry.

A large “Nil satis nisi optimum” banner was unfurled in those colours and there were plenty of individual protest messages: “F*** Putin,” “We Stand With Ukraine,” “Stay strong.”

Manchester City players wore ‘No War’ t-shirts in solidarity with Ukraine

On a human level, it was a beautiful and unforgettable symbol of solidarity. In a wider context, however, it spotlighted how compromised football is: advertising hoardings still carried the USM Holdings logo, owned by Putin-friendly Alisher Usmanov.

City’s Abu Dhabi ownership, meanwhile, is problematic on several human rights levels. While the players emphasised a “No War” message, the UAE abstained from voting on a UN security council draft resolution telling Moscow to stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw all troops immediately.

The highest levels of the game – special hello Gianni Infantino – have rolled out the welcome mat to the worst kind of powers, all for the sake of money: more and more and more of it.

Everton players wore Ukrainian flags prior to kick off

On the match itself, relegation-threatened Everton continued the theme of being much better at home under Frank Lampard.

The hosts, sitting on their worst tally at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1950-51 – when they couldn’t avoid the drop – reduced leaders City to two shots on target in the first half.

They were compact, providing a threat through Richarlison, and furiously upsetting Pep Guardiola’s midfield.

As expected, City colonised the chance creation and attacking pressure as the fixture ticked on. Jordan Pickford made two vital interventions on 56 minutes, parrying Phil Foden’s shot and then claiming from Joao Cancelo.

Michael Keane cleared from Kevin De Bruyne and Richarlison was forced into more defensive work than having an offensive impact.

City were blowing down the door, and bam: Bernardo Silva’s low cross from the left was soft, but it hit Mason Holgate and with Keane ponderously failing to get his feet out, Foden nipped in to tuck into the bottom corner.

A huge goal for the visitors was then followed by a mammoth decision from VAR. Rodri cleared a bouncing ball bouncing in the City box, with his arm outstretched and making contact below the T-shirt line.

Rodri appeared to handle the ball in his own area but VAR ruled that it wasn’t a penalty to Everton

It seemed certain Everton would be awarded a penalty, or at the very least Paul Tierney would be asked to review the incident. Neither happened as play was waved on.

Tempers flared, but the scoreline remain unchanged. City extend their cushion at the summit while Liverpool prepare to contest the League Cup final against Chelsea.

Everton are in almighty danger, just one point off the bottom three.

The enduring memory of this match, however, will be the faces of Mykolenko and Zinchenko.

Football, after all, is only the “most important of the least important things in life”.

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