Everton drew 0-0 with Manchester City last night at the Ethiad, largely due to some excellent defending, excellent goalkeeping and poor refereeing.
Who would have though that following the previous few weeks and months we would be talking about great defending and goalkeeping?
First mention has to go to Tim Howard. Tim produced the sort of performance that saw him dubbed ‘Secretary of Defence’ following his World Cup heroics two years ago. Making some excellent saves, and commanding his box when coming for anything.
And not a star jump in sight.
Tim, and the rest of the players seem to be playing better away from home recently. The frustrations of the crowd are less evident on the road as everyone pulls in the same direction. At home we ‘expect’ more and therefore tend to get more frustrated with the players. It’s a vicious circle.
We expected Tim to come back into the team before the game, we did not however expect a Man of the Match performance.
The back four of Stones, Jagielka, Mori and Baines has so much quality and experience (Mori excepted for experience) and last night that showed every last drop of both.
Baines marshalled the left excellently again. Love the kung fu style interceptions he seems to have brought with him from his spell on the sidelines.
Jags and Mori were generally excellent in the centre whilst Stones deputised aptly on the right. Not that I would want him to spend too long there mind you.
Whilst Stones did OK there were times when his lack of pace found him wanting (a la Anfield). You don’t really realise how much pace and fitness the likes of Baines and Coleman have until you see a lumbering centre back try to do the same.
That being said, going forward, mainly in the first half Stones did well, and did enough defensively. There was a stone wall penalty denied for a clear foul on Sterling right at the end, but given that we took a harsh penalty vs Stoke we can chalk that off as ‘these things balance themselves out over a season’.
The Rest of the Team
For much of the second half you could put the rest of the team in to the ‘Defence’ category. City really stepped up after the break. The first half however was a very open, end to end affair. Leon Osman having the best chance for the Blues with a thundering volley that whistled just past the post/bar.
It was after the break that we really saw what Everton could achieve. Like I said City really came out and showed the quality that they have been able to assemble through Saudi billions.
Everton showed a defensive maturity and know how that has been lacking for most of the past 18 months. If Everton can tie this sort of ‘Moyes like’ defensive awareness and tie that to the Martinez attack we could have a really strong finish to the season.
Mo Besic, Barry, Barkley all excellent again. Deulefeu looks tired, and against the pace of Clichy looked frustrated. He did get past him a few times but never really delivered with enough quality.
Lukaku did what he could up front, and perhaps could have done better with a header that he flashed wide of the post.
City & the Cup Second Leg
I think even before last night most Blues would take a 0-0 in 2 weeks. I do feel that we will need to be even stronger and more organised than we were last night. I can see City coming at us from the first whistle. This might however lead to more space later in the game, of they tire. Personally I would leave Deulefeu out of that game and start with someone else, Lennon perhaps/ Then bring Gerard on, hopefully at 0-0 or better when legs are a little more tired.
Overall City were excellent last night and will feel that they should have won the game, particularly with the penalty decision, however I feel that the Blues did enough defensively to deserve their draw.
Howard – 8 (MOTM)
Stones – 6.5
Jagielka – 7
Mori – 6.5
Baines – 7
Osman – 6
Besic – 7.5
Barry – 7.5
Barkley – 7
Deulefeu – 5
Lukaku – 6
Kone (for Osman) – 6
Pienaar (for Deulefeu) – 6
Come on You Blues