Manchester City 1-0 Everton | Premier League match report

Manchester City beat Everton 1-0 after Yaya Touré scored from the spot to close the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea. But an injury to Sergio Agüero was a big worry for City

Manchester City took advantage of Chelsea’s slip-up on Tyneside to cut their rivals’ lead at the top of the Premier League to three points, though a fifth victory in a row came at the expense of an injury to Sergio Agüero, who departed after just a couple of minutes. Suspected ligament damage will almost certainly rule him out of the crucial Champions League fixture in Rome on Wednesday, and City will hope his absence is not a prolonged one, for they are not the same team without him.

Manuel Pellegrini paid tribute beforehand to Agüero’s considerable contribution to his side’s 10 goals and nine points from their last three games, but emphasised that City are not a one-man team. That claim was quickly put to the test here when City’s leading scorer had to hobble off, wiping away tears of either pain or frustration after he twisted his knee in falling following a challenge from Séamus Coleman.

Pellegrini had Edin Dzeko on the bench but decided against using him, unsure if he could complete a full game after his own return from injury. Instead he opted for the 18-year-old Spanish striker José Pozo, who made his league debut only last week against Sunderland.

Eliaquim Mangala was correctly booked once the game restarted for an outrageous foul on Samuel Eto’o in the Everton penalty area as the Cameroonian came back to defend a corner. After leaping for a header and planting an outstretched boot into the small of Eto’o’s back Mangala could consider himself lucky to stay on the field, but none of the officials had a clear view of the incident and might not even have detected it had not Eto’o stayed on the ground.

City were doing most of the pressing, and took the lead midway through the first half when Phil Jagielka conceded a penalty, attempting a tackle on James Milner but ending up going through him from behind without getting any of the ball. At least that is what the referee decided. Whether Milner was going anywhere with the ball after his last touch is another matter, and Roberto Martínez was not even sure a foul had been committed. “All the contact was above the waist,” the Everton manager said. “Shoulder to shoulder is part of the game and Milner’s reaction said everything, he just got up to carry on playing.”

Yaya Touré stepped up to beat Tim Howard with a low shot to the goalkeeper’s right, then the next controversy of what was proving an eventful first half arrived when Fernando’s boot made contact with Gareth Barry’s face. It was probably accidental, Fernando was going for a high ball and may not have realised Barry was directly behind him, but he received a booking anyway for having his foot raised so high.

Kevin Mirallas saw a shot deflected narrowly wide before the interval but Everton were not creating many chances or showing their usual conviction when behind. Romelu Lukaku was a peripheral figure for the most part as City denied Everton their usual attacking avenues down the flanks, and Eto’o too was hardly in the game. Mirallas was the visitors’ most dangerous attacking player, but only because he was doing most of the work himself, drifting inside to pick up the ball then running with directness at the City defence. The home side perhaps ought to have been further ahead by half-time, though in truth they were not so sparkling either. Milner was a success on the left wing but without Agüero their attack lacked a spearhead and in midfield Touré was too often guilty of giving the ball away.

City opened the second half with more determination and Pozo might have had a first league goal but for a save by Howard four minutes in. Milner made a strong break down the left and crossed low, Pozo met it in the area and did everything right, but though Howard was initially moving the wrong way he managed to scramble a low shot away with his feet.

The teenager was left to rue Howard’s reactions, for he was hauled off a few minutes later in favour of Dzeko, having contributed enough to merit a warm round of applause from the crowd.

Everton sent on Ross Barkley around the same time in an attempt to boost their attacking potency and salvage something from the game, though in withdrawing the neat and industrious Muhamed Besic they risked leaving themselves more open in defence.

For a while it looked as though Martínez’s gamble might pay off as Everton enjoyed a brief period in the ascendancy midway through the second half, though all it actually amounted to was a shot from Eto’o that flew miles too high.

City immediately did better as soon as Frank Lampard joined the fray, Dzeko knocking the substitute’s diagonal ball into the path of Milner, who deserved a goal but missed the target from near the penalty spot. Finally, as the game entered its last 10 minutes, Lukaku exploded into action for Everton, fastening on to Eto’o’s flick and forcing a fine one-handed reaction save from Joe Hart. That could have been the moment Everton snatched a point, but Hart rose to the occasion, despite being under-occupied for most of the game.

While never at their most fluent, City hung on for a narrow victory. They will be anxious to have Agüero back, although David Silva is believed to be ready to return soon. “I will not complain about injuries because we have a squad large enough to cope,” Pellegrini said. “The main thing today was we got the result we needed to get nearer to Chelsea.”


Paul Wilson at the Etihad Stadium

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