Kolarov and Nasri strikes condemn Blues to first defeat of the season
Everton impress in spells but City’s flawless performance extends their 100% start
Lukaku has goal ruled out in tight offside call while Stones continues to ignore transfer speculation
Everton came up short against an impressive Manchester City who claimed top spot in the Premier League with victory at Goodison Park.
Aleksandar Kolarov put the visitors ahead on the hour mark with a near post finish that will ask questions of Tim Howard’s positioning.
Everton toiled in their attempts to find an equaliser and came close through a Gareth Barry header which was cleared off the line. But City took control in the second half and ensured all three points through substitute Samir Nasri.
The Frenchman latched on to Yaya Toure’s through ball after Everton were caught napping and calmly lobbed Howard from close range.
Romelu Lukaku had the ball in the back of the net in the first half but the linesman’s flag stopped short Everton celebrations. Despite replays showing little between Lukaku and Eliaquim Mangala, the decision looked to be the right one.
Blues impress in spells
After a confidence boosting 3-0 win last weekend on the south-coast, Everton looked forward to the challenge of welcoming title contenders Manchester City to Goodison Park. A clean sheet and three beautifully created goals rightly gave fans cause for optimism, despite City arriving on the back of two 3-0 victories.
And while the visitors certainly started the game better, Everton showed signs of life in the final 10-15 minutes of an exciting first half of football. Defending resolutely, Everton’s strategy to flood forward with pace and numbers remained from the previous weekend, however the same conviction seemed to be left at St. Mary’s.
Ross Barkley and Lukaku showed glimpses of the partnership that terrorised the Saints’ defence, the former stinging the palms of Joe Hart before drawing the foul on the edge of the box after a powerful run. Lukaku even had the ball in the net after a neat pass found him beyond the City back line, only for the linesman to rule the goal out.
With the benefit of replays after the event, Lukaku and Co had grounds for complaint that the goal should have stood, but so tight was the call, players and fans alike seemed to have little to protest in real time.
The Belgian clipped the crossbar with a direct free kick just before half-time and had the Blues took the lead in this moment of dominance, the second half and resulting scoreline may have taken on a very different complexion.
Early pace setters City take control
As it was, City started the second half in much the same way as they had started the first. Sergio Aguero was denied by Howard on two occasions in the opening 10 minutes and barely 2 minutes of the second half had ticked by before the mercurial David Silva managed to beat Howard but not the post.
City took control of the game and forced Everton deeper into their own penalty area, calmly keeping possession and shifting the Toffees around in a bid to find space. Architect to this master-class was the ever-impressive Silva whose craft, vision and mastery of the ball had Everton chasing their tails. But all 11 light blue shirts will reap the praise for the way they toughed it out against a resilient Everton and for their potency in attack.
Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas gave them pace and width on both wings while Kolarov and Bacary Sagna overloaded Everton’s own full backs, often doubling up on Seamus Coleman, Brendan Galloway and his replacement Tyias Browning.
In the end, the Blues just couldn’t cope with the speed and movement of City’s attacks and the home side became more narrow and more exposed in wide areas as the game progressed.
Frustratingly it was two preventable errors which cost Everton the game, but few teams will come to Goodison Park this season with the sheer abundance of quality at Manuel Pellegrini’s disposal. It’s early days for the Citizens but nine points, eight goals scored and none conceded from three games is championship winning form.
Stones continues to play it cool, on and off the pitch
Evertonians will breathe a collective sigh of relief if John Stones is still at the club at the end of the transfer window. While new reports in the less reputable Sunday rags claim the defender will beg Bill Kenwright to let him leave, his performance on Sunday suggested otherwise.
Boasting a high pass accuracy of 90%, Stones was his usual level headed self, playing his way out of trouble and helping to set his side off on attacks. Keeping Aguero quiet is no mean feat and the young defender showed he can mix his tidy passing game with steel and determination in the tackle.
We all know what an Everton centre-half looks like when his head has been turned and so do City; see Joleon Lescott’s anonymous performance on the opening day thrashing by Arsenal in 2009. If Stones is thinking about a move away from Goodison Park, it didn’t show here. All the more reason for Everton to keep hold of their prized asset.