Manchester City lost ground to Chelsea in the Premier League title race as Everton came from behind to earn a fully-deserved point against the champions at Goodison Park.
Fernandinho’s scrambled goal – as Everton appealed in vain for offside – with 16 minutes left looked to have condemned Roberto Martinez’s side to their fifth successive league defeat.
Everton, however, built on their midweek improvement against West Ham United in the FA Cup third round and merited the point they were given when Steven Naismith’s glancing header put them level within four minutes of City’s opener.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini will be disappointed at a result that saw Chelsea regain a two-point lead at the top after their win against Newcastle United – but he can have no complaints about the final outcome.
Everton’s players have been questioned, as has their belief in Martinez’s passing approach, after their recent dismal run but there was plenty of spirit on display here – exemplified by the outstanding Romelu Lukaku, who gave Manchester City’s £30m defender Eliaquim Mangala a torrid time.
City were without Yaya Toure, on Africa Cup Of Nations duty, while Vincent Kompany was on the bench, along with fit-again Sergio Aguero, and their presence was sorely missed against an Everton side that looked more rejuvenated and confident as the game progressed.
Everton’s fans were angry at a second-half goal from Phil Jagielka being ruled out for offside and were complaining about offside and a possible handball in the build-up to Fernandinho’s goal, but the rousing reception Martinez’s players received at the final whistle showed Goodison Park’s appreciation for a much more resolute display.
Lukaku revealed after the draw with West Ham United that the players had approached Martinez with a suggestion to occasionally adopt a more direct approach.
And yet it was Everton’s tendency to over-play ponderously in defence that placed them in most danger in a first half City dominated without demonstrating the required cutting edge.
Goalkeeper Joel Robles was fortunate to get away with a poor clearance when he was played into trouble by John Stones while Jesus Navas failed to hit the target after Mo Besic’s risky pass bounced off Jagielka.
Lukaku clearly had the weapons to trouble City’s defence when he got the right service, as he proved just before half-time when he outpaced Mangala only to be blocked by Joe Hart. Seamus Coleman then picked up the loose ball and rattled the woodwork from 25 yards.
The striker left Mangala trailing again just after half-time to bring another fine save from Hart as Everton finally played to Lukaku’s strengths in the hope of making the breakthrough.
City’s failure to break the deadlock saw Pellegrini send on Aguero for Stevan Jovetic after 66 minutes, the Argentine returning for the first time since suffering a knee injury against Everton in early December.
The goal finally came after 74 minutes when, as Everton appealed for offside, Fernandinho’s effort bobbled past Coleman on the line from David Silva’s cross-shot.
Everton responded swiftly and were level inside four minutes, Naismith beating Hart to Leighton Baines’ free-kick to score with a glancing header.
This article has 0 comment, leave your comment.