Hero Fellaini turns villain as City penalty cancels Everton's opener
Manchester City 1 Everton 1:Seven draws in their last nine games may have put Everton’s top-four ambitions into a more realistic perspective, yet they remain a match for the leading teams and Marouane Fellaini on his own is capable of having a major impact on the season.
The Belgian scored the only goal when Manchester United were beaten at Goodison in the first round of this season’s games, and the reason Sir Alex Ferguson banned several journalists for revealing that Rio Ferdinand would miss that match through injury was that he felt David Moyes used the information to move Fellaini to a position further up the field.
He is still up there, playing as a secondary striker just behind Nikica Jelavic, and not only did his goal give Everton an early lead at the Etihad, David Platt admitted his presence on the pitch was the reason Manchester City persevered with Edin Dzeko when it was clear the Bosnian was not having one of his better days. City left the labouring Dzeko on until 10 minutes from the end, and heard boos from their supporters when Carlos Tevez was withdrawn to make way for Sergio Aguero.
“We needed height in the team because Everton are so dangerous from set pieces,” Platt, the City assistant manager, said.
“Fellaini is a handful and Everton know if they get into certain areas and put good quality balls into the box he is a threat. We knew we had to make a change but you have to look at everything as a whole when you make a substitution.”
Moyes revealed Fellaini was initially reluctant to play up front but is beginning to relish his free rein to terrorise defenders. “I think he’s actually enjoying playing the position now.”
“We are playing with more confidence again. I thought the only thing we lacked against City was maybe a bit more imagination and quality in the final third. We needed someone to play the killer ball.”
That was the story of the game, for City too lacked genuine creativity. This time last season, as Moyes pointed out, David Silva was the best player in the Premier League by a long way and City were flying. Here he was ineffective, if not quite anonymous, and City were pedestrian as a result.
With Silva finding it difficult to penetrate a defence superbly marshalled by Phil Jagielka, the home side needed inspiration from somewhere else, but neither Yaya Toure nor Samir Nasri was able to come up with anything out of the ordinary.
Everton’s passing and movement had been superior in the first half-hour and they deserved to go ahead, even if Joe Hart had hardly touched the ball before he was called upon to make a brilliant stop when a Leighton Baines cross reached Fellaini at the far post. The goalkeeper kept out the initial header but was powerless to prevent the striker’s follow-up. Fellaini was also involved with City’s controversial equaliser just before the interval, when Tevez scored from the penalty spot after he was adjudged to have pulled down Dzeko at a corner.
It was a soft decision, to say the least, since both players were jostling with each other and Dzeko seemed to go to ground through choice rather than necessity.
Overall Moyes was happy with a point and a continuation of his outstanding league record against Roberto Mancini – played seven, won five, lost one, drawn one.