Everton claw way out of relegation zone

 

Everton 0 Manchester City 0

Everton clawed their way out of the Premiership relegation zone despite a disjointed performance against a similarly out-of-sorts Manchester City at Goodison Park today.

Thomas Gravesen should have won the game for Everton with a late shot against a post, but that would have been hard on Manchester City who were the better side for long spells.

They created more chances and passed the ball better, but they are lacking the flair they showed earlier in the season and suffered a blow when goalkeeper David Seaman was substituted after a recurrence of his hamstring injury.

Everton brought back Tomasz Radzinski following their Carling Cup defeat at Middlesbrough in midweek, with Francis Jeffers holding his place in an attacking line-up that included Wayne Rooney in a deep role behind the front two.

City boss Kevin Keegan recalled Steve McManaman while Sun Jihai also came to face countryman Li Tie. Not surprisingly for two teams struggling for form, there was plenty of uncertainty on show.

Fowler, on the receiving end of abuse from the Everton fans, showed some skill after just four minutes when he took down a Joey Barton long ball and volleyed over the crossbar from 20 yards, all in one flowing movement.

City's habit of giving away dangerous free-kicks did not help their cause and they almost paid the price when a set piece from Gary Naysmith swerved through a packed penalty area, missed everyone and drifted wide.

Everton were not convincing around the penalty box as City started to find the space to operate in. They sprang into life when McManaman's clever control kept the ball in on the by-line and his pass across the box found ex-Everton man Richard Dunne, who crashed a shot from 18 yards fractionally over.

Then City produced their best chances of the first half when Nicolas Anelka skinned Tony Hibbert and crossed for Trevor Sinclair to send a diving header wide on 36 minutes before the England winger fed Fowler in space, but his mis-hit his shot wide.

Another City break saw Anelka cross from the right, Fowler step over the ball and Sinclair produce a shot that Nigel Martyn saved. Then Sinclair again headed wide from a Shaun Wright-Phillips cross. Everton produced a dramatic change of system and personnel at half-time.

They took off Rooney and Hibbert, and switched to a back five by sending on Kevin Kilbane on the left and James McFadden in front of him, Lee Carsley moving to right-back. Carsley blazed over from an acute angle within a minute of the restart, before Fowler hit an instinctive volley from Sun Jihai's cross that flashed just over.

But then City lost Seaman on 52 minutes and young Kevin Ellegaard took over in goal. On 56 minutes Naysmith was booked for a late tackle on Sinclair, referee Jeff Winter allowing Fowler the advantage to run on and shoot unsuccessfully before cautioning the Scot.

Everton responded with some direct football and a lofted pass to the far post was headed back for Kilbane to see his shot kicked off the line by Dunne. Then Everton introduced striker Kevin Campbell for Jeffers, and his first action was to clatter into Ellegaard in the air, leaving the Denmark Under-21 international winded. Ellegaard saved at Radzinski's feet before David Unsworth looked to pull back Wright-Phillips in the box at the other end, but referee Winter gave the free-kick right on the line.

On 76 minutes City took off Wright-Phillips and pushed on Paulo Wanchope up front alongside Anelka. Everton, from deep defence, broke on 84 minutes and Radzinski set up Gravesen. The Dane, charging into an empty box, saw his shot hit the post. Barton was booked in injury time for dissent, the game now ending as a battle of two sides launching long balls from end to end.