Manchester City overcome another weak performance from Hart

Everton suffer first defeat of the season

Manchester City 3 Everton 1

How Joe Hart may fare in England's final two World Cup qualifiers remains a live issue after this game. From his seat in the directors' box, Roy Hodgson told friends he was happy with Hart's display as the England manager prepares for meetings with Montenegro and Poland.

Yet when called upon to save Romelu Lukaku’s 16th-minute shot, Hart was unable to do so despite the ball being close enough for the goalkeeper to comfortably get a hand on it.

That made it 1-0 to Everton and, though Hart did little else wrong, Hodgson may wonder how he will perform should Montenegro prove a greater goal threat than Roberto Martinez’s side.

At the close Hart's relief was obvious in the way he hugged Xabier Mancisidor, the Manchester City goalkeeping coach. Pablo Zabaleta said: "Most of the lads saw him a bit down in the week but we need him to come back again to his best. Sometimes it happens in football, that's why it is important that, as team-mates, we need to support all the players."

Stronger hand
Of the Lukaku goal, the right-back said: "He's still upset about it. He felt he could have got a stronger hand to it. Sometimes it is really hard for any player when you are not doing well. It is important for him to show his strength of character; he has to show his strong personality and show he is coming back to his best. I'm sure he will do that."

The negative for Everton was that this defeat ripped up the division's only unbeaten record. In the opening half their better performers were Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Lukaku but these three, along with their team-mates, faded after the interval.

Tim Howard was the unfortunate sufferer of an own goal when Sergio Aguero's 68th-minute penalty was palmed by the goalkeeper on to his left post only for the ball to rebound back off him and in.

Before that Howard had been at fault when allowing Alvaro Negredo's 17th-minute shot to slip by him. The Spaniard's fourth of his debut City season was the equaliser, and his side entered the break in the lead after Aguero sprinted down the right and scored.
Guardian Service