Super-subs lift City
Mancini's men back on form after goals from Balotelli and Milner
Last Updated: September 24, 2011 7:30pm
Mario Balotelli and James Milner stepped off the bench to fire Manchester City to a 2-0 victory over Everton.
The Toffees looked set to frustrate Roberto Mancini's men at the Etihad Stadium until the deadlock of a largely turgid game was finally broken by Balotelli in the 68th minute, with the aid of a slight deflection off Phil Jagielka.
And the visitors then shot themselves in the foot in the closing moments as Royston Drenthe gifted the ball to David Silva, who produced a delightful through ball to release Milner with the England man firing beyond Tim Howard.
Silva had previously been well shackled by a man-to-man marking job from Jack Rodwell as Everton came to Manchester with a clear plan of frustrating their wealthy opponents.
But once Balotelli, who had only been on the field for eight minutes, stroked home from outside the box after Sergio Aguero's neat run and back-heel, there was only going to be one winner.
And to add to David Moyes' woes, Tim Cahill was forced out of the action in the second period with what looked to be a nasty ankle injury after being stepped on by Vincent Kompany following the Australian's late challenge on City's skipper.
There could not be a greater contrast between City's vast wealth and the relative hand-to-mouth existence of their North West neighbours.
Yet Everton are a stoic bunch and despite enduring another summer of fiscal austerity, manager Moyes has engineered a decent start.
And there was an amazing record against City to protect. Since Sheikh Mansour completed his Blues buy-out in 2008, the clubs have met on six occasions. Everton have won five, including the last four, proving money cannot buy you everything.
Moyes' masterplan was to send Rodwell scurrying around after danger-man Silva. It was a task Rodwell stuck to gamely, and clearly Silva did not like, even though he responded in textbook fashion, moving himself next to Leighton Baines, in theory creating a huge hole for the remainder of City's midfield to fill.
That they did not manage it was in part due to Phil Neville and Seamus Coleman, who tackled anything that moved, and part due to lacklustre displays from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri, neither of whom imposed themselves on the contest.
Indeed, there were only 10 minutes of the opening period remaining when Howard was forced into his first save.
It was a good one though, the American parrying away Aguero's goalbound curling shot despite the not inconsiderable frame of Edin Dzeko closing in.
Howard also denied Gareth Barry shortly afterwards as City began to turn the screw, although by the time referee Howard Webb blew his whistle for half-time, Everton were showing more attacking intent than they had done since the opening moments, when they were actually on top.
The hosts came close to opening their account straight after the restart when former City skipper Sylvain Distin rather unconvincingly combined with Howard to turn Nasri's dangerous cross behind.
Mancini's men were unable to maintain the pressure though, so with an hour gone, the Italian turned to Balotelli, ahead of deposed skipper Carlos Tevez. A very astute move it turned out to be too.
Everton were still reorganising following the exit of Cahill, who had earlier guided a header just over but then came off worst in a challenge with Kompany that led to him becoming the fourth visiting player booked when the Italian struck.
Aguero was the architect, crabbing in from the right flank before rolling the ball into Balotelli's path as he found his own route into the penalty area blocked.
Without a league goal since February, but becalmed after a pre-season row with his manager in the United States and a scorer in the midweek Carling Cup win over Birmingham, the Italy striker took aim, benefiting from a slight deflection off Jagielka as the ball nestled in the far corner.
The 21-year-old immediately sprinted off to his manager to celebrate, any irritation that has at times existed between the pair currently not in evidence.
Within a couple of minutes, Silva had almost made it two, drilling a low shot against the base of Howard's left-hand post, the Everton keeper knowing he was getting nowhere near it.
Howard was able to reach Balotelli's next effort, a stinging shot from the edge of the area that was heading for the bottom corner.
The Toffees were on the back foot though and only an offside flag prevented them conceding a second after Silva had tapped home Balotelli's cross.Milner eventually secured the win, racing onto Silva's through ball before keeping his nerve to beat Howard in the final minute.
|Manchester City||Team Statistics||Everton|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||3|
|10||Shots off Target||4|
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|19||West Bromwich Albion||0||0|
|20||West Ham United||0||0|