Gibson strike sinks Manchester City
Manchester City 0
Published 01/02/2012 | 05:00
The transfer window is finally shut, but it was a man who made the move before its frenetic final hours who had the final say at Goodison Park last night.
Everton have now thrown the Premier League title race wide open with a victory over Manchester City secured by former United midfielder Darron Gibson's first goal for the club. Perhaps if he were still on Twitter, United supporters might now be a bit more kind to him.
Gibson was an early January mover after finding his first-team opportunities limited at Manchester United, but the midfielder's popularity at Old Trafford will never have been higher after his second-half strike condemned City to only their third league defeat of the season.
Indeed, chants of "there's only one Darron Gibson" rang around Old Trafford during United's facile win over Stoke once news of Gibson's strike filtered through.
City manager Roberto Mancini will have to make do with the playing resources he has already got for the rest of the season, but his side are starting to look vulnerable on the road against hard-working, organised sides like Everton.
This was a reminder of David Moyes' excellence as a manager. Everton refused to give City a second's peace, running themselves into the ground and defending brilliantly, even with a makeshift back four.
No signings on transfer deadline day in City's quietest transfer window since the Abu Dhabi takeover gave them the financial muscle to wrestle Europe's heavyweights, but Mancini was still able to strengthen his starting line up with the return of Vincent Kompany from a four-game suspension.
City have preserved their position at the top of the table during his absence, but two defeats in five games heading into this match hinted at the gaping hole their Belgian captain left behind.
For all the millions they could have spent in this window, the familiar face of Kompany was a far more welcome sight than a new one.
Louis Saha was absent from the Everton team sheet against the backdrop of speculation he was on his way to Tottenham Hotspur and with new £5.5m signing Nikica Jelavic arriving from Rangers too late to make his debut, Denis Stracqualursi started up front on his own.
The Argentinian almost scored with his first touch, leaping high at the far post to meet Landon Donovan's corner, but his downward header was prevented from crossing the line by Joleon Lescott, who did well to get his head in the way.
City's riposte was instant, David Silva sliding a ball in for Micah Richards to run on to and his low shot was well kept out by Tim Howard.
Only seven minutes had been played, but the temperature inside Goodison Park was already rising, Stracqualursi unable to get enough power on another header, this time from Phil Neville's cross, to alarm Joe Hart.
Again City attacked, a vital touch from emergency centre-back Tony Hibbert taking the ball away from Edin Dzeko inside the area.
City's fluidity of movement gradually began to stretch their hosts -- who conceded possession far too easily -- yet Mancini's men were unable to add a final ball to cut through them.
Everton do not possess the same attacking threat, but they looked to harass their opponents into a mistake when they could. Donovan blazed over after Stracqualursi had jumped into Hart following the American's weak free-kick, awarded for Gareth Barry's foul on Tim Cahill.
Everton's self-belief visibly soared thanks to their forays deep into City's defence and when a run and cross from Leighton Baines found Stracqualursi, he headed the ball perfectly into the path of Marouane Fellaini, who should have hit the target despite having to take the ball on the bounce.
City reacted to the affront with venom as a blistering long-range effort from Samir Nasri rattled the crossbar and an offside flag halted Sergio Aguero's attempt to slot it home on the rebound.
A pitch invader sadly brought an end to an absorbing tussle by handcuffing himself to the frame of Hart's goal -- a unique attention-grabbing trick, perhaps, but annoying for everyone, not least the players who had to try and keep warm on a cold Merseyside night while he was removed.
Five additional minutes were added, but the drama had been subdued by the unwanted intruder.
Jelavic was introduced to Everton fans at half-time in the usual slow walk to the centre-circle while 'Mr Handcuffs' was led off to the cells to await the scales of justice.
After the break the game he had interrupted remained finely balanced, but that all changed on the hour mark.
Royston Drenthe had infuriated the home support with his ability to turn a promising position into a dead end, yet for once he not only beat his man, but chose the right pass too.
Slipping the ball wide to Baines, his deep cross was controlled by Donovan, who looked up to see Gibson arriving and laid the ball square for the Republic of Ireland international to drill past Hart from the edge of the area.
A Gibson volley from a little further out flashed wide moments later, although Everton were content to soak up City pressure rather than throw men forward in search of a second.
City appealed for a penalty when Kolarov's cross hit the hand of Phil Neville, before Richards tried his luck with an overhead kick, but they did not cause the panic their manager would have wanted in Everton's backline. (© Daily Telegraph, London)