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ICF's Everton Match Report

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A big downside to the Prem for me is lack of fixtures around Nottingham, for family reasons I struggle to get to games in London or on the South Coast, so this season I've just made it to Liverpool, Burnley and Everton so far, the rest I've mostly watched on Sky or streams when Sky hasn't been showing them,  and I have half-written match reports for Liverpool and Burnley but never finished them :classic_unsure:.


I decided before yesterday I'd do a report regardless of how good or bad the outcome, so here goes.  It was raining for my trip over but (surprisingly for Liverpool where it always rains in my experience), by the time I got to the stadium it was hardly raining at all.  I like visiting Everton, it's an old school stadium, I also like the fact that you can see Anfield as you're walking to Goodison Park on the main road, I can't think of any other Prem stadiums that close.  I can remember Bassong getting a last minute equalizer here, also an end of season game when City had already been relegated and lost by several goals.  But never a win until yesterday.


My seat was in row 8, fairly central among the City fans, so very close to the corner flag at the end City were defending 1st half, so I had a great view of that end but couldn't see the far end clearly.


Everton began from the kick off chipping the corner at our RB position and sending 2 or 3 tall players down to chase it (an old tactic which is still surprisingly effective).  We struggled to clear and they got the ball into the box which caused a few anxious moments before we could clear it and get it down the far end.


As play settled down, two things rapidly became clear to me.  First, having McLean (mostly) playing the no 10 role gave us a realistic long out ball from defence, he won plenty of flick-ons, but also he competed for most aerial balls which prevents the defender being able to direct a header even if he wins it, so there was plenty of 2nd ball for Pukki and Cantwell to chase.  Second, we very quickly looked more composed at the back with Zimbo, not just his personal presence but also he's constantly talking to the other defenders, both during the game and in stoppages.  You can't underestimate how important this is, especially for the 21 year old defenders we've playing along side him.


As we got past the nervy first few minutes - no one wanted a repeat of Watford! - the team settled down and started to play out from the back a bit, combined with long balls when Everton pressed us high.  Going the other way, Everton had limited threat and really the worst moments of the half were a couple of crosses across the 6-yeard box with no attacker getting very close.  One break saw Zimbo having to make a sold shoulder challenge at around half way to prevent a threatening move developing and he got carded, which worried me but he managed to avoid any more controversial challenges for the rest of the game.


At the far end, Hernandez and Cantwell were both looking useful, I really enjoyed one time when Hernandez got past two defenders into the box although it came to nothing, and Cantwell was standing up physically better I thought, plus McLean was useful throughout.  It was noticeable Everton had 2 defenders against both Hernandez and Pukki when they got the ball.  No more flying under the radar !


Our best moves were a super pass from McLean which Hernandez ran onto and was denied by an excellent save from Pickford, and another good move on the left which ended with the ball coming across to Cantwell, he wanted a moment too long and his shot powerful went over, from my seat I thought he'd blasted it over, but the highlights later showed the ref was correct to give a corner, the defender had got a touch which deflected it over.


So at half time it was looking promising with City edging the first half, just a concern as always whether we'd rue the missed chances. 


Everton obviously had a rocket at half time and were all over us at the start of the 2nd half, but our rearguard stood firm and Krul wasn't really troubled and we again played our way into the game and fairly soon a long ball from Zimbo was flicked on by McLean from the right to Pukki who came under pressure from both CBs, but Cantwell intelligently ran into the space they'd vacated and Pukki poked the ball onto him and what a composed finish in the bottom corner and what a celebration from players and away fans alike.  Apparently his first away goal for City according to MOTD :classic_cool: I can't remember him getting one away last year so this is probably right?


With a lead, City were more content to sit back and as time ticked past 70 minutes Everton were starting to create a few real openings which was a concern, and from 75 mins or so onwards we were really under the cosh.  Cantwell went down injured near the far corner flag and took his own sweet time going off the pitch :classic_ninja:, eventually substituted for Buendia which was an intelligent move anyway, it took a while for play to re-start with Cantwell getting treatment off to one side of the pitch and this totally wound up the home support.  City were definitely deploying the game management playbook, and we have to accept it's a part of modern football, Watford were just the same when they were protecting a lead at CR.  Krul was taking just as long as he could for goal kicks without getting a card.


As time ticked down, there was one scramble in the box which Byram finally cleared, and one threatening move ending with a shot from the edge of the box which Krul comfortably saved. Towards 90 minutes City started to get more of the ball.


At the death as usual Farke made two more subs to help run down the clock and Amadou had time for a useful defensive header from a free kick. Time added on was 5 minutes which I thought was not bad for us, given the number of stoppages.  Srbeny came on and we were playing the ball our from our half, Buendia was tempted to go for the corner but that was closed off so he ran into the centre of the penalty box, I thought at the time he flicked the ball over to Srbeny but replay shows it was a defender's interception.  Srbeny received the ball under severe pressure but rather than go down he used his strength and put the ball comfortably away in the corner, reminiscent of his goal against Sheff Wed away from home last season.


So overall a very solid City performance with lots of good individual performances.  We never reached the heights we are capable of IMO, but it was a really composed and controlled away performance.


My conclusion - keep this approach and this lineup and we could do well this year.   All I can say is this was the sort of performance I was hoping to see from City when we were promoted and it shows we are fully capable of holding our own in this division.

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