It was as impressive as a 0-0 draw can be. Everton, led by Tim Howard of all people, went into the Etihad and battled Manchester City Wednesday night to get a valuable point in the league.
The first half could have gone either way. It was a wide open game and each team earned only one real chance. For City, it was Yaya Toure who had the first opportunity as he rose up on a cross into the box and headed it on goal, but Howard was equal to it and parried it away.
For the Toffees, it was veteran Leon Osman with the strike that nearly put them ahead. Off of an impressive cross from Romelu Lukaku, Osman struck the volley first time and got good bend on it, but could have used just a bit more as it went narrowly wide right.
There was not as much action in the second half of play from either side, but especially not Everton. Sure, there were still moments and they were not dominated by any means, but the attack looked lethargic while the defense was playing with confidence.
The most exciting moments happened right before the final whistle. John Stones, who played at right back for the injured Seamus Coleman, concluded his rough day by making not one, but two risky tackles in and around the box.
First, in the 92nd minute, Stones and captain Phil Jagielka combined to bring down striker Sergio Aguero about a foot outside of the box, but nothing was given to the irritated Aguero. A moment later, Stones made an ill-advised slide into Raheem Sterling, who was basically begging for someone to tackle him. Stones got none of the ball and brought down the winger. The collective hearts of Evertonians skipped a beat as the ref pointed to what looked like the penalty spot. Alas, he was indicating a goal kick. Exhale.
A few seconds later, that same referee blew the final whistle of the match. He was met with complaints from just about every player in powder blue, but that's the way the cookie crumbles, City.
Before the game, many Toffee supporters would have taken a 0-0 draw. And even after the game, I think the same can be said, especially with the way it was done.
Everton did not look outclassed at any point. Howard looked like the World Cup version of Howard again and is the easy pick for Man of the Match. Say what you will, but he is still a dynamite shot-stopper. Muhamed Besic continued to impress and is showing his teammates that you don't get pushed around by anyone. For me, he is an automatic starter until he proves he cant handle it.
The attack was a disappointment. Lukaku couldn't get past Nicolas Otamendi all night. Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley both disappeared. And again, both Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas were left on the bench in a game that sorely needed speed and width from the Blues.
While it was exciting to see that shot from Osman, he looked slow and out of his depth. He is an important member of the locker room and manager Roberto Martinez had to show the rest of the group that he is still a consideration week in and week out, but this match didn't do much for that.
This was a good point to get tonight. It is no easy task to go into the Etihad and keep a clean sheet against City. Everton did it and they seem to be beaming with the kind of confidence that they need given the current slate of games.
Next, they travel to Stamford Bridge for another league game on Saturday before returning home the following Sunday to host Swansea City.
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