In the days when Manchester City won "cups for cock-ups" this result would have surprised nobody. The men from Abu Dhabi may have done much to revolutionise the image of the club but something in its DNA is unalterable. Manchester City will always make it difficult for themselves and, although there is still clear blue water between themselves, Tottenham and Liverpool, it is not wide enough for comfort.
Spurs travel to Eastlands on Tuesday knowing they have won all but one of their last seven games at the City of Manchester Stadium. The first phase of the 'project' is not yet guaranteed.
Roberto Mancini may have tried to downplay the implications of this defeat for the club's Champions League ambitions but on the final whistle there was frustration spilling everywhere. Mancini's assistant, Brian Kidd, seemed to intervene to separate the Everton captain, Phil Neville, from the Manchester City manager, while City's left-back, Aleksandar Kolarov, vented his anger on the boyish figure of Seamus Coleman and was led away by Tim Cahill.
The Everton manager, David Moyes, said the Manchester City players thought Coleman was guilty of "using his elbow."There has been bad blood between these two clubs since Joleon Lescott's bitter transfer two summers ago but Moyes has taken his revenge with an assassin's coolness. This improbable win was Everton's seventh in eight encounters with Manchester City but during the interval it was hard to see how that sequence could ever be maintained.
At half-time and beyond, Manchester City's control was complete in everything but the scoreline. David Silva was playing beautifully while Everton, lacking centre-forwards worthy of the name, looked toothless and exhausted. When Yaya Touré, wonderfully slipped through by the immaculate Silva, slid the ball past Tim Howard, Manchester City were, temporarily at least, 10 points clear in the final Champions League place.
Just before Sylvain Distin headed home Mikel Arteta's free-kick, Silva sent through Touré once more but what should have been a match-winning move finished with a shot thudding into Howard's body. It was the signal for things to unravel. The easy dominance and the veneer of cool that surrounds Mancini began to evaporate as he visibly lost his temper in the technical area.
"It was incredible how we lost this game," Mancini said afterwards. "We had four or five chances to win the game just in the second half. But this is football; if you lose concentration, that's what happens. At least it's better that we conceded here than against Stoke at Wembley." Tony Pulis was at Goodison and he would have noted how Manchester City wavered once the long-balls and set-pieces began arriving and nobody plays that kind of football better than his Stoke side. "But we should never have lost this game, never," said Mancini, who said Carlos Tevez was now "50-50" to be fit for the FA Cup final. "We played too deep once they started hitting long balls."
Before kick-off, Goodison had risen to greet Duncan Ferguson, the day's guest of honour who pumped his fists to the Gwladys Street End in familiar fashion. But Ferguson was wearing a suit and Everton no longer possess a centre-forward of his calibre. However, under Moyes they are a club that digs deep instinctively and the pattern of the game swung once Cahill was introduced.
Two minutes after he came on, Distin met Arteta's free-kick and, although Joe Hart got both gloves to the header, it trickled over the line. Seven minutes later, Neville swung over a cross that Leon Osman, one of the smallest but most tenacious men on the pitch, sent looping beyond Hart's dive. Moyes sank to his knees in the technical area while in the directors' box Ferguson might have wondered how he could have finished any better.
CARL ROPER, Observer reader It was a game of two halves, the first half was pretty grim and the second half was fantastic. City dominated the first half and we offered nothing going forward. The key in the second half was we closed them down in midfield and we found some width. That's four out of four wins for us since Mancini became City manager.
The fan's player ratings Howard 7; Hibbert 7 (Beckford 46 7), Jagielka 8, Distin 8, Baines 7; Rodwell 7 (Cahill 64 7) Neville 7, Heitinga 7, Arteta 7; Osman 8; Anichebe 7 (Coleman 86 n/a)
KEVIN CUMMINS, Observer reader I am disappointed because we dominated the first half and we were on course for an easy run-in. But they got in our faces a bit in the second half and our players looked slightly concerned with the FA Cup final and the game against Tottenham coming up. We played well but we just allowed ourselves to be intimidated. It was typical City – we never do things the easy way.
The fan's player ratings Hart 7; Zabaleta 7 (Balotelli 81 n/a), Kompany 7, Lescott 8, Kolarov 6; Milner 6, De Jong 7 (Jô 89 n/a) Vieira 7 (Johnson 78 n/a); Y Touré 8, Silva 8; Dzeko 7
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