The big news was that Joe Hart kept his place as Manuel Pellegrini fingered Micah Richards, Gaël Clichy and Matija Nastasic as the chief culprits from the defence that played in the miserable 3-1 defeat by Bayern Munich here on Wednesday evening. This meant Hart and Vincent Kompany were the sole survivors from that back five, with Jesús Navas and Edin Dzeko also being dropped before an afternoon that would provide fine entertainment.
The contest pitted a Manchester City side hoping to avert a third consecutive defeat against an Everton team seeking to maintain the division's only unbeaten record. By the time Sergio Agüero fashioned a Tim Howard own goal, on 69 minutes, to give City a 3-1 advantage, it would be the hosts who had accomplished their mission, though Everton continue to look a fair outside bet to challenge for a Champions League berth.
Although Hart was at fault for Everton's goal he would also be cheered for every regulation act performed as the home crowd followed Pellegrini's decision to stand by his man by offering their support. Afterwards, the manager reiterated the message: "It wasn't a simple decision [to pick him], it was a very difficult decision, but Joe needs the trust of me, the players and the fans. Today he showed how strong is his character."
Asked if Hart was culpable for Romelu Lukaku's strike, Pellegrini said: "It is unfair always analysing what Joe Hart does."
While Kompany would last only 34 minutes because of a muscle injury that will be assessed tomorrow – with early fears that he could face a month out – the contest lit up just past the quarter-hour mark when Lukaku registered a strike that again focused scrutiny on Hart. The forward moved too easily past Joleon Lescott inside the area, then aimed an effort that went to the right of the goalkeeper. Hart got a glove to the ball but his failure to make the save will disappoint.
With the Etihad still digesting this, City equalised almost instantly through Alvaro Negredo. Every time the "Beast of Vallecas" features for the Blues he makes an impact. In the hiding received from Bayern, Negredo entered as a second-half replacement before pirouetting and potting sweetly beyond Manuel Neuer for his team's consolation goal. Selected in the starting XI here, the Spaniard was in the right place at the right time to finish an eye-catching move. Fernandinho drilled a pass into David Silva, who ensured Yaya Touré received possession precisely where he wanted. The Ivorian found Negredo who pulled the trigger and slipped the ball under Tim Howard, who should also have made the save.
City's second came moments after Negredo and Seamus Coleman engaged in an argument near Everton's goal, which consisted of the latter accusing the former of going down too easily. Play had moved near City's end before returning with Silva sliding a cold-eyed ball along the inside-right channel to Agüero. The diminutive Argentinian turned on the after-burners to gain half a yard, then rifled his shot past Howard.
Pellegrini, who had had an animated conversation with James Milner after Everton's opener, showed further disquiet following the incident that forced Aleksandar Kolarov off on 57 minutes.
After Steven Naismith shoved Nastasic, who was on for Kompany, into the left-back, Kolarov suffered a facial injury that meant Clichy should have been primed to enter, having warmed up. Instead, the Frenchman sat back on the bench to leave Pellegrini waving him back while asking his assistant Brian Kidd what had occurred.
The same question might have been asked of Jonathan Moss of the 68th-minute penalty he awarded. Coleman made minimal contact with Pablo Zabaleta yet the referee still pointed to the spot. Agüero opted for the nonchalant approach to demolition and almost came unstuck: his spot-kick was a pea-roller that did not fool Howard, who palmed the ball on to his left post only for it to rebound from his head and in.
Roberto Martínez, the visiting manager, questioned the "consistency" of the referee, the Spaniard grumbling over "eight cards" dished out by the official (there were actually nine) and a penalty shout that was turned down when Nastasic came together with Lukaku before the break.
While privately Martínez may be more concerned at how his team faded after the break, Pellegrini added that Stevan Jovetic should be fit following a muscle problem to face England for Montenegro in this weekend's crucial World Cup qualifier. "On Friday he worked normally so one week more he'll be OK," the Chilean said.