• 'If we had won, the top fight four would be over,' says manager
• Everton's decision to pump long balls changed match
In his austere and beautiful grave in Venice's San Michele cemetery, Helenio Herrera would have been turning. At Internazionale his maxim that football's greatest crime was to toss away a lead had won them two European Cups. Now, here was one of his successors at San Siro overseeing the breaking of some very fundamental rules of catenaccio.
With his tie removed, Roberto Mancini looked weary and angry at the top of the long flight of stairs that leads to Goodison's press room. At Internazionale, losing from such a commanding position would have gone completely against the grain but now he is managing Manchester City, where this kind of thing flows in the blood.
During the interval, the only kind of speculation was the margin of City's victory. In the home dressing room they acknowledged that nobody, not even Arsenal, had out-passed Everton to this degree.
Yet 45 minutes later as tempers flared on the touchline with Brian Kidd having to stand between Phil Neville and Mancini while Seamus Coleman and Aleksandar Kolarov settled their differences, Everton had somehow recorded their seventh win in their past eight fixtures against Manchester City.
The continued unravelling of Tottenham Hotspur's season cushioned the impact of this defeat but it did not soften his anger. "In this type of game you should close it out when you have the chance," said Mancini, who once said his favourite winning margin was 1-0. "If we had won this game, the fight for the top four would have been finished and we could have started to prepare for the FA Cup final.
"After the way we played in the first half, it was incredible how we played the second – too soft and too wide. I was very frustrated because I wanted to close the situation. It is not easy to come here and dominate Everton.
"We did that for 45 minutes and had five chances to score. We need to improve, that's for sure. We have improved a lot this year but we need to improve more because this situation cannot happen again."
On Tuesday, they face Tottenham, whose record against Manchester City, especially at Eastlands, compares to Everton's hold on them. It was supposed to be a repetition of last season's showdown for the final Champions League place but Tottenham, as Sir Alex Ferguson predicted they would, have failed to deal with the twin pressures of European and domestic football and a point is effectively all City require.
One of Herrera's fondest sayings was: "He, who doesn't give everything, gives nothing," and it is an adage that applies particularly to the Everton of David Moyes.
Relations between Goodison and Eastlands have been curdled since Joleon Lescott's tortured transfer to Manchester City but it is hard to think of any of Moyes's starting line-up that might appeal to the oil men from Abu Dhabi.
However, they may want to invest in Everton's spirit that enabled the small, tenacious figure of Leon Osman to out-jump Vincent Kompany for the winner; something Mancini found "incredible". Moyes thought the finish contained shades of Andy Gray.
Sylvain Distin, who played in sky blue when Manchester City were a very different club, and headed Everton's equaliser after a first half the Frenchman described as a "boring, bad performance", said: "Spirit is something you cannot buy and you have to create with the players you've got. It is something that has been running through Everton for a long time. When you arrive you just understand that and adapt."
"It reminded me of the old days," added Moyes. "It was really top, the crowd were at it and the revival came from a couple of challenges and some people running around."
Both managers conceded that it was Everton's decision to start pumping the ball long that unnerved Manchester City and upended the game. Moyes confessed that he had no alternative. "If you are judging it on talent, theirs is greater than ours," the Scot said. "So I had to find another way."
In the directors' box, Tony Pulis was watching and perhaps smiling. At Wembley on Saturday, there will be no question where the talent lies but nobody strikes long balls better than Stoke City.