Everton have ended their four-match winless run with a spectacular 2-1 victory over Manchester City in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals.
Roberto Martinez’s men have made the home advantage count with their scoring machine Romelu Lukaku making the difference in the game with his 12th goal from as many matches.
The towering Belgian has taken his tally to 19 goals of the term and there is no doubt that Toffees’ main job during winter will be keeping their key-man past January.
It was a slow start to the game at Goodison as both teams had nothing to show for in the opening stages of the fixture. Uneventful fifteen minutes of the game have seen much of the action taking place in the centre of the pitch, with both sides trying unsuccessfully to build their play and break the deadlock.
After a couple of unimpressive efforts from Lukaku it was the City’s man Kevin de Bruyne who took the centre stage with his drive down the middle of the park and a neat one-two with Silva to get into the area, where he was stopped by the exhausted Everton players running down behind him.
Everton have returned the favour midway through the interval as the home side took the advantage of their 66% possession to create a lot of problems for the City’s leaky defence line.
Barkley, Besic and Deulofeu were taking turns in their efforts in City’s half with Everton really picking up their pace in the game.
First real excitement was seen after 36 minutes when Everton were awarded a free kick around 30 yards from goal. Baines chipped the ball towards the left hand post and Barry heads on it for Stones, who slammed it in. No luck for Everton as the goal was disallowed because Mori and Barry were both offside.
Another disallowed goal for Everton in the first half as Romelu Lukaku was in clear offside position to pick up on a late pass through the middle from Deulofeu, whose untimely ball ruined a good run of play.
Just when the fans were getting ready for the interval, Everton won a corner on the right and Barkley picks up the ball sending it straight at Caballero, but the ball broke loose and Funes Mori slots it in for a lead.
Manchester City’s defence once again put in a dreadful performance with Otamendi, Demichelis and Mangala unable to deal with the Toffees’ attacking potential for most part of the game. Pellegrini’s troops have shipped in 21 goals in the league, but their numbers are particularly disturbing without the captain Vincent Kompany, who has been struggling with recurrent injury for a while now.
Mori’s late goal in the first-half really opened up the play and both teams were quite straightforwardly attempting to add some spice to the proceedings.
Aguero and De Bruyne as the most agile performers in City’s team attempted to break down Everton’s back line in numerous occasions, but the home side had luck on their side in a couple of attempts. City’s danger duo played a fine passing game at the hour-mark, as the Argentine attempted to latch onto the cross from the Belgian, but Stones was composed to clear the danger.
Within a minute, De Bruyne slipped another low crops in the area with Silva cushioning it back for Aguero whose shot from within the box goes high and wide.
Two goals in two minutes
And then on 76 minutes Manchester City fired a quick break with Fernandinho feeding Aguero with a huge diagonal ball. The Argentine drew two Everton defenders and channelled a great pass to Navas who was completely unmarked. Easy finish from the sub, City managed to draw level with plenty of time on the clock.
Everton did not waste any time as the hosts responded almost immediately.
Barry chipped in a wonderful loft pass with the ball flying over Otamendi and Demichelis whose reaction was terrible. Luckily for the home team, Lukaku was just at the right spot to pick it up and head it in for another lead.
The towering Belgian continued his fantastic scoring exploits netting his 19th goal of the season. Everton forward also scored his 12th in as many games, proving he is in fascinating form.
Manchester City were unable to recover from the shock and there were no changes to the scoreline until the end of the game.
Everton came out on top as well deserved winners and will carry a one-goal advantage to the Etihad for the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals.
EVERTON: Robles 6.5 – Coleman 6.5, Stones, 6.5 Mori 7.5, Baines 7 – Besic 7.5, Barry 7 – Deulofeu 6.5 (Mirallas 6), Barkley 7, Cleverley 6.5 (Osman 6) – Lukaku 7.5 (Kone 6).
Unused subs: Galloway, Howard, Jagielka, Lennon.
MANCHESTER CITY: Caballero 6.5 – Sagna 6.5, Otamendi 6, Mangala 6 (Demichelis 5.5), Clichy 6.5 – Toure 6.5, Fernandinho 7 – De Bruyne 7, Silva 6.5, Delph 6 (Navas 7) – Aguero 7.
Unused subs: Hart, Iheanacho, Kolarov, Sterling.
Referee: Robert Madley