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v Man Utd

Sunday 20 April K.O. 16:10

2

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Goodison Park | 16th March 2013 12:45

Everton v Manchester City

It didn't go unnoted this week that in times of adversity, Everton are so often at their strongest. 

Last season, after exiting the FA Cup in the most painful of fashions, David Moyes' side responded by coming from two goals behind to not only force an unlikely 4-4 draw at Old Trafford but, by the admission of Sir Alex Ferguson, cost Manchester United the title. 

Tonight, Sir Alex will likely be raising a glass of his favourite red to Everton. And to Leon Osman

For it was the midfielder's wondergoal - a sublime, unstoppable shot from 25 yards - which teed up the Blues to inflict a fourth successive Goodison Park defeat on Manchester City, sooth the pain of last weekend's shattering cup reverse against Wigan and - had it not already been certain - all but hand United their crown back.

Leon Osman lets rip with a screaming shot that gives Joe Hart no chance.Leon Osman lets rip with a screaming shot that gives Joe Hart no chance.

On a mood-lifting afternoon, there was even time for Nikica Jelavic to step off the bench and end a Premier League goal-drought that had plagued him since December's late victory over Tottenham Hotspur. 

The table, too, looked good for the home fans as they filtered out into the crisp mid-afternoon air, the early kick off having allowed their side, temporarily at least, to regain the league's fifth and final European qualification spot. 

Roberto Mancini must be sick of the sight of this particular part of Merseyside - but this wasn't just about Everton grinding out a welcome win.

Kevin Mirallas had a goal controversially ruled out for offside in the first half, and there were other chances too.

And even when Steven Pienaar was dismissed for a second bookable offence on the hour mark, deputy goalkeeper Jan Mucha twice came to the rescue to salvage three incredibly precious points. 

Moyes' response to last weekend's disappointment was to make two changes, Victor Anichebe and Darron Gibson coming in for Jelavic and Club skipper Phil Neville. 

It meant Osman took the captain's armband, with Phil Jagielka still out nursing the severe ankle gash he sustained against Reading. 

Undoubtedly keen to put the result of seven days ago behind them, Everton were straight on the gas and may have put themselves in front just seven minutes in. 

A Leighton Baines corner was flicked on by Sylvain Distin but the ball was travelling too quickly for the lurking Mirallas and the winger was left frustrated in his attempts to bring it under control.

Everton were seeing much of the possession in the opening stages but on one of few occasions City did have the ball, Marouane Fellaini brought down James Milner, earning himself a 10th yellow card of the season and an automatic two-match suspension in the process.  

In fact, the Blues may have felt Lady Luck was deserting them early on, as soon after Mirallas beat Joe Hart with a thumping half-volley, only to see it ruled out for offside when he appeared to be level with City's rapidly advancing back line.

Kevin Mirallas rifles the ball home but the linesman rules for offside.Kevin Mirallas rifles the ball home but the linesman rules for offside.

The positive was that the home side were exerting the weighty level of pressure a 36,000-strong support had come hoping to see. Over and over the ball came down one wing, then the other, a converting touch to one of umpteen crosses the only missing element as City, to their credit, rode out the rolling waves of Everton attacks. 

The superiority being enjoyed by the hosts was perhaps best underlined by the fact Mucha went untested until the 23rd minute. Even then, Carlos Tevez's long-range shot was scuffed and simple for the Slovakian to gather. 

Referee Lee Probert had his yellow card out again three minutes later as this time Pienaar went into the book for a late tackle on Gareth Barry.

The England man's response was to irk the home faithful by jumping in late on Distin, sending the normally immovable Frenchman crashing to the turf. Neither Probert or his assistant saw anything wrong with the challenge, however, and this time the card stayed nestled away in the back pocket. 

The disgruntled moans didn't last long. In fact, such was the quality of Osman's eighth goal of an increasingly prolific season - he is now the Blues' second highest scorer - it brought about a moment of stunned silence, followed by one of the loudest roars to reverberate around Goodison's aging timber this campaign. 

It deserved it too. Stepping on to a subtle cross-field cutback from Seamus Coleman, Osman met the ball 25 yards from goal and unleashed a rocket of a shot which swerved late and left his international teammate Joe Hart not only motionless but completely bemused.

The strike was enough to send Everton in one up at the break, though, in truth, it may have been more. 

While a skidding shot which flashed across the face of goal from Tevez was the best City managed, Anichebe and Mirallas both had opportunities that might have extended the Blues' lead.  

Collecting the ball from the industrious Gibson, Anichebe turned Kolo Toure eight yards out but could only spin and fire over from a tricky angle. And it was Toure again in the way to thwart Mirallas, the Belgian's goalbound header bouncing off the Ivorian and away from goal.

Everton again started strongly after the break and once he'd shaken off a knock to the head, Anichebe may have used the very same part of his anatomy to immediately double the advantage. 

As it was, the hosts' flow was soon rocked by the sending off of Pienaar. The South African went in high and a little late on Javi Garcia, and though Probert took his time, a second booking was eventually forthcoming.  

A numerical advantage was always likely to buoy City and almost immediately Mucha had to be at his most agile to deny Milner after an initial shot from Tevez had been blocked on the line. 

Everton were in no mood to sit back and take a gruelling 30-minute onslaught though. Instead they stuck at it and almost got their reward when John Heitinga saw an effort bundled over at the back post. 

Distin then headed over from Baines' corner as he sought to kill off his former employers once and for all, before Mucha again showed his worth as a deputy, sprawling low to block a shot from Pablo Zabaleta at point-blank range.

And there was still time left - just - for Jelavic to come on and cap a fine afternoon, the striker collecting a forward pass from Fellaini before firing a shot that deflected off Gael Clichy and over Hart to send Goodison into raptures.

By Adam Clark at Goodison Park.

The Blues congratulate Ossie on his strike.
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