The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
THE question persists whether Everton FC are truly Champions League material. Even David Moyes is not yet fully convinced but at least Roberto Mancini seems certain.
On the eve of Everton’s trip to the Etihad stadium the City manager insisted the Blues have the quality to finish fourth – and after they took a well deserved point from his reigning Premier League title-holders he was even talking about the Blues in terms of a Champions League final.
Of course the later comment was a pompous dig from a manager nursing a bruised ego, but Mancini will know an afternoon when he was booed by his own fans for making a substitution could have been much worse.
If Lee Probert had not awarded a laughable penalty to the home side just before half time, there’s every chance the Toffees might have ended City’s two-year unbeaten run at home.
So forgive Mancini his strop and file it under further evidence that the Blues are really ruffling the feathers of the big boys this season.
City’s manager joins his curmudgeonly rival from across Manchester in having a dig at Everton after not getting things their own way.
Moyes’ men were unable to repeat the heroics of that victory over United in August, but in out-shining the champions on their home turf, for the first half at least, they gave their own self-belief exciting new impetus.
There are good points and bad points – with draw-specialists Everton experiencing the whole range of nuances in between during a campaign when they have now shared the spoils in eight of their 15 matches. But this impressive outing was certainly a positive to counter-balance the frustrations of Fulham and Norwich in November.
Traditionally the Blues are not even at the races as Christmas approaches, with their new year annual surge in form leaving a host of lingering-what ifs come May.
Last term it was the wishful-thinking argument that if the season started in January, Everton would have finished third.
This time around things are different. Even all those draws have not proven as damaging to Everton’s ambitions as they felt at the time, and the Blues are reasonably well-positioned.
Even as the season’s half-way stage approaches, the Premier League table remains formative and the Blues are only three points away from Chelsea in third place.
Granted, the fact they are also now only a point ahead of Stoke, with Liverpool and Arsenal breathing down their necks proves that nobody at Goodison should be getting too smug.
But consider this – have Everton really looked inferior to sides such as United, City, and Arsenal which usually make up the top four? Certainly not.
The only way they were lacking at the Etihad was in their desperate need for an ‘out ball’ when under pressure.
Nikica Jelavic’s form continues to fluctuate, although his work-rate remains at the required rate - but the Blues missed Kevin Mirallas or Victor Anichebe more than ever in the second half when City began to gain the upper-hand.
That spell was far removed from a first half when the visitors took the game to their opponents, proving that they were intent on far more than containment.
Last season Moyes used Jack Rodwell on a man-marking mission to stifle David Silva at the Etihad, but this time he instructed his players to focus more on making City worry about them.
With Leon Osman and Darron Gibson out-shining their expensively assembled counterparts in midfield, and the indomitable Leighton Baines causing havoc, Everton were good value for their lead.
Marouane Fellaini notched his eighth goal of the season after he met another perfect cross from the England full-back and twisted in the air to steer a powerful header towards goal.
Joe Hart made a fine save but was powerless to prevent the towering Belgian from bundling the rebound over the line with his knee.
Fellaini was in the thick of it again just before the break when City got their controversial leveller. It was Edin Dzeko’s tumble after routine jostling between the pair which Probert somehow seemed to believes constituted a spot-kick.
The same hands-on marking happens every weekend in games up and down the country without resulting in penalties, so Moyes was entitled to feel aggrieved that his side were once again left to rue a baffling call from an official.
Carlos Tevez made no mistake from the spot, and his side came out determined to knock the stuffing out of Everton in the second half.
But Everton soaked up everything a side containing several individuals of exceptional attacking ability could muster and came back at them.
Tim Howard made a strong save from Maicon’s stinging drive and did well to stop a Tevez header, but the Blues were resilience personified as Phil Jagielka contributed his usual string of blocks and tackles to limit City’s intent. Indeed with time running out it was Everton on the front foot, and Joe Hart could only parry Jelavic’s well-struck free-kick.
Only one side took anything from the Etihad last season, and Everton became just the second to avoid defeat there this time around.
This Blues team has a happy habit of matching the supposed best – and they’re certainly tough to beat. An added dash of goal-scoring zest to help them rediscover the winning habit would be the perfect early festive gift.
LEIGHTON BAINES said Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City was a point gained for Everton FC, rather than two dropped.
The Blues and England left-back, who shrugged off a hamstring injury to play on Saturday, said: “It is a decent point.
“We were under quite a bit of pressure in the second half and that point in the game I think we would have been happy with a point.
“We were still trying to hit City on the break but they played well in the second half.
“I think we defended well and this is a much better point than some of the other points we have picked up in recent weeks.
“This is the best of the bunch.
“When you come away to a team like this you expect a tough game.
“In the second half we showed that grit we need to come away from sides like this with a point.”
Everton’s recent sequence – they have drawn seven of their last nine games – has seen them slip from second at the start of October to sixth but Baines is still satisfied with the position.
He said: “We are probably where we feel we deserve to be.
“We have conceded quite a few late goals, which has disappointed us.
“It is easy to look back and say we could have had an extra few points here or there, but there is no point. You’d drive yourself barmy.
“We look forward now. We have got another tough run of games in front of us.
“There are no ’gimmes’ in this league. We have got to find a way to start getting three points.”
One aspect of the performance that pleased Baines was how the Toffees nullified City’s attacking threat.
The 27-year-old said: “That’s the pleasing thing. The majority of the play was in front of us.
“I thought the midfield lads worked tirelessly for us and did a great job defensively. That kept them off our backs a bit.
“When they eventually did get through to us at the back Jags and Sylvain Distin stood up to them. I thought we did well.”
EVERTON FC goalkeeper Tim Howard teamed up with a Merseyside underwear company to give a helping hand to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort.
Tim donated a bunch of signed Everton shirts to Urban Active which is sending 2,500 items to pupils of a New York high school including winter clothing, such as underwear, hats, scarves and gloves.
The signed shirts, which were quickly sorted by chairman Bill Kenwright, will actually be sent to the famous Irish bar Mr Dennehys in Manhattan, which has its own Everton chapter called EFCNYC.com.
The bar is going to raffle the shirts, with all proceeds going to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Tim, who comes from New Jersey, said: “Hurricane Sandy affected many people and many areas that I know well.
"There are a lot of similarities between Liverpool and New York and the spirit and generosity of the people are just two of them. It’s great that the people of Liverpool are helping out – but it’s no surprise. I am delighted to help out in any way I can.”
Paul Gordon, of Urban Active, praised the American superstar for giving his support.
He said: “The co-operation and quick response from Everton FC to assist the victims of the Hurricane Sandy disaster has been wonderful.
“Tim was fantastic. He knows many people devastated by Sandy.
“It means a lot that the club were so quick to support our project.”
DAVID MOYES hit out at the officials after his side conceded a controversial penalty in a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Manchester City.
The Toffees were leading the Barclays Premier League champions at the Etihad Stadium through Marouane Fellaini when the Belgian was penalised after tangling with Edin Dzeko just before half-time.
Everton protested about the decision, feeling Dzeko went to ground too easily, and Moyes was still complaining to the fourth official as the players left the field at the break.
Carlos Tevez was not affected by the commotion as he converted from the spot to cancel out Fellaini’s headed opener.
Moyes said: “It is not a penalty kick.
“I don’t know how many penalties Manchester City have had in their home games recently, but as far as I know it is quite a few. They got another one today.
“You can’t be giving ones like that. There’d be a penalty every time there’s a corner kick.”
Moyes’ complaints to fourth official Anthony Taylor also seemed to be exacerbated by a case of mistaken identity.
The Scot said: “The fourth official told me that it was given for a foul by Leon Osman, so I’ve got my doubts if the referee saw the incident.
“But even if it was Fellaini, it’s not a penalty kick, nowhere near.
“They say it levels itself out. We’ll see.”
The result was Everton’s seventh draw in their last nine games but unlike with some of the previous stalemates, Moyes felt the point was ultimately a good one.
He said: “We’ve been playing well in most of the games and we showed it again against the champions.
“I was pleased with that and then 20 minutes after half-time we knew we would have to weather it.
“Manchester City tend to get better in the second half and they did do.
“It was a good draw for us. We’ve had some bad draws but that was a good draw.”
MANCHESTER CITY boss Roberto Mancini disagreed with David Moyes’ verdict on the penalty which earned City a share of the spoils.
“I am not happy with some decisions,” Mancini said. “There were five, six or seven situations that I didn’t like.
“I think the penalty was a penalty. The fourth official was very close with me.
“How it is possible he (Moyes) can see from there what is going on in the box – it is difficult. The referee was there.”
City remain unbeaten in their title defence and have not lost at home in the League for 37 matches, a run stretching back to a defeat to Everton two years ago. Yet Everton remain a recurring problem for City, having lost eight of their 10 previous games against the Merseysiders.
Mancini said: “Everton is always a difficult game because they work hard, they defend very well.
“In the second half we played better, probably deserved to score another goal.
“In the end we are not happy but the season is long and this doesn’t change anything.
“If you don’t pay attention you can lose three points and it is sometimes better to take one.”
Although Carlos Tevez got on the scoresheet, Mancini remains frustrated with the goal output of his strikers.
He said: “In this moment we are not very strong with our strikers. We need them to score more goals.
“They are four top strikers but this can happen during the season.
“It is important they work hard like they worked today. Dzeko, Tevez, Sergio (Aguero), Mario (Balotelli) – I think we will solve this problem.”
Seven draws in their last nine games may have put Everton's top-four ambitions into a more realistic perspective, yet they remain a match for the leading teams and Marouane Fellaini on his own is capable of having a major impact on the season.
The Belgian scored the only goal when Manchester United were beaten at Goodison in the first round of this season's games, and the reason Sir Alex Ferguson banned several journalists for revealing that Rio Ferdinand would miss that match through injury was that he felt David Moyes used the information to promote Fellaini to a position further up the field.
He is still up there, playing as a secondary striker just behind Nikica Jelavic, and not only did his goal give Everton an early lead at the Etihad, David Platt admitted his presence on the pitch was the reason Manchester City persevered with Edin Dzeko when it was clear the Bosnian was not having one of his better days. City left the labouring Dzeko on until 10 minutes from the end, and heard boos from their own supporters when Carlos Tevez was withdrawn to make way for Sergio Agüero. "We needed height in the team because Everton are so dangerous from set pieces," the City assistant manager said. "Fellaini is a handful and Everton know if they get into certain areas and put good quality balls into the box he is a threat. We knew we had to make a change but you have to look at everything as a whole when you make a substitution."
Moyes revealed Fellaini was initially reluctant to play up front but is beginning to relish his free rein to terrorise defenders. "We haven't set him any targets in terms of goals but you can see he has the bit between his teeth at the moment," the Everton manager said. "I think he's actually enjoying playing the position now. There were questions about it at first but now he is realising he is getting recognised as a danger and that's a big part for us. We are playing with more confidence again. I thought the only thing we lacked against City was maybe a bit more imagination and quality in the final third. We needed someone to play the killer ball."
That was the story of the game, for City too lacked genuine creativity. This time last season, as Moyes pointed out, David Silva was the best player in the Premier League by a long way and City were flying. Here he was ineffective, if not quite anonymous, and City were pedestrian as a result. With Silva finding it difficult to penetrate a defence superbly marshalled by Phil Jagielka, the home side needed inspiration from somewhere else, but neither Yaya Touré nor Samir Nasri was able to come up with anything out of the ordinary and none of the striking combinations City tried were given enough ammunition to make a difference.
Everton's passing and movement had been superior in the first half hour and they deserved to go ahead, even if Joe Hart had hardly touched the ball before he was called upon to make a brilliant stop when a Leighton Baines cross reached Fellaini at the far post. The goalkeeper kept out the initial header but was powerless to prevent the striker's follow-up. Fellaini was also involved with City's controversial equaliser just before the interval, when Tevez scored from the penalty spot after he was adjudged to have pulled down Dzeko at a corner. It was a soft decision, to say the least, since both players were jostling with each other and Dzeko seemed to go to ground through choice rather than necessity. Moyes's dim view of the incident was not improved by misleading information from the fourth official that Leon Osman had been the guilty party, yet overall he was happy with a point and a continuation of his outstanding league record against Roberto Mancini – played seven, won five, lost one, drawn one.
"We've had a few bad draws recently but this was a good draw," he said. "Any team that comes here will find it tough because City are very good at keeping the ball and they have different strikers who can score in different ways."
City now find themselves three points behind Manchester United going into the derby on Sunday, though still unbeaten. With Chelsea losing more ground at West Ham, the title looks likely to stay in Manchester, though Platt was dismissive of suggestions of a two-horse race. "There's a bit of daylight between the top two and the rest, but it would be disrespectful to teams who could put a run together to say there is no one else in it," he said. "There's a lot of football to be played yet.We are unbeaten after 15 games but we haven't scored as many goals as we did last season and we haven't hit top gear yet on a consistent basis"
It will come as something of a relief for Roberto Mancini to see Sir Alex Ferguson in the opposing dug-out at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
For while Mancini would appear to have the measure of Ferguson, having done the double over Manchester United last season, Everton boss David Moyes remains the City manager’s nemesis.
In seven meetings with Moyes, Mancini has won just once, compelling proof Everton remain City’s toughest opponents, more so than title rivals United.
So after the 1-1 at the Etihad, Mancini will be glad to see the back of Moyes and Everton, at least until mid-March, by which stage City’s chances of a successful title defence should be a lot clearer.
This has been a curious season for City. They remain the only team still unbeaten in the Premier League and sit second in the table, just three points behind United.
Yet Champions League elimination at the group stage for the second season running, combined with a failure to match their explosive start to last term, has led to a peculiar sense of disenchantment around the club.
It was evident in City fans booing Mancini’s decision to take Carlos Tevez off with 22 minutes left.
Yet there is nothing like a derby to spark a club’s season into life and Mancini’s men know victory over United can strike a potentially significant psychological blow in what is looking increasingly like another all-Manchester title race.
City defender Maicon, who played in derbies in his native Brazil, as well as in Italy, knows from personal experience how victory in such encounters can change the course of a season.
“All over the world, the derby is a different game to any other,” he said. “It’s a passionate game, whether you’re in Manchester, Milan or Brazil, and I’m sure Sunday will be just the same.
“I played for Cruzeiro against Atletico Mineiro, at a time when Mineiro were the better team. We won and it changed our whole season for the better.
“This is something built into derbies – it can give the team a boost of confidence for the rest of the season.”
The one consolation for City, given their own inconsistencies this season, is United are finding it equally hard to develop any kind of form, despite winning a seven-goal thriller at Reading.
First-team coach David Platt acknowledged City had failed to hit the heights of last season, but claimed it was unrealistic to expect them to do so.
At this stage last term, they had scored 49 goals and conceded 15 to open a five-point lead over United. This time around they have scored 28, conceded 11 and trail United.
But despite another disappointing draw, City’s sixth in the league this campaign, Platt said: “A lot of comparisons have been made with our form last season and this time around.
“But the amount of goals we were scoring last season was alien. I don’t think anyone was going to hit those heights on such a consistent basis.
“We’re unbeaten after 15 games, but last season we lost our 15th game at Chelsea.
“In many ways, we haven’t hit top gear yet on such a consistent basis, but we’ve been solid.”
Marouane Fellaini gave Everton the lead on 33 minutes, turning the ball in from close-range after Joe Hart had produced a fine save to keep out his initial header.
City equalised two minutes before the break with a soft penalty, converted by Tevez, given after Fellaini was ruled to have fouled Edin Dzeko.
David Moyes was left to rue Everton’s latest draw and played down his side’s chances of a top-four finish.
The Toffees’ 1-1 draw at the Etihad was their seventh in nine games, but kept them in fifth spot, still in the hunt for a Champions League place.
But Moyes cautioned: “I think it will be hard for us to make the Champions League. It’ll be a big thing for us.
“When we play over 90 minutes against someone we’ve always got a good chance. But can we do it over 38 games?
“We’re missing Kevin Mirallas, Victor Anichebe and we’re just short of other forward options at times to maybe win us the games, that’s why getting so many draws.
“We should have more points. It’s not been this point or the point against Arsenal, it’s a couple of games before that where we’ve let winning positions slip to draw them.
“I think the game against Arsenal, as much as this one, shows we can have a go.
“But whether we’ll ever have enough to be right amongst those teams when it comes to it...
“We’re certainly not a million miles off them and we can be quite close to them.”
Moyes believes his players have what it takes to turn draws into wins. But he admitted he would rather his side were playing poorly and winning than playing well and drawing games.
“I think we’ve got confidence and the players are playing really well,” Moyes added. “We’re just lacking maybe getting over the edge.
“I don’t want to be a manager who keeps saying, ‘We’re playing well and not winning’ because I’d rather be a manager whose team weren’t playing well and winning.
“But the facts are there to see and we have to hope that good performances eventually lead to good results.”
PHIL JAGIELKA believes Everton have proved that they are Champions League material over their last two matches.
The Toffees drew with Arsenal and Manchester City to keep their sights firmly on a top-four place at the end of the season.
And England defender Jags, 30, says that the sixth-placed Merseysiders are happy to go under the radar as people weigh up who will be contenders.
He said: “It is going to be quite wide open.
“The last few seasons the Premier League has gone a little bit crazy with teams finishing almost anywhere.
“The title has been between two or three teams but the Champions League is there for anyone — Tottenham have done it and Newcastle had a crack at it.
“Whether we are underestimated or not, we have not got a very big squad. We don’t have that many options on the bench.
“We haven’t got the biggest squad, so maybe that is why people are not talking us up.
“But it doesn’t bother us. The squad isn’t going to get much bigger, so it will be all down to how the manager manages us as the season goes on.”
ATTEMPTING to work out whether Manchester City or neighbours United are in better shape ahead of Sunday’s derby is about as hard as trying to combat Marouane Fellaini.
Fellaini, he of the big hair and big penalty box presence, completed a notable personal treble – his goal against City following strikes in his last two appearances against United.
But while David Moyes was left satisfied with further evidence of Everton’s ability to mix it with both Manchester clubs, Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson have much to ponder ahead of the top-ofthe-table showdown at the Etihad Stadium.
Mancini is frustrated his strikers are not scoring more goals but happy that City have the more solid defence.
Ferguson is exasperated at United’s defending but relieved he possesses a free-scoring attack that is constantly getting his team out of jail.
City do not lose any games – they are unbeaten now in their last 21 Premier League fixtures – but United win more and hold a three-point advantage.
Rarely this season have either of them put together compelling 90-minute performances, but they are clearly the two best teams in the country and, with the campaign not even at the halfway mark, they have already turned the championship into a two-horse race.
When asked to assess City’s season so far, Mancini’s trusted right-hand man David Platt summed it up succinctly when he said “solid”. As he talked, United were proving anything but in a seven-goal first half at Reading.
Platt argues that comparisons with last season’s blistering start are unfair because City’s results were freakish – 12 wins, two draws and an incredible 48 goals in their first 14 games.
He said: “A lot of comparisons have been made with our form last season but the amount of goals we were scoring at the beginning was alien. I don’t think anyone was going to hit those heights on such a consistent basis.
“Last season we lost for the first time in our 15th game at Chelsea. This season we are still unbeaten after 15. In many ways, it’s fair to say we haven’t hit top gear yet on a consistent basis but what we have been is solid. The reason we have gone so long unbeaten is that we are a good team.”
One thing is for sure: no side – not even United – causes City more problems than Everton.
Saturday’s well-merited point followed eight victories over City in the previous 10 encounters.
Platt pointed out that it is not just City who have problems against Moyes’ welldrilled team. It is easy to forget that Everton wrecked United’s title bid with a 4-4 draw at Old Trafford last April and followed that up by beating them on the opening weekend in August.
A few days before holding City, they had the better of a draw against Arsenal. The common denominator in all those games is Fellaini, described in midweek as “unplayable” by Arsene Wenger.
Fellaini proved a handful – literally – in both penalty areas.
He displayed his prowess in the air by putting Everton in front.
His header from Leighton Baines’ cross was saved by Joe Hart but he reacted quickly to knock the loose ball over the line with his thigh.
He was then left incredulous after being harshly penalised by referee Lee Probert for tugging Edin Dzeko’s shirt – the sort of incident that goes unpunished in games every weekend – and Carlos Tevez equalised from the spot.
Fellaini’s eighth goal of the season underlined he relishes the big occasion – three of his strikes have come against United, Arsenal and City.
With over half the season left he only needs two more to get into double figures for the first time in his Everton career.
Moyes said: “We haven’t set him any target but he has got the bit between his teeth at the moment, is enjoying scoring the goals and enjoying playing the position he is in now.”
The biggest tribute that can be paid to Fellaini is that he would not look out of place for either Manchester club in Sunday’s derby.