Goodison Park isn’t a place where City fans have been happy to travel to in recent years. In fact, in the Premier League, the Blues’ record at Everton is worse than woeful. While supporters this season may be expecting the team to be performing a little better against the Toffees than they have done in the past, it still has something of a bogey ground feel to it.
Back in 2009, as Mark Hughes’s City team made the trip to Merseyside, things looked even bleaker. Not only was Goodison a bogey ground, but the Blues had a wretched away record, winning just one other fixture on the road in the 2008-09 campaign – at Sunderland, some eight months earlier. Draws at Newcastle, Hull, Fulham, Blackburn and Liverpool were the only other non-losses away from Eastlands that year.
Few would have been expecting what happened next.
Robinho, who had been having a great impact at home following his record-breaking transfer from Real Madrid at the start of that season, was struggling in away matches. However, he put on a masterclass and, teaming up with Stephen Ireland, was the key to victory for the visitors.
The Brazilian should have had a penalty after breezing past Tony Hibbert in the Everton box. He faced a challenge from Leon Osman and appeared to be chopped down, but referee Alan Wiley waved away the appeals. Robinho then had an effort pushed over the bar by Tim Howard, before Leighton Baines denied Ireland with a last-ditch block.
Everton had a good deal of possession, but it was City with the chances playing on the break. It was summed up by the opening goal, ten minutes before half time. Marouane Fellaini stopped thinking he was fouled as a free kick was lumped into the away side’s box and the clearance dropped to Elano. He produced a superb half-volleyed pass to set Robinho free on the right and, after a step-over to get into the box, he fired a shot through the legs of Howard.
After the break, Shay Given produced a wonderful point-blank save to keep the score at 1-0. The ball found its way to Fellaini on the edge of the six yard box and the Belgian teed himself up to turn and shoot. He walloped his effort, but Given got both hands up to push it over the bar.
The Blues doubled their lead through the man who would go on to win the club’s Player of the Season award. Robinho played a lovely aerial pass over the top for Ireland to run onto, as he ghosted past the Everton defence. The Irishman took a touch to bring it down and then side-footed it past the advancing Howard for 2-0.
The hosts then lost Phil Jagielka to a nasty looking knee injury ahead of the FA Cup Final, which left them down to ten men, having used all their substitutes. It also meant there was a hefty chunk of stoppage time for them to make it a nervy finish. Dan Gosling controlled a square ball on the edge of the box that took him to a one-on-one with Given. The midfielder lashed his shot into the top corner, but it was too little too late for the home side and City won for the first time at Goodison Park in nearly 17 years.
After the match, the Blues boss was impressed with the display:
“I thought we were really good value for the win today. There was a real focus to our play, we were dynamic and our determination shone through. Yes, it was possibly a good time to play Everton, but that shouldn’t take anything away from our win – we deserved it. To be honest we could, and probably should, have won by more because I thought we were very comfortable.
“Robinho was excellent today, not just for the goals but his all-round game, and he is really hitting some form for us. He’s had some stick this season but his play – and that of Ireland’s – was outstanding.”
“We’re disappointed but the players have put in a great effort in recent weeks so maybe this was going to be on the cards. There was a bit of fatigue there. We’ve conceded two counter-attacking goals and not defended particularly well – we needed to hang in a bit more at 1-0 and once the second went in we were always going to struggle.”
City: Given, Richards (Fernandes 57), Onuoha, Dunne, Bridge, De Jong, Kompany, Elano (Evans 88), Ireland, Robinho, Caicedo (Petrov 84).
Unused: Hart, Bojinov, Garrido, Berti
You can watch the highlights from the game here.
The UK number one when this game was played was Calvin Harris with I’m Not Alone.
Cinema-goers in the UK could enjoy In The Loop this week.
Written by David Mooney.