FOOTBALL / Even Pienaar’s sending off is of no use to the defending champion

Manchester City’s faint hopes of retaining the Premier League title appear all but over after the champion crashed to a controversial 2-0 defeat against 10-man Everton on Saturday.

Roberto Mancini’s side desperately needed a victory at Goodison Park to close the gap on leader Manchester United to nine points.

But instead it produced the latest lacklustre display of a disappointing campaign as Everton shrugged off Steven Pienaar’s second half dismissal to take the points thanks to a fine finish from Leon Osman in the first half and Nikica Jelavic’s strike in the final seconds.

City had some cause for complaint as referee Lee Probert awarded the visitors a free-kick instead of a penalty in the closing stages after Carlos Tevez’s shot struck Marouane Fellaini on the arm in the area.

Mancini’s men are now faced with the prospect of falling 15 points behind United while Everton remains in the hunt for a European berth after its fourth successive home win over City.

Work-rate and desire

After their 3-0 home defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup quarterfinals, it was exactly the kind of response David Moyes was looking for from his Everton players and City simply had no match for their work-rate and desire.

Neither side was able to find early fluency, but the hosts carried the greater threat, with Darron Gibson thumping a free-kick straight into the wall and Seamus Coleman having a cross blocked wide after a clever run that took him past two defenders.

Coleman also clipped a shot over from just outside the area and City finally gave Jan Mucha something to do with a tame David Silva free-kick that flew straight to the Everton goalkeeper.

Just after the half hour Everton took the lead with a strike of real quality as Coleman squared the ball to Osman, who thumped a shot into the top corner, with Joe Hart failing to move. The home side were well on top now and after a surging run, Gibson clipped a cross into the area where Victor Anichebe lifted a shot just over the bar.

In the 61st minute Everton suffered a blow when Pienaar, who had already been booked, caught City midfielder Javi Garcia with a high challenge and was sent off.

With City pressing hard, Fellaini broke away in stoppage-time and Croatian striker Jelavic scored with a deflected effort.

The result: Everton 2 (Osman 32, Jelavic 90) bt Manchester City 0. — AFP

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