David Moyes demanded a response from his Everton players after last weekend's FA Cup defeat by Wigan Athletic and the Scot will be delighted with what he saw against Manchester City. Everton didn't shirk a challenge, posed an attacking threat and defended with great discipline to keep in the hunt for European qualification.
As for City, it was another huge dent in the faltering defence of their Premier League title and yet another defeat against Everton, who have now won nine of the last 12 meetings. City rightly felt aggrieved at not being awarded a late penalty, but even a draw was hardly merited after a disappointing performance.
Everton boss Moyes made two changes to his starting line-up in response to last weekend's FA Cup defeat by Wigan Athletic. Darron Gibson replaced another former Manchester United player Phil Neville in midfield, while Victor Anichebe was given a start up front at the expense of the out-of-form Nikica Jelavic.
City made four changes to the team which hammered Barnsley as goalkeeper Joe Hart was predictably restored in place of Costel Pantilimon and Matija Nastasic came in for former Everton defender Joleon Lescott. Yaya Toure was ruled out with a migraine, so Javi Garcia was handed a midfield role and James Milner was selected ahead of Samir Nasri.
Nothing out of the ordinary for Everton as Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar occupied the wide positions and Marouane Fellaini supplied the support for Anichebe. Even when Everton went down to 10 men, Moyes didn't panic as Fellaini dropped in alongside Darron Gibson, with Leon Osman moving wide. Effective substitutions ensured Everton were still a threat going forward and were not constantly pinned back despite their numerical disadvantage.
City started with a 3-4-3 formation, with Pablo Zabaleta, Kolo Toure and Nastasic at the back but, despite repeated experiments with this system this season, it doesn't seem to work. Mancini changed to a 4-4-2 before half-time, but it didn't make a great deal of difference and there was nothing inspired about City's changes once Pienaar had been sent off.
Everton's substitutions can sometimes appear a little predictable as, not for the first time this season, Steven Naismith came on for Mirallas with 20 minutes to go. However, Naismith did inject fresh energy into the team and ensured Everton were able to pose a threat going forward, even with 10 men. In the final minute, Moyes introduced Jelavic for Anichebe and the Croatian striker rewarded the decision by scoring the second goal - his first in the Premier League since early December.
City also made a first change with 20 minutes remaining as the more creative talents of Nasri were brought on for the industrious Barry, but to no great impact. Gael Clichy and Scott Sinclair replaced Toure and Milner with seven minutes left, but the duo offered little to trouble the home side.
Seamus Coleman was excellent for Everton and allied a superb defensive performance by offering a constant menace down the right-hand side. His headed clearance to prevent Tevez meeting Aleksandar Kolarov's cross with nine minutes to go was magnificent. Jan Mucha was starting only his second Premier League game in goal for Everton, but he was a more than able deputy for the injured Tim Howard. Mucha produced a superb double stop to deny Tevez and Milner on 67 minutes before later rushing out of his goal to thwart Zabaleta.
It turned out to be a day when City's key men didn't really rise to the occasion, with Tevez perhaps the pick of the bunch. His effort never dipped and he came close on a couple of occasions, but City lacked in creativity and missed Yaya Toure. The Ivorian may not have been at his best consistently this season, but his presence was certainly missed at Goodison Park.
Lee Probert had probably one of the most difficult games to referee this season and left both camps feeling aggrieved at the final whistle. Probert wasn't responsible for Mirallas having a goal harshly ruled out for offside and he was spot on in booking Fellaini and Pienaar for rash first-half challenges. Though Moyes felt Pienaar wasn't unjustly sent off, Probert could easily have shown the midfielder a straight red card for his ugly challenge on Garcia. However, Probert then failed to book Milner for a poor tackle on Mirallas before infuriating City with four minutes to go when he awarded a free-kick, rather than penalty, when Fellaini handballed three yards inside the box.
Speaking after the game, Osman challenged Everton to win their remaining nine games in order to qualify for Europe and three points will be expected at home to Stoke City after the international break. A home date with Queens Park Rangers is sandwiched by away games against Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, and it is those two matches on their travels which are likely to define Everton's season now.
The title is now surely beyond City and the priority will be fending off Tottenham and Chelsea in the fight for second spot. A home meeting with Newcastle should offer City the chance to resume Premier League action in two weeks' time on a winning note before the Manchester derby follows. At the very least, City will target victory at Old Trafford to raise morale, even if it is likely to have little bearing on the title race.