London – Ten-man Everton sounded a probable death knell on Manchester City’s title defence with a hard-fought 2-0 win over the Premier League champions at Goodison Park on Saturday.
Despite the second-half dismissal of Steven Pienaar, Everton dug deep for a victory that means Manchester United can go 15 points clear at the top of the table by winning at home to Reading later.
Leon Osman made the breakthrough for the hosts in the 32nd minute, meeting Seamus Coleman’s lay-off with a swerving shot from 25 yards that deceived goalkeeper Joe Hart and flew into the top-left corner.
The momentum tilted in City’s favour with half an hour to play when Pienaar was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for a shin-high foul on Javi Garcia.
However, Everton’s second-choice goalkeeper Jan Mucha kept the visitors at bay, producing fine saves to thwart Carlos Tevez, James Milner and Pablo Zabaleta.
City were also denied a clear penalty in the 86th minute when referee Lee Probert awarded the visitors a free-kick for a hand-ball by Marouane Fellaini that occured inside the 18-yard box.
Substitute Nikica Jelavic curled in Everton’s second goal in injury time to seal a win that lifted David Moyes’ side to fifth place and banished memories of last weekend’s abject loss to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup.
Later on Saturday, Arsenal will bid to put their Champions League elimination by Bayern Munich behind them when they visit Swansea City.
Liverpool go in search of a fourth consecutive league victory at Southampton, while Stoke City host West Bromwich Albion.
There is also a potentially crucial relegation tussle at Villa Park, where bottom club Queens Park Rangers visit fourth-bottom Aston Villa.