Yaya Toure scored the only goal of the match as Manchester City beat Everton 1-0 to close the gap on Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea to three points.
The Ivorian tucked away a first-half penalty to earn the champions their fifth consecutive victory in all competitions and capitalise on Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United earlier in the day, although one low note for City was an injury to Sergio Aguero which forced his withdrawal after just seven minutes.
Everton were unfortunate not to equalise late on when Joe Hart produced a stunning save to keep out Romelu Lukaku and the defeat means they have taken just one point from their past three BPL matches as their inconsistent domestic form continues. While City will undoubtedly be thrilled with another win, the injury to Aguero will cause major concern, especially with a crucial UEFA Champions League clash at Roma to come on Wednesday.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez brought in Samuel Eto'o for Ross Barkley and Tony Hibbert for Leon Osman, perhaps with an eye on having extra defensive cover to cope with Aguero, but the league’s leading scorer was barely able to have any impact before limping from the field. After stumbling under one challenge, the striker fell awkwardly while attempting to regain his balance and, following treatment, was replaced by to be replaced by Jose Angel Pozo.
The hosts managed to recover their poise, though, and were ahead through Toure's spot-kick in the 24th minute. James Milner, recalled to the City side along with Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando from the win at Sunderland, beat Phil Jagielka to the ball close to the byline and went down under the defender's challenge. With Aguero off the field, Toure stepped up and placed the spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner for his fourth league goal of the season.
Samir Nasri's powerful drive was headed away by Sylvain Distin in the 34th minute and Everton threatened for the first time five minutes later when Kevin Mirallas's first-time strike was deflected wide by Fernando. Pozo might have doubled City's lead five minutes into the second half, but shot straight at the legs of Tim Howard after being picked out by Milner six yards from goal.
Milner passed up another chance 12 minutes from time, blazing a volley over after substitutes Frank Lampard and Edin Dzeko had combined.
Hart had been relatively untroubled for much of the encounter, but the England goalkeeper pulled off a superb one-handed save to tip Lukaku's volley around a post with eight minutes remaining. With that stop, Everton's best chance of an equaliser came and went as City held on to secure the win and keep the pressure on Chelsea.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "Sergio has a problem in his knee ligament. We will see tomorrow [Sunday] how serious it is but it's not good news. We don't know [how bad it is]. We must wait for the diagnosis of the doctor but the important thing is he won't be there for Roma, a very important game.
"We returned to our normal performance. I always said that nobody can win the title in November or December. We have to play seven games in December, so it is a key month and not easy. We shall see in the next four games who is doing better but after that January is also very important.
"James Milner always gives what he has, whether he starts or is a substitute. He gives a lot of character to our team. Big goalkeepers just need to one save, Everton had only one chance and I don't think they deserve to score when they shoot once and Joe made a very good save."
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "In the first half, if anything, we got a big shock with the decision of awarding the penalty and our confidence was not the same. In the second half we were able to relax a little bit, having reset at half time, and we were more ourselves. It made for a very good game of football.
"They had a good opportunity which got a great save out of Tim Howard but then we had a number of good chances. The total danger from then was around Manchester City's box."
|20 Dec 2014||v Crystal Palace (H)|
|13 Dec 2014||v Leicester (A)|
|26 Dec 2014||v West Brom (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Burnley (H)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Sunderland (H)|
|10 Jan 2015||v Everton (A)|