How City and Roberto Mancini must dread their trips to Goodison Park after yet another demoralising defeat to ten-man Everton all-but ended the Blues’ title hopes.
Leon Osman’s spectacular first-half strike and Nikica Jelavic’s last-gasp effort was enough to settle a predictably scrappy encounter that has become depressingly familiar in this particular fixture in recent years.
The ingredients seem simple – the hosts up their game and get in City’s faces and in turn the Blues have difficulty coping with the aggression and energy from their opponents who literally do seem to treat this game as a cup final.
With the gap at the top possibly stretching to 15 points by the end of the day if United beat Reading, the title defence is, unfortunately, becoming mission impossible.
City will keep going, but realistically, this was probably one set-back too far
...Everton 2 City 0...
The day started badly when Yaya Toure joined the absentee list with the Ivorian giant side-lined with a migraine and with Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero also still injured, the Blues were arguably without three of their best and most influential players.
Everton also had key personnel missing with Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka still missing from their starting line-up but had fire in their bellies from the kick-off.
With one win in the previous 20 visits to Merseyside prior to this visit - against Everton and Liverpool – clearly there are problems whenever City head west along the M62.
The early exchanges suggested there was more of the same to come in this fixture, too, with the hosts pumped up and determined to erase the memory of last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final home thrashing against Wigan.
Pressing the Blues in possession and feisty in the challenge, the Toffees dominated the first 20 minutes or so with Kevin Miralles seeing his thunderbolt finish on 14 minutes incorrectly ruled out for offside – TV replays proved he had been marginally played onside by Aleks Kolarov’s boot.
City clawed their back into the game gradually but as the balance of play shifted, the hosts struck with a goal out of the blue as Leon Osman – hardly renowned for his long-range efforts – struck a viciously swerving shot into the top corner from 25 yards that left Joe Hart rooted to the spot just past the half-hour.
It was a bitter blow at a crucial stage of the game and the moments that followed were all Everton. Mancini shuffled his pack thereafter, electing to abandon the 3-5-2 formation in favour of 4-4-2 but his options were limited.
But the Blues were handed an unexpected lifeline when Steven Pienaar was shown a straight red card on the hour for a rash challenge on Garcia – it was the correct decision – and suddenly City had a man advantage
...Everton 2 City 0...
Within five minutes the Blues had finally forced Jan Mucha into his first real work of the afternoon with the Slovakian making a fine double-save from Carlos Tevez and then James Milner – but in reality, one of those efforts had to go in – if it had, chances are the hoodoo would have been ended.
Pablo Zabaleta was also denied by Mucha ten minutes from time and Tevez came within inches of connecting with Kolarov’s excellent cross two minutes later.
Then City, by now in complete control, were denied a blatant penalty when Fellaini clearly handled inside the box with 85 minutes on the clock - but the equaliser just wouldn’t come as the ten men clung on – and sub Nikica Jelavic provided the perfect sucker-punch with a second goal deep into injury time.
Yet again, it just wasn’t City’s day on Merseyside.