Manchester City will win the Premier League title if they win on the final day of the season, but Everton certainly didn't make their day easy on Saturday. Ross Barkley scored one of the best goals of the season to kick the match off, but City fought back with three goals of their own, then held off a late Everton charge to win 3-2.
With this loss, Everton are out of the top-four race, but their fans will at least take some comfort in the fact that they haven't aided Liverpool in winning the league.
This game marked Phil Jagielka's return from injury, and given Roberto Martinez's tactics, his newfound fitness was timely. Everton surprisingly went to a system with three men at the back, with Jagielka anchoring the center of their back line.
At first, Everton's tactics seemed to work, though their opening goal had little-to-nothing to do with the formation they set out in. Instead, it was down to a bit of pure individual brilliance by Barkley, who hit an absolute stunner from 25 yards that floated over the head of Joe Hart, then dipped down sharply into the top corner, giving the City goalkeeper no chance to make a save.
Manchester City answered, however, equalizing after trailing for just 11 minutes. Sergio Aguero scored, matching Barkley for individual effort, if not for pure flash. He picked up the ball from Yaya Toure around 35 yards from goal, then surged forward to the edge of the penalty area before placing a perfect shot past Tim Howard.
Unfortunately for Aguero, his day would end shortly afterwards. He picked up a knock and was replaced by Fernandinho in the 28th minute.
While Howard wasn't at all at fault for the first goal, he deserves a bit of blame for conceding City's second. Just before halftime, Edin Dzeko rose up to meet a cross by James Milner and headed towards the back post. His shot was well-placed, but by no means a rocket, and Howard wasn't screened. The Everton keeper reacted a split second slower than usual and couldn't get across his goal quickly enough to get a hand on the ball.
Whatever Roberto Martinez said to his team at halftime didn't seem to do much good, as City were on the front foot right from the kickoff. They expanded their lead in the 48th minute, with Dzeko completing a brace by poking in a square ball by Samir Nasri.
That appeared to be the nail in Everton's coffin on the night, but they fought back with a goal in the 65th minute, through familiar means. Leighton Baines set it up with a gorgeous cross into the center of the box that was met by Romelu Lukaku, who stayed onside by the narrowest of margins and finished to get Everton back into the match.
Both teams made changes immediately after the goal, but for entirely different reasons. In need of another goal, Everton brought on Gerard Deulofeu for Jagielka, switching to a four-man defense. Manchester City brought Aleksandar Kolarov in for Toure, who appeared to pick up a slight injury.
Everton never did find an equalizer, though the end of the match did feature some bizarre incidents, including Dzeko remaining on the pitch and requesting a stretcher even though the referee was convinced he was not injured. Unsurprisingly, Dzeko re-entered the match, and from there, City hung on for the win.
Everton: Howard, Alcaraz, Jagielka (Deulofeu 66'), Stones, Baines, Osman (McGeady 83'), McCarthy, Barkley, Coleman, Naismith, Lukaku
Goals: Barkley (11'), Lukaku (65')
Manchester City: Hart, Clichy, Demichelis, Kompany, Zabaleta, Garcia, Toure, Nasri (Silva 75'), Aguero (Fernandinho 28'), Milner, Dzeko
Goals: Aguero (22'), Dzeko (43', 48')