Tevez & Man City fluff their lines
Manchester City's ability to turn logic on its head has acquired legendary status. At Eastlands it is always dawn before the dark. Give them a mile and they will take an inch.
So, it was little surprise that the opportunity to top the table at Christmas for the first time in 81 years after Carlos Tevez's sudden decision to withdraw a transfer request that looked set in stone was too much good news for one day.
City's supporters always treat such riches as if they come with a health warning attached. And so it proved as the opportunity to strike a psychological blow by reaching the Premier League summit with victory over Everton was emphatically wasted as David Moyes' side ran out 2-1 winners.
It was not an experience that will prove terminal for City's chances of presenting themselves as serious title challengers, but it was certainly a deflating one.
Tevez provided the platform for what was designed to be a demonstration of City's title intent by making a nonsense of earlier public statements by himself and representative Kia Joorabchian and commiting himself to Eastlands.
Even when set alongside Wayne Rooney's brinksmanship with Manchester United, this was an unexpected turn of events. From homesickness to broken promises and relationships with selected City executives being shattered beyond repair, the Argentine was suddenly back in the fold.
Time will tell if what many regard as a fragile peace persists and whether City's hierarchy, angered by the manner in which Tevez presented them with such an unwanted ultimatum, have won a significant long-term victory.
City have been keen to peddle their hard-line stance on this matter and Tevez was placated, for now at least, after a meeting with Eastlands power-brokers, including chief executive Garry Cook and chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak.
A brief club statement shed no light on how a player who made his discontent so public was apparently now happy to stay, but it was just the tonic City and their fans required as they set about reaching territory uncharted at this time of the year since 1929.
Instead of scaling these heights, though, it was all downhill for Roberto Mancini and his men as Everton, and in particular Tim Cahill, once again proved the scourge of Eastlands.
And despite destiny inviting him to play a defining role Tevez - given a warm ovation - was subdued until he saw a shot saved by Tim Howard in the dying seconds, perhaps weighed down and jaded after the turmoil of recent days.
Everton's dismal campaign has been a surprise, but Manchester City have become something of an open goal for Moyes and his team as they recorded their fourth successive away win there.
Moyes takes particular pleasure in inflicting pain on City as the fury over their acrimonous pursuit of former Everton defender Joleon Lescott still burns inside the Scot. The prospect of pulling the rug out from under City as they prepared to party inspired both manager and team and the Scot's punch into the sub-zero night air at the final whistle underlined his pleasure.
He will certainly have enjoyed a defensive masterclass from the superb Sylvain Distin, purchased from Portsmouth with roughly a fifth of what now looks an exorbitant £24m Moyes banked for Lescott.
For City, this was a chastening evening, a reminder that they will slip if standards fall. And fall they did almost from the first whistle.
It is a fair bet the final warning from most managers before they face Everton is not to allow Cahill free headers inside the area. And yet he was left alone by shoddy City defending to head his fourth goal at the City of Manchester Stadium after only four minutes.
And once Leighton Baines, who must win an England recall on current form, slipped in a splendid second 15 minutes later from an astute Cahill lay-off, City were on the skids.
Mancini's side did not lack effort, well not in all cases anyway, but Everton carried more of a sense of team ethic than City. The expensively-assembled home side were left relying on snatches of individual brilliance from Tevez or David Silva while Everton manned the defensive barricades and put bodies on the line with the spirit of a band of brothers.
The statistics hinted at City domination with 67% possession, 11 corners to nil, 25 shots to Everton's 100% return from two efforts on target - but they lie about the true tale of the match.
Everton survived the second-half sending off of Victor Anichebe for a second yellow card, with City unable to profit from the numerical disadvantage they enjoyed until Kolo Toure also received a red card in the final moments.
It set the seal on a night of frustration. City have flourished away from home in recent weeks, but against a side set out as shrewdly as Moyes deployed Everton, they may struggle to impose themselves at home.
Marouane Fellaini and Jack Rodwell patrolled central midfield with excellence, while Tim Howard was a tower of strength in goal.
And City's reliance on individuals to mount a title charge may just fall short if one of the individuals they rely on is Mario Balotelli, who was awful.
Temperament is something Mancini might accept, timidity is another matter. The Italian hit a post in the second half, but a regular requirement for a rocket in the general direction of this high maintenance individual may become trying. Too often the commitment was not there, the shrug of the shoulders and the scowl all too readily on show.
No-one has quite worked out what the workings are inside this undoubtedly talented youngster's head. Mancini is confident he can decipher the code, but on recent evidence we can only wish him the best of luck.
City cannot be written off as a title proposition on the basis of one off-colour performance after showing such promise in recent weeks, but Everton delivered a brutal collision with reality. Start games slowly and any side will prove unforgiving, even one that has been as inconsistent as Everton.
Mancini is also in the fortunate position of being able to play the markets armed with vast wealth in January should he feel the flaws exposed by Everton need addressing as a matter of urgency.
Everton boss Moyes, in contrast, will be in the bargain basement once more. Loans will be the order of the day, and judging by the activity on Landon Donovan's Twitter account in the minutes after the final whistle at Eastlands, it would appear he is sending out the right signals towards a return to Goodison Park.
Moyes must hope this outstanding victory does not provide another false dawn. It was compelling evidence that Everton should be faring much better than they are.
City's supporters were relatively sanguine in defeat. They know so much of what their club is doing is right and better days and nights lie ahead than this one. After all, they are third in the league at Christmas - and most fans would be happy with that.
But after the tidings of comfort and joy that had been heading their way, history told them to expect the sort of hefty bump Everton gave them.