The Ped Report Newcastle 1-3 City
The sun was shining in the Toon as City came to town. A potential banana skin awaited the Blues at a stadium where they have done well recently, indeed not having come up empty since 2005. And it looked that way early on with the home side on the front foot and Kolo Toure's desire to present them with free kicks on half way, giving the Mags plenty of chances to load the penalty area.
Hart was forced to make a couple of superb early saves to keep Newcastle at bay as chances fell to Ba and Cisse. For the first eight minutes or so City were camped in front of their own goal. They had shown nothing in attack and looked to be enduring a Derby hangover. Mancini, however, had today gone with the ground attack that served him so well last season and after eight minutes a swift move opened the door for Tevez, but he was off target.
A couple of minutes later a move of rapier-like rapidity saw Yaya slice the defence open with a precision pass to Nasri, who although open and clear, unselfishly squared it to Aguero to tap home unattended. The shackles were off and Nasri's game began to blossom in a way that we have not seen often enough since he came to the Etihad. Today he was finding space down the right and with Yaya in his advanced position from the off, the interplay with Nasri was tearing the Mags to shreds. In the following minutes it could easily have been three or four for City as Tevez, Aguero and Nasri all refused chances. If Newcastle were using a zone defence I don't know what zone they were in!
The black and white's with their speed and presence up front always looked dangerous, but whereas City passing bore the precision of a heart surgeon's knife, Tiote and co were often wide of the mark leaving their forwards chasing shadows. Then another delightful move down the right opened up Tevez again, his goalbound shot catching the slight stud of Krul for a corner. Garcia had been playing in Barry's role, an unsung, unheard worker, but he was in the right position to head the corner goalward with Santon fluffing his clearance helping the ball into the net for 2-0.
Until Nasri was forced off with what looked like a groin injury, the ground attack had recruited a fifth member with the ubiquitous Zabaleta popping up to join in with the slick passing routines, especially those down the right with Nasri. Magnificent passing from City left Williamson no option but to chop down Tevez and Simpson looking more like Homer Simpson as City simply ran rings around them. Both of them meted out their own versions of justice and received their admonishment from Andre Marriner who also inexplicably cautioned Aguero in what looked like a case of mistaken identity as Tevez looked like the mistimed tackler. Maybe Tevez was still suffering from the elbow in the face donated by Coloccini which was somehow missed by the referee who for some reason gave Newcastle a free kick.
City got themselves to half time 2-0 up in a match that could have been 5-3 or any score in between. The clean sheet was thanks to at least three excellent saves by Hart and fairly robust defending by Kolo and Nasty.
Five minutes into the second half, though, City let Newcastle back into the match. Silva headed a corner clear but only to a Newcastle player, as City pushed out Aguero wasn`t quick enough and the incoming second ball found Ba beating the offside trap, heading over the stranded Hart. The Gallowgate jumped for joy.
City tried to get back on the front foot and could have responded immediately but just as soon Newcastle got Cisse clear and he could have equalised. End to end stuff, game on.
Yaya was flattened and City got the advantage of being able to attack with only ten men. In the next Newcastle move Kolo seeking retribution got himself carded on the "persistent misconduct" rule as it was about the fourth time he had conceded a free kick on half way.
City were getting back in to their stride and a corner from Silva was headed over by Garcia who clearly thought he should have scored.
Newcastle continued to look for set piece opportunities as their players hit the grass at any and every opportunity. There was a clear sense in their camp that this would be a good conduit as it had already proved. Their other tactic was still to clip City's heels whenever they could revealing the other, darker side of their character.
Kolarov who had come on to replace Nasri had to be replaced himself with a recurrence of an injury and Edin Dzeko was sent on essentially to get City a third goal, but also to help out the defence on the set pieces.
The big Geordie likely lads were causing problems as they launched bombs into the City box trying to prise an opening for Ba or Cisse and City were not winning any headers. Indeed they were giving away too many free kicks and providing unwanted chances to Newcastle.
But as Mancini was pushing the panic button with Lescott warming up a delightful piece of work from Silva found the overlapping Zabaleta whose pass into the danger area found Yaya who in turn passed it between several sets of black and white legs to make it 3-1 for City and ease the pressure.
Lescott did get on to provide City with more steel and height at the back as the Blues sought to shut up shop with a two-goal cushion. But Newcastle were not in the mood to throw in the towel and Ba hit a thunderous shot over the bar.
City now played with a back five or a back three with the wide players pushing up, whichever definition you want of this tactic, but it was designed to close down Newcastle's supply lines and to push Ba, who was terrific in the second half further away from goal. That said Ameobi got above the City defence and headed straight at Hart.
Immediately City went up the other end and Aguero could have ended the match bending the ball inches around the post. Newcastle then attacked the City end and City attacked the Newcastle end with Aguero once again coming up empty. The game clock was now in slow motion as City wanted this awkward match over and Newcastle wanted more time.
But finally the Blues managed to see the game out without a major fright. Hart was in mountainous form today. He had little chance for the goal but was tremendous in everything else he did. The backline was robust enough. Nastasic continues to grow where Savic couldn't and despite his fouls on the half way line Kolo did a good enough job. Clichy was as consistent down the left as is Zabaleta on the right.
With Garcia on guard and looking more like a footballer today, Yaya went loose earlier than usual and his no nonsense midfield play linking with Silva and Nasri looked superb. The system broke down for a while as City tried to settle into a new shape when Nasri left, but Silva continued to delight us with his array of passing that is second to none in the Premier League.
Tevez and Aguero were a handful all afternoon and should have had a hat trick each, but they had to settle for a tap-in between them. There was no place anywhere for the clown prince of Italy, who we are told was fit but needs to review his efforts in training. Balotelli has been a poor trainer since he arrived at City and maybe he is in line for the exit chute. If so, what a waste of true talent. This man is capable of being a footballing genius, but I doubt that it will manifest itself in a sky blue shirt.
At times here City showed their genius of last season, leaving Newcastle using Wimbledon tactics when they had the ball and Everton tactics when they didn't. I don't think there was lasting damage to our footballers today, although Nasri's injury will probably keep him locked down for a while.
For their part, Newcastle made a game of this and the end score could have been as ridiculous as was Reading v Arsenal's 7-5 offering. It was a tough and rough work out for the Blues with Pardew setting up his team like a poor man's Everton, although Ba had a brilliant second half and probably deserved more than he got.
Another win at Newcastle for the Blues and another timely goal from Yaya. I have no fear that the Blues are warming up for the second half of the season. I am happier now with Garcia. His football today was similar to Barry's break and build brand of central midfield play and although we could lose Yaya for up to two months, I am more confident that City can deal with that this season provided that we don't get any outrageous team selections from the Manager. Would you believe that a free daily newspaper in Lille this week contained a story that Mancini had the dreaded "three matches"?
all times East Manchester
Sa 22Dec 15h00 Reading, The Etihad, PL
We 26Dec 15h00 Sunderland, Stadium of Light, PL
Sa 29Dec 15h00 Norwich, Carrow Road, PL
Tu 01Jan 15h00 Stoke, The Etihad, PL
Sa 05 Jan 15h00 Watford, The Etihad, FAC
Su 13Jan 16h00 Arsenal, The Emirates, PL
Sa 19Jan 15h00 Fulham, The Etihad, PL
Tu 29Jan 19h45 QPR, Loftus Road, PL