Date:Sunday January 12 2014
As usual, St James Park was packed to the rafters for the visit of Manchester City. This fixture generally has an air of romance about it, as there is a history of one or the other winning something although I think the Blues have generally come out in front and were to do so again.
Manuel Pellegrini paid the Magpies the appreciation of fielding probably his best available eleven as Newcastle not only set about City but also set about trying to improve on their recent run of poor results. Effectively lining up with an extra man in midfield, they quickly found out just how hard you have to work to keep up with the Blues and when football wasn't enough, they were not shy to exert themselves in the darker arts of football.
The match got under way with an end to end exchange, with City getting, marginally, the better of the midfield exchanges despite the extra man in black and white stripes. Pardew quickly reshaped his team and moved Gouffran over to the right thinking he would fare better against Kolarov than Zabaleta on the other flank. His first contribution on the right was to not read Kolarov's run into space diligently created by Silva whose inch perfect pass was clipped into the box for Dzeko to open the scoring in identical fashion to his first goal against West Ham in midweek. Only seven minutes played and with City leading 1-0 the expectations were that the Blues could now put the hammer down as the Mags chased an equaliser.
The real outcome was that the Blues were unable to overcome the five man midfield and didn't help themselves with a lot of poor passing, regularly finding the opposition. This in turn kept the pressure on the back line and some untidy clearing, simply meant the ball kept coming back.
But Newcastle's best attacking weapon seemed to be long free kicks to the far post taken by the impressive goal tender Krul and aimed at either Williamson or Taylor to head into the danger area. However, Remy seemed never to be on the end of anything and often his inbound header was cleared by Hart, Kompany or Demichelis.
After the goal City created other chances, but couldn't add to their lead and were so very nearly made to pay when a corner for Newcastle wasn't properly dealt with and Tiote struck a superb shot that went straight into City's net giving Hart no chance. However, the referee's assistant had seen three Magpies all offside and although he didn't flag, he called the referee for a conference and the upshot was that Gouffran was considered to be interfering with play.
This caused consternation on the benches and Pardew went up like a dodgy roman candle and for a while thereafter, Newcastle let City know they were in town with a series of fouls clearly designed to damage their opponents. There was a flurry of robustness from both teams and Mike Jones seemed to spend forever going into his pockets. Fernandinho and Zaba seemed to get booked for their first misdemeanour whereas having been deprived of a goal Tiote could go around assassinating whoever he wanted before Mr Jones finally gave in to the need to caution him also.
During the last ten minutes of the first half Newcastle got a reasonable foothold in the game and City were relieved to get to half time one goal to the good.
After half time, things were pretty much the same. City couldn't get much momentum going due to close attention of their Newcastle counterparts in addition to some woeful passing, the usually majestic Silva being amongst the worst perpetrators.
Kompany was simply a rock at the back and Hart showed the world that he has learned and has now stepped up and made three or four excellent saves to deny the improving Remy, Taylor and later on the impressive Ben Arfa. I for one was glad to see Hatem used primarily as a bench warmer as he looked dangerous when finally summoned to the action.
To combat the lack of success through midfield, Demichelis often elected to play a long ball and although Dzeko and Negredo were willing chasers, nothing of any substance emerged from this tactic. There was a lack of tempo to the game. The Mags were looking for set piece situations and the Blues just couldn't get going and were having to dig in to protect their lead. Pellegrini then made one of his magical mystery replacements bringing on the needed Navas but surrendering goalscorer Dzeko who for me had done more than the Beast who was once again an away day absence.
Yaya, who didn't really look fit, was hooked in a clash and had to retire for the afternoon, opening the door to the Lollipop Man, Garcia. The lack of true pace in this game made it a suitable venture for him.
The Blues had to constantly defend set piece situations, be it a free kick taken by Krul in his own half, or corners, or other free kicks closer to goal. The backs to the wall defending today was excellent especially as Pardew had probably thought this a suitable target as had been proved by other less capable opponents earlier in the season.
The Engineer however looks to have solved this problem on the basis that if the opposition don't score, they can't beat you and today Kompany and company were in no mood to be breached.
For their part Newcastle were getting nowhere. Clearly still frustrated by the disallowed goal, they set about City, snapping at ankles, their so-called tackling getting leaner and leaner until a quite despicable effort by Yanga-Mbiwa literally "did" Nasri, resulting in him being carried off by stretcher and looking at the kind of lay off that will probably put him out not only of many matches during the spring, but also France's World Cup campaign. He went through Nasri from a position where playing the ball was impossible, kicking him quite deliberately with one foot and then the other. It was a premeditated piece of grievous bodily harm for which he was shown a yellow card when he should be looking at a prison sentence. This despicable creature knew what he was doing, knew what the outcome would be and was somehow allowed to continue to play in this game by a referee still showing sympathy for not allowing the disallowed goal.
How we longed for City to get a second goal simply to shut up the moaners. With seven added minutes it looked for all the world that the Mags would equalise, but just as quickly, City broke out from under the cosh, slipping the ball to the effervescent Milner who spotted Negredo out of the traps and delivered a superb pass that was right on the button. Negredo onside and clear drew Krul who made an excellent save but couldn't prevent the ball returning to the Beast who was by now clear of everyone and only had to tap the ball home to finally collect the three points for City.
Pardew is an appallingly bad loser. Griping at the ref and at one point picking a fight with Pellegrini. You cannot envisage the City Manager engaging in anything that would be likely to give rise to the disgraceful expletive laden tirade delivered by Pardew. He might have had a case with the disallowed goal and no doubt the Mark Halseys of this world will put in their two penneth but the bottom line is that with three men offside, which is in my opinion a form of cheating, it was always likely that a decision would go against his team. When you revisit it, the shot clipped Tiote and was heading towards Gouffran who stepped out of the way to allow the ball to go in. Therefore the fact that he stepped out of the way meant that he interefered. If he hadn't moved, the ball probably would have hit him and the shot rebounded into the Gallowgate.
There was no reason to detail his team to set about City in a way that has left Nasri in the condition he now finds himself, and because he got a yellow card the Premier League cannot take another look at it and deem it a straight red. Where's the justice there then Mr Pardew?
The Blues will have sterner tests than this away from home during the rest of the season, but at least Pellegrini seems to have engineered a way of getting three points away against all odds and the Blues should simply get on the A1 and take their three points home with them.
Because the performance looked a little disjointed, it is difficult to select a man of the match for City, but because he has been under the cosh for a while I'm going with Joe Hart. Kompany was superb marshalling his troops and Kolarov has ceased being the joke that I had him down for earlier this season and looks to be contributing and joining in with the competition for places.
I think City should simply aim to get the jobs done in the two cups and get their bigger players fit for the big Premier League matches to come.
On another note, we used to call him ET and now its TG (Tactical Genius), but I don't recall David Moyes slating the ref, or even thanking him for allowing the Stretfords first goal yesterday. The officials had two goes at giving this offside. Not only was Valencia clearly offside when the ball was played in to him, but in finally scoring it he came back from an offside position. This poor man's Ferguson trainee is pathetic, although it might be said that his outburst on TV last week might have got him fined, but it also worked. Isn't it a bummer, Mr Moyes when you win and then everyone else wins around you and you make no progress? Another match gone.
UPCOMING DATES FOR YOUR FILOFAX:
all times East Manchester GMT
We 15Jan 19h45 Blackburn, The Etihad, FAC3R
Sa 18Jan 15h00 Cardiff City, The Etihad, PL
Tu 21Jan 19h45 West Ham United, Upton Park, LCSF2
Sa/Su 25/26 Jan TBC Watford or Bristol City, The Etihad, FAC4
We 29Jan 19h45 Tottenham Hotspur, White Hart Lane, PL
Mo 03Feb 2014 20h00 Chelsea, The Etihad, PL
Sa 08Feb 15h00 Norwich City, Carrow Road, PL
We 12Feb 19h45 Sunderland, The Etihad, PL
Tu 18Feb 19h45 FC Barcelona, CL
Sa 22Feb 15h00 Stoke City, The Etihad PL
Sa 01Mar 15h00 The Stretfords, the swamp, PL
Date:Sunday January 12 2014
Toure & Toronto (Wednesday May 27 2015)
Audio - Pellegrini On Toure (Wednesday May 27 2015)
Infographic - Aguero In Alternate XI (Wednesday May 27 2015)
Manchester City Know 2015-16 Opponents (Tuesday May 26 2015)
Jake's Southampton Report (Tuesday May 26 2015)
Aguero's Surprise Inclusion (Tuesday May 26 2015)
Toure Will See Out His Contract (Monday May 25 2015)
Lampard Talks City Time (Monday May 25 2015)
Pellegrini Pleased With Final Day Win (Monday May 25 2015)
Aguero & Hart Award Winners (Monday May 25 2015)
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