The Ped Report ..... Newcastle United 0-2 City
The blustery North West wind added a touch of early Autumn to proceedings in the North East today.
With the second best team in the North West already home and dry having gained maximum points against their South Coast Elite Development Squad and now lying in wait for the Champions next Monday, it was the turn of City to get their campaign off to a suitable start at a stadium, St James Park, that has been more than generous to them in recent seasons and yielded a barrow load of points.
Despite Pellegrini bemoaning the fact that he didn't have a team for this match, it was no surprise to see Hart restored to tending the pipes, Kompany and Demichelis stationed in front of him and Clichy and Kolarov flanking the defence.
Ahead, new-signing Fernando heard the drums ahead of Fernandinho, how confusing is that, to partner Yaya with Nasri and Silva in the production department. Dzeko and Jovetic provided the attacking spearhead and with City on the front foot from the start, Dzeko could have troubled the scorers as early as the fifth minute when the fortunate Krul waved his hand at the Bosnian's goalbound shot and was lucky to knock the ball to safety.
Nasri was next to show on ten minutes but his well struck shot was straight at Krul and maybe the big Dutchman was going to be holding City at bay again, at least for a while.
Newcastle paraded a host of new signings today especially in the shape of Riviere, Colback and Cabella. Sissoko was also along. But the difference in this league is that your players may be of a certain quality, but they need to be of a certain class and that is what, once again, we started to see in the sky blue jerseys borne by Manchester's only and best Club.
That said after 22 minutes Riviere could have got the scoreboard moving, but selected to drag his shot wide of Hart's goal. There followed a period of end-to-end unproductive football as the Mags started to get into the game.
Gouffran sat tight on Silva in an attempt to cut the seemingly endless supply of neat through balls to feed the hungry looking Dzeko and the lively Jovetic. City were pressing Newcastle back for a while, but the killer touch was either missing or never quite happened, despite Newcastle at time defending their box solidly, looking only to counter attack on the break. When they did get into scoring positions which they did on several occasions, Riviere and Cabella got a bit over-excited, forcing shots at the wrong times and always off target.
For their part, Sissoko and Colback, the latter signed from of all places, Sunderland, added steel to the midfield, but were in for a difficult ride against the elegant if slow Yaya and the newly robust Fernando.
Silva was starting to pull the strings but deservedly found himself on a yellow card for clipping Anita's heels. Also due to his forward probing, with Kolarov on the overlap, City were surrendering the ball wide and deep down their left, but the Magpies failed to capitalise.
Then after 38 minutes the said quality came to the fore when a long pass from the majestic Yaya found Dzeko who neatly back-heeled it into the path of Silva who coolly slid it past Krul to open the seasonal scoring for the Blues. Dzeko was really up for it today and together with Jovetic was looking lively in the opening stanza.
With Fernandinho warming the post-World Cup bench, Fernando was laying down his marker, performing in Nigel de Jong mode as the break-and-build specialist, cutting out a lot of Newcastle's best work and setting Yaya's wheels in motion. For his part Yaya was incisive without being obtrusive.
Ahead of the break Nasri should have had the conviction to shoot rather than try to pass to Jovetic but the chance went leaving City handily-placed and 1-0 to the good.
Regular readers of the Ped Report will know that I often refer to the first ten minutes of the second half as "City time" on account of the number of times the Blues manage to score goals in this period. Today City time belonged to Newcastle who had enough chances to make it an uncomfortable afternoon for Kompany and Demichelis.
That said, Hart had clearly heeded the gauntlet laid down by Willy Caballero and following Newcastle's first corner produced a triumvirate of good stops as the defence looked on like statues.
This seemed to spark City into life but they were the victims of their own problems as time and again Jovetic and even Silva were profligate with their passing and guilty of assisting the Mags to launch energetic counter-attacks. Energetic they might have been but time and again they lacked that touch of class. They had been given licence to get back in the game during the second half and fair play to them, they did everything but disturb Joe Hart's netting, with the Leazes End getting more business than Joe's gloves.
With an hour gone both managers were starting to warm up replacements and it was no surprise that amongst these was Sergio Aguero.
Chances were still happening at both ends with both teams still coming up empty. Dzeko, having one of his best ever matches for City was unlucky not to score and deserved to score, often let down by the last pass.
Jovetic was the first to be replaced by Fernandinho, giving Yaya the nod to get forward. During this period his trade mark free kick from the inside left slot landed on the roof of the net rather than in the back of it. Gouffran was also replaced which at last gave Silva a bit more space.
City looked a bit too content to sit and preserve the 1-0 scoreline. In the past this just wouldn't have happened but with the resources at Pellegrini's disposal these days there is a huge difference in the confidence stakes.
Perez Aarons came for Riviere and in his first movement should have equalised dwelling on the ball just long enough to enable Kompany to put him off. Colback narrowly missed with a free kick. He has for many seasons been a thorn in City's side especially in the long run of poor results at the Stadium of Light at the coastal end of the River Wear.
With ten minutes left Dzeko was finally replaced by Aguero, with City now effectively switched to 4-4-1-1, which gave them added strength with the inclusion of Milner designed to close the door down the Newcastle left, whilst giving City the double-barrel of an attack minded midfielder with the proven ability to sit in front of his full back, in this case Clichy and deny the Mags a favoured route to goal.
And of course with Newcastle trying hard to find the leveller in added time, especially through Sissoko, it just had to be Aguero who put the final nail in the Magpies coffin. Again the devastating pass was from Yaya, finding Aguero in the inside left channel. He spun Coloccini and in true style hammered the ball forcing Krul into a good save but his spillage rebounded straight back to the Argentino who promptly despatched it across the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. Welcome back, Sergio!
This was harsh on Newcastle who up until that goal probably deserved a share of the spoils, but 0-2 is the regular score here when they play City, and the Magpies heads were suddenly tucked under their wings as the end of the match approached.
So City had signed in with an away victory. It was a reasonably good performance. They looked a little bit "harem scarem" at the back at times, but this is the Pellegrini style. Midfield looked to be getting into its stride and with Dzeko in this mood, he will be amongst the goals soon. Aguero's cameo produced what it was designed to do and with Suarez now set to ply his trade in La Liga, he is probably the best striker in the Premier League. If he keeps himself fit he will be well amongst the goals again.
At times City looked a bit leggy with Kompany and Demichelis looking tired towards the end, but they stood firm enough to guide City to a clean sheet and three points.
The football world gets its first taste of a big Premier League fixture a week tomorrow when Liverpool visit the "in-the-course-of-being-extended" Etihad Stadium. A full house is promised and a great match is in prospect. Hopefully all the players on both sides will be starting to approach full fitness and will produce the kind of footballing spectacles they did at both venues last season. Is it really a six-pointer so early in the season?