Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Friday February 3 2006
City of Manchester Stadium
Joey Barton started as villain of the piece but it was Graeme Souness who found himself jobless after this encounter.
Despite the inevitable hostility directed at him, Barton inspired City to a convincing 3-0 victory over a woeful Newcastle side. It was Barton's cross that led to City's first goal on 14 minutes, the ball evading Vassell in the middle before reaching Riera on the edge of the box who let fly with a first time finish; a classy way to open his City scoring account.
Once in front City dominated. Newcastle were all posession with no punch. Shearer was a shadow of the once great striker, denied quality service and lacking the instinct to create something out of nothing that once made him England's best.
The only surprise about City's second was that we had to wait until seven minutes before half time, Vassell chipping a neat ball onto Cole's head for the ex Newcastle man to place it into the corner beyond Given. Barton had been at the heart of all that was good in the first half and should concentrate on maintaining that level of performance, to do his speaking for him, rather than resorting to readinng the prepared statements that have made him look a pratt this week.
Souness introduced Solano and Luque after the break to no effect. City continued to dominate and took a deserved 3-0 lead just after the hour after Cole split the Newcastle defence with a delightful ball for Vassell to run onto. Vassell easily held off the challenge of the awful Boumsong before finishing smartly into the corner of the net.
With the game won Pearce brought on new signing, Giorgious Samaras for his debut. He looked a handful, was quick to get stuck in and offers City alternatives up front, a reasonable debut.
Pearce displayed his man-management skils once again with ten minutes to go, replacing Barton with Micah Richards. By allowing Barton to leave the field to rather more cheers than boos, Pearce played a masterstroke. It would have been unlikely he would have done the same if Barton had struggled but credit where it's due Barton stood up to be counted where it matters, on the pitch.
All in all a very good performance and a welcome three points. The Barton issue should hopefully die down and if he wishes to engineer a summer move he now must do it consistently on the pitch. Riera looked better and will have been pleased to score while Musampa looks more suited to central midfield than out on the left. Newcastle were poor once to often and Souness payed the price, falling on his sword the next morning.
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Date:Friday February 3 2006
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