MAN CITY 3, NEWCASTLE UTD 1
Penalties from Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero, plus a goal by Micah Richards ended Newcastle United’s unbeaten record as Manchester City continued their own march towards the Barclays Premier League title.
With four changes from the side which beat Wolves before the international break, City manager Roberto Mancini was careful to rotate his globetrotting side while keeping an eye on next week’s crucial Champions League game at Napoli. With the game won at 3-0 with 19 minutes to go Mancini opted to play out the rest of the game with six midfielders and no strikers with the vital game in Italy looming.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew paid his respects to the City side saying: “They are the best side we have played by some distance today.
“We had two big chances at 0-0 but you need to take your chances and hopefully have some breaks go your way.
“I was frustrated at the end. I have no complaints about the penalties but I don’t think we got anything to go our way today. Once they went 2-0 up you could see they were confident.”
Mancini was pleased with the result but warned that an even better performance was required to beat Napoli on Tuesday.
“Today was a really difficult match. I told the guys before the match Newcastle is a strong team and playing very well. Coming after an international break it’s always difficult.”
“We scored three goals and had a lot of chances but I think we were also very lucky today. I hope we can continue like this but if we are to win in Naples we will need to play better than we did today.
“The players have improved a lot, as players and as a team, but the season is long and we will probably have a difficult moment so it’s important that we can score goals now.”
The likes of Aleksandar Kolarov, Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Gareth Barry were rested while Gael Clichy, Nigel de Jong, James Milner and Balotelli came into the side to face a Newcastle side that was also unbeaten this season and lay in third place going into the game at the Etihad Stadium.
Mancini reiterated his adherence to his rotation policy, citing the problems presented by the international break and the long distances travelled by some of City’s players.
“Some players travelled a long way like Sergio, Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva, and they didn’t come back until Thursday so I had to rest some of them.” explained Mancini.
With a return to Italy forthcoming for City’s in-form Italian striker, Mancini was quick to praise Mario Balotelli’s performance against Newcastle United today.
“Mario’s penalty was fabulous! He shoots very well,” smiled Mancini.
“Mario is a very important player – a great player like many others at City – and he is getting better so he deserves the plaudits he is getting. I can help him improve but the rest is down to him.”
It was no surprise that the league’s meanest defence held out almost until the end of the first half against the now almost customary slow City start.
With the lion’s share of the early possession chances came and went for City’s men. Aguero and Balotelli could have opened the scoring but the pick of chances on offer was a flicked header by Balotelli that was tipped over by Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal after 29 minutes.
Joe Hart in comparison had virtually nothing to do but was tested when he saved Demba Ba’s goalbound effort after he was put through by Hatem Ben Arfa after 34 minutes.
Despite the City pressure, the Magpies could have been described as comfortable even though City monopolised the possession but seemed to lack the killer instinct until a pair of Ryan Taylor errors gifted City the goals that put the visitors on the back foot going into the interval.
With 40 minutes on the clock and half time looming Taylor stuck out a hand to stop Yaya Toure’s goalbound effort. Calling the penalty was an easy decision for referee Chris Foy and Mario Balotelli once again casually paused during his run up and sent Krul the wrong way. So relaxed was the Italian striker that he had time to adopt an almost Cantona-esque folding of the arms in admiration of his own effort.
Just before the break Micah Richards, overlooked by England last week, was allowed to run onto the loose ball as Taylor made a hash of a clearance from Aguero’s pass and beat Krul for City’s second.
City invited Newcastle to attack in the second half expecting to hit them on the brea and could have wrapped things up early but for Steven Taylor who cleared off his own line after Aguero had cut the ball back for Balotelli.
It wasn’t a time for complacency though, as Hatem Ben Arfa hit the post on the hour mark after going past Vincent Kompany and de Jong.
It was a testament to the organised Magpies defence that City were caught offside many times towards the end of the match as Nasri, Clichy and Aguero pressed the visitors.
City finally made sure of the win with 19 minutes to go as Richards was brought down in the area by Ben Arfa and Aguero duly made it 3-0 with a confident penalty as Krul dived the other way.
Dan Gosling’s goal for Newcastle at the end was scant consolation after Ba chased down a deflection off Joleon Lescott and collided with Hart, allowing Gosling to reach the loose ball first and pull one back for the visitors.