MAN CITY 1, NEWCASTLE UTD 0
Manchester City continued where they left off following their historic treble-winning campaign creating yet another club record in their opening home Premier League game of the season against Newcastle United.
This was a 17th straight home win in all competitions as City remain imperious at the Etihad where they last season win 28 out of 30 games.
And when Erling Haaland fails to deliver, how sweet it was for City to have World Cup winner Julian Alvarez to take up the slack.
While Haaland was enduring a frustrating night, Alvarez came up with a spectacular winning goal as they made it two wins from two at the start of their title defence.
This was a 13th goal in only 13 starts for City at the Etihad for Alvarez, a statistic up alongside Haaland’s extraordinary goalscoring exploits.
With playmakers Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva absent, Phil Foden enhanced his reputation by filling the void with a man-of-the-match display.
The Stockport Iniesta created eight chances – a record for him in one game – and his was a human dynamo.
City manager Pep Guardiola was delighted by his side’s performance describing it as “extraordinary”.
He said: “The mindset of the players amazes me all the time after the condition we arrived with a lot of injuries and no rest.
“We did really well, and the commitment was absolutely incredibly. We played good and deserved to win.
“We have a winners’ mentality and for many years, not just last year. We have don it time and time again.
“We had five or six important players out and I said this is the challenge. That in why days as manager are more pleasing than others.”
Guardiola also praised Foden’s performance, saying: “Phil is a reality as a player. He can play many positions. He is a real threat. I am really pleased.
“The way he behaves with everyone. The mentality is always there. That is the most important thing.”
Newcastle pushed City all the way as their display underlined the huge strides made under Eddie Howe who took over a side battling relegation in November 2021.Embed from Getty Images
But after guiding the Magpies to a top-four finish, they are clearly a side which has considerably closed the gap between the two teams.
Howe said: “I am disappointed with the result, but the performance was okay.
“In the first half we were a yard off where we wanted to be, but we disrupted their rhythm in the second.
“I was frustrated we didn’t create more. The last pass was missing. We had a couple of shots from range but nothing glaring and that’s the frustration.
“We were up against what I regard as the best team in world football which was the challenge.
“Our job is to close the gap. We have made strides, but there is still work to do.”
City, also without John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, made two changes from the side that beat Sevilla on penalties to win the UEFA Super Cup in Athens on Wednesday.
Ruben Dias replaced Nathan Ake in the centre of defence while Julian Alvarez was preferred to Cole Palmer in attack.
Injuries and illness meant City had a youthful-looking bench, and five of their eight replacement outfield players are academy graduates aged 21 or under.
Newcastle named the same starting line-up that thumped Aston Villa 5-1 on the opening weekend.
That meant summer signings Harvey Barnes and Valentino Livramento had to wait for their first start for the Magpies – they were both on the bench again with striker Callum Wilson also among their substitutes.
City were finally rewarded for their near 70 per cent possession in the opening half hour with an excellently worked goal.
Mateo Kovacic and Foden linked to set up Alvaraz whose shot from just inside the box arrowed into the top corner, a brilliant finish from the World Cup winner.
City came close to doubling the lead shortly before half time when Alvarez and Foden linked to set up Haaland who rolled his shot inches wide.
Foden set up Haaland again with a slide-rule pass only for the Norwegian to again see his shot slide the wrong side of the upright.
Haaland continued to pull the trigger only this time to see Nick Pope make a save with his legs.
Newcastle didn’t test Ederson until 20 minutes from time as a drive from substitute Harvey Barnes finally called the Brazilian into action.
City had an 89th minute chance to put the game to bed when Haaland returned to compliment for Foden whose shot was kept out by the legs of Pope.
In the fine added minutes, City were happy to take the ball into the corner and play keep ball, a measure of the threat that Newcastle posed as they showed why they are likely to be a force again this season.