Manchester City offered the perfect response to their derby defeat, but the alarm bells will soon be ringing for Newcastle United
Last Updated: December 16, 2012 8:26am
Manchester City responded to a first Premier League defeat of the season in the perfect fashion by producing one of their best performances of the campaign at Newcastle United.
The champions' first-half football was probably as good as anything that's been on show in the division in the opening few months and was rewarded with goals from Sergio Aguero and Javi Garcia.
Yaya Toure made certain of the points with a late third after Demba Ba had given Newcastle hope and Roberto Mancini was a satisfied manager after the game.
As for Newcastle, it was a sixth defeat in seven matches, but Alan Pardew was still able to see positives, particularly after a livelier second-half performance. The first half, though, was pedestrian and the Magpies are lacking the spark which was so evident in their play 12 months ago.
Newcastle made just the one change from the team which had lost 2-1 at Fulham on Monday night. Hatem Ben Arfa, who scored at Craven Cottage, was ruled out due to injury, so James Perch came into the team in midfield. Perch's elevation into the starting line-up ensured there was a spot on the bench for Sammy Ameobi, alongside his brother Shola.
City boss Roberto Mancini made three changes from the team which lost 3-2 to United, with captain Vincent Kompany out through injury and Kolo Toure getting the nod ahead of Joleon Lescott to start alongside Matija Nastasic. Gareth Barry served a one-match ban following an incident at the end of the United defeat, so Javi Garcia started in midfield. Carlos Tevez was restored to the starting line-up in place of Mario Balotelli, who was not even on the bench.
Newcastle went with the 4-3-3 formation which Pardew has favoured this season, which meant Ba played on the right of the attacking trio, with Papiss Cisse again leading the line. The midfield three of Cheick Tiote, Vurnon Anita and Perch gave Newcastle bite, but also a noticeable lack of creativity from open play.
City set out with attacking intent, with David Silva and Samir Nasri nominally playing in wide positions but given plenty of licence to roam across the pitch. The same could be said of the front two - Tevez and Aguero - as Garcia supplied a solid base and Yaya Toure the thrust from midfield.
Pardew waited until the 74th minute to make his first change as Sylvain Marveaux replaced Tiote, who didn't appear too happy with the decision. Shola Ameobi then came on for Cisse before Shane Ferguson was a late replacement for Simpson. None of the substitutes had any real involvement.
City were pressed into a change after 37 minutes when Nasri, who was enjoying a much-improved display, picked up a knock and was replaced by Aleksandar Kolarov. The City substitute was then replaced on 72 minutes by Edin Dzeko after suffering a thigh problem before Lescott came on for Tevez after Yaya Toure had scored the third goal on 78 minutes.
Andre Marriner had a steady game at St James' Park and certainly didn't have any decisions to make which could have unduly influenced the contest. Newcastle were unhappy Kolo Toure wasn't booked early on, particularly when Danny Simpson was later cautioned. Marriner did book Aguero for kicking the ball away in the first half when Tevez could have been yellow carded for a foul, but overall a no-frills display from the official.
It was hard to pick out an individual who stood out for Newcastle, but Ba again proved his worth by scoring his 11th goal of the season. I suppose while Ba continues to score despite playing out wide, Pardew will resist the temptation to move him to the centre in place of the misfiring Cisse. From an attacking point of view in the first half, Newcastle's general hope appeared to come from Anita playing diagonal free-kicks to the edge of the area for Mike Williamson to knock down, although there was limited success from this route.
It was a day when City's attacking players all impressed as their passing and movement offered vindication of Mancini's assertion that his team are still better than Manchester United. Yaya Toure was the pick and there will probably be few more incisive passes played this season than the one which helped to create City's opening goal. Tevez's inclusion at Balotelli's expense injected greater energy and cohesion into the attack, while Nasri, whose future was the subject of speculation in the morning papers, enjoyed one of his more impressive performances for City before being forced off through injury.
With Newcastle on a run of six defeats in seven Premier League games, Magpies boss Pardew will be desperate to see an upturn in form before the end of the year. The visit of Queens Park Rangers next Saturday is a chance to inject confidence and could be considered must win given Newcastle's subsequent two games are away to Manchester United and Arsenal. With Everton at home to start 2013, the fixture list has not given Newcastle the opportunity of unwrapping many welcome Christmas presents.
After recovering from a first Premier League defeat of the season, City will look at their Christmas programme and be confident of claiming maximum points to keep the pressure on rivals United. Reading visit the Etihad Stadium next weekend before City return to the North East to tackle Sunderland on Boxing Day and then head to Norwich City to close out the year. With Stoke City at home on New Year's Day, it would be a surprise if the champions are not celebrating a return of 10 points out of 12 at the very least.
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