Sunday, 26 December 2010

Newcastle 1 - 3 City

  • If you are looking around for something to characterise the Mancini era as it enters its second year, then settle on this: so far this season we have won six and scored 19 in 10 away games, while only winning four and scoring 9 from 9 games at home. It is not quite a reversal of our record under Mark Hughes, but we do now have the best away record in the Premier League, which is not something that we're used to. Today was possibly the hardest-fought, the least easy of our six road wins to date. It was nothing like the strolls against Fulham and West Ham; Newcastle completed more passes than we did, which is rare. There was none of the possession for football for fun in midfield. But this is what away wins are like most of the time! It's not meant to be easy as we made it look at Fulham and West Ham. But we stood firm, took advantage of some good fortune and came away with the three points.
  • In terms of the narrative of the 90 minutes, it had echoes of the defeat to Everton on Monday. We stormed two goals ahead at the very start - first from a mistake, then from a quick sharp piercing exchange. Having gone two ahead we had every right - as Everton did on Monday - to defend deep, to eat time, to warn of counter-attacks. The midfield three did not manage what they have done in similar situations this season, and metronomically pass the ball to one another. Newcastle were too fierce and insistent for that. There were spaces, though, for us to counter-attack into. The inclination of David Silva, Carlos Tévez and Yaya Touré is to drive through the centre; hence our repeated failures to out-manouevre the parked bus at home. Here we did make openings to score a third, although it took a while for us to take one.
  • But, for the most part, Newcastle were on top. Defending deep isn't quite as smart against an aerial threat, and Andy Carroll was as towering as ever. Vincent Kompany, of course, was Vincent Kompany and we repelled Newcastle's assaults until, with eighteen minutes left, Carroll headed in a corner. This only emboldened the beseigers and we were very fortunate when Kevin Nolan missed from two yards out at 2-1.
  • In the very next minute we won the game. The whole match, really, was a lesson and an embarrassment to those of us who suggested that we might not miss Carlos Tévez. This was a judgement based on disappointment at his transfer request and his absence from one of the easiest away wins (at West Ham) in living memory. Today he reminded us of himself. He set up the first goal, for Gareth Barry, made and scored the second and then, via a deflection, signed off the game with his third. What a powerful, imposing striker he is. I don't know what would have happened today with Jô up front instead but I imagine that this was one of the many games under Mancini where Tévez was the alchemist, converting an average performance into a victory. There is nothing Kia Joorabchian can do to debase moments like this.
  • Not our best performance this season, and probably the second time we've been lucky to get past Newcastle this season. But their record at home is good; they've beaten Liverpool and drawn with Chelsea there recently. So it's an excellent result, especially given that Spurs have since won at Villa Park. And with Villa playing as poorly as they did, and a fresher team that we will put out on the 28th, we could well get a result from that game too.

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