Newcastle United vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
Embattled keeper Joe Hart was given the day off against Newcastle United in their fourth-round Capital One Cup tie. For that matter, so were most of City's biggest stars.
City's junior varsity are nowhere near as thrilling a watch as the starters are, but then these matches have to be played, I guess.
Certainly Edin Dzeko was happy they played it.
What follows are lessons learned from Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester City.
Manuel Pellegrini Was Taking No Chances with This XI
City manager Manuel Pellegrini is rightly concerned about his side's health and so it makes sense not to expose many of his most valuable players in a Capital One Cup tie on the road.
But this was a little bit ridiculous.
From the @br_football Twitter feed, here was the City XI: "Man City: Pantilimon, Richards, Boyata, Lescott, Kolarov, Rodwell, Javi Garcia, Jesus Navas, Jovetic, Milner, Dzeko."
The following players did not even get stripped: Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic.
Pellegrini's intent was clear. It would be nice to win, but maybe it would be nicer to lose gracefully and avoid further inconvenience in the League Cup.
City's Disinterest Gave Newcastle United Plenty of Hope for 90 Minutes
Though Manchester City (as usual) had most of the possession in the first half, they did next to nothing with the ball when they had it.
Conversely, Newcastle United generated 10 shots in the first half, including one on target and one that breached Costel Pantilimon's goal only to be flagged down for offside, per Richard Beech's live blog for the Mirror:
And Ameobi turns this pressure into something by hitting the back of the net! But it's offside. The ball lands at Cisse's feet six yards out and he drags it across the face of the goal, Ameobi pounces on it and puts it over the line, but he was offside.
That was ultimately the best chance of the first half, 45 minutes of football that saw City earn zero corner kicks and muster only three shots (none on target).
Against a stronger side, City could have been down two or more goals after a desultory first-half performance.
Even through the second half and early in extra time, it was only Pantilimon's resolve that kept City from giving the match away.
Unfortunately for Newcastle, they let City hang around for too long and City's class paid expected dividends in extra time.
Pellegrini's Concerns About His Side's Health Were Borne out
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini's, er, conservative team selection was proven wise by a couple of unsavory developments in the first half.
Stevan Jovetic came off after 10 minutes with an injury, compelling Pellegrini to put Alvaro Negredo on in his place.
One could only imagine the horror City fans would have felt if it had been Sergio Aguero coming off with the knack or going on in the place of Jovetic.
Negredo was thus exposed to, among other things, a rash challenge from Cheik Tiote leading to a yellow card in stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Pellegrini needed to see Negredo run in that manner like he needs to answer more questions about Joe Hart's failing form.
Pellegrini Betrayed a Will to Win with His Substitutions
Not in 100 years would I have believed that David Silva would play in this relatively meaningless Capital One Cup match against Newcastle United.
But there was Silva in the 64th minute, replacing a fairly ordinary Jack Rodwell.
Coupled with the introduction of Alvaro Negredo for Stevan Jovetic in the early going, Pellegrini had put two of his most prized players into a relatively unimportant contest.
It meant that while "caution" was a watchword for Pellegrini, so was "winning."
Pellegrini's third change was Pablo Zabaleta for Micah Richards, but that was occasioned only due to a cramping episode from Richards.
The substitutions Pellegrini made told his players and the club's fans that there was no point in even making the trip to Newcastle if after an hour where neither team had scored and the match was there to be won, Pellegrini would not risk something to get the victory.
Edin Dzeko Is Still an Enigma at Manchester City, but He Delivered the Goods
Edin Dzeko often bemoans his fate at Manchester City as a striker with starter's skills who is nonetheless too often hammered to the City bench.
Given the start against Newcastle United in a Capital One Cup match, though, for about 100 minutes Dzeko did precious little with the opportunity.
Dzeko had mustered all of two shots before making his mark on the match. But then did he ever.
Early in extra time, Dzeko took control of a pass that did not even seem intended for him, turned into the left side of the Newcastle penalty area and put Alvaro Negredo's marker on a tee for him.
For good measure, moments later it was Dzeko—sent in by James Milner—who rounded Newcastle keeper Tim Krul before calmly depositing City's second tally into the middle of the Newcastle goal.
And that is Dzeko for you, isn't it? He can go 100 minutes and look like he is doing a bad Andy Carroll impersonation.
Then in the next 10 minutes, he makes the other 21 men on the pitch look like schoolboys.
However you slice it, Dzeko was the clear-cut man of the match against Newcastle.
Extra Time Was Probably the Last Thing Manuel Pellegrini Needed to See
Manuel Pellegrini's tenure at Manchester City has been marred by enough dings and bumps thus far. Matija Nastasic has lost time to injury. So have David Silva and Vincent Kompany.
So you would have to think that Pellegrini would have preferred even a full-time result of Newcastle United 1-0 Manchester City to what he got, which was no winner in regulation time and compulsory extra time.
Ultimately, this match meant next to nothing to City, who have put themselves in an early hole in the Premier League and still possess significant dreams of Champions League glory.
The last thing Pellegrini needed was to risk injury to one of his key players (think David Silva or even Edin Dzeko) in a Capital One Cup tie.
All that said, if City had to play extra time, they might as well have gone and won the match.
Which, eventually, they did. Emphatically.