Newcastle United vs. Manchester City: 6 Things We Learned
Don't you believe it.
This match had everything fans love and hate about the Premier League. There were controversial decisions, crunching tackles flying around the pitch and just enough scoring to satisfy the portion of the audience who want goals.
Pundits got paid to watch and write about this match. This is one of those times, though, when even professional writers would probably comment without pay if it came to that. The story of this match is just that good.
Here are six takeaways from Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester City.
Edin Dzeko Is Four Seasons in One Day
That was Edin Dzeko scoring a vital, class goal for Manchester City in the eighth minute at St James' Park.
Dzeko's sliding strike from a sumptuous Aleksandar Kolarov cross put the Citizens in early control of the match. It is the sort of goal that City need more of from Dzeko—a statement goal from an in-form striker.
That is the good Dzeko. Unfortunately, the bad Dzeko is never far away.
As Newcastle United upped the pace and the pressure on City through the last 20 minutes of the first half, Dzeko became less useful to City with every passing moment. Dzeko is no one's idea of a two-way player. If Dzeko is not getting service, he creates a virtual power play for the opposition with his invisibility.
Even when he does track back and try to help out on defense, Dzeko ends up doing things like needlessly heading a ball out for a Newcastle corner as he did in the 32nd minute. On that occasion, City had a 2-on-1 man advantage near their end line; Dzeko should have simply left the ball alone.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini therefore had little choice but to take Dzeko off in the 52nd minute for the pacier Jesus Navas.
Such are the yin and yang of Dzeko for City.
Quality Sides Like Newcastle United Are Not Going to Fold After an Early Setback
Manchester City have won quite a few matches this season by posting a very early goal and then capitalizing on their opponent's wobbly form in the following minutes.
That happened to Newcastle United in the season opener at the Etihad. But the Magpies were not going out like that in this match.
City took the early lead through Dzeko's goal, but from that moment on, the first half of the match truly belonged to the Toon.
Newcastle kept coming forward even after City nosed ahead. Quickly, Newcastle's attacking demeanor stifled all of City's preferred creative midfield play and really squashed the usual overlapping runs of Pablo Zabaleta and Kolarov.
The way Newcastle responded to early adversity is a signal to City that simply scoring first is never going to be enough against a quality side on their pitch.
Mike Jones Giveth
Newcastle United were flat robbed of an equalizing goal by Cheik Tiote in the 34th minute.
Tiote's strike was about as perfect as could be from well outside the City area. City keeper Joe Hart barely flinched in the shot's direction as it hissed into the netting behind him.
As the Magpies were celebrating, though, referee Mike Jones was chatting with his assistant Stephen Child. Jones and Child were deciding whether the three offside Newcastle players between Tiote and Hart played any role in the goal. Specifically, Yoan Gouffron's position within arm's reach of Hart was an issue.
At full speed, Jones and Child agreed that the offside Magpies did impede Hart, and Tiote's goal came off the board. With the benefit of replay, though, it was quite clear that Gouffron did not block Hart's sight line and that Tiote's goal should have stood.
Jones let City off there. Soon enough, though, Jones would do plenty to even the scales.
Mike Jones Taketh Away
From the moment that referee Mike Jones wiped Cheik Tiote's strike off the board, Newcastle United played with purpose, resolve...and venom.
And Jones gave the Magpies free rein.
Yohan Cabaye received a yellow card in the 38th minute. He then played the remainder of the match as recklessly and violently as he had before the discipline. Several times in the second half, Cabaye delivered scything leg sweeps and full body checks that should have brought another yellow and a dismissal.
Compared to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa's vicious tackle on Samir Nasri, though, Cabaye played like a demure schoolgirl.
Yanga-Mbiwa grabbed Nasri as he was pulling away from Yanga-Mbiwa. When the City Frenchman continued forward undeterred by the two-hand grab, Yanga-Mbiwa ruthlessly slashed Nasri's left leg. Soon thereafter, Nasri was writhing in pain and clutching his left knee.
Nasri was stretchered off the pitch. As of this writing the extent of his injury is unknown, but it did not look good.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini is legitimately concerned about Nasri's status, per Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail: "Nasri has a serious injury with his knee – it was directly a red card. Maybe it’s medial ligaments. We’ll see tomorrow (Monday) what happens with him."
City also saw Yaya Toure limp off the pitch in the 61st minute after being on the receiving end of borderline physical play from the Magpies.
On balance, City probably would have preferred to just concede the Tiote goal and get a fair whistle thereafter. It was a horror day for Jones, and as a result it was a pretty bad one for Nasri, too.
Joe Hart Did the Business for City
Playing keeper for Manchester City can be a fairly boring job.
Costel Pantilimon gladly took the spoils of those results. But City are playing the meaty part of their schedule now, and relying on the reserve keeper to sleepwalk through easy matches is no longer possible.
Thankfully for City, Joe Hart is back on his game just in time.
City lost the possession battle and gave up several juicy chances to Newcastle on a hostile pitch. Hart was excused by referee Mike Jones on Cheik Tiote's wonder-strike, but for the remainder of the match, Hart was special.
Specifically, Hart's kick save of Loic Remy's low, hot strike in the 69th minute kept St James' Park from erupting in lustful joy and putting City on the back foot for the rest of the match.
But Hart has always been a great shot-stopper. Where the improvement in his play was really evident was in his direction of traffic in front of him and the decisive, effective way he punched, kicked and headed the ball away from danger whenever he was needed.
If City are to seriously contend for any of the four trophies they still have a chance to win, Hart will need to keep up this rich vein of form.
Newcastle United Provided a Blueprint for Slowing Down (Stopping?) Man City
Manchester City supporters are accustomed to watching the Sky Blues run their opposition off the pitch with their speed, passing and clinical finishing.
Newcastle United's dogged ball pursuit and limitless defensive energy put a stiff governor on City's offensive engine.
City's first goal came from an Aleksandar Kolarov cross that a sliding Edin Dzeko redirected into Tim Krul's goal. The play required otherworldly speed and timing from the Citizens.
After that goal, though, Newcastle clamped down even harder defensively, rarely allowing any City player more than a fraction of a second on the ball before pressure came. As a result, City's game plan of carving up the opposing defense with deft passes and short bursts to goal was entirely muted.
Instead, City were often reduced to speculative whacks at the ball in tight spaces and one-time volleys that were extremely difficult to hit squarely or in a specific direction.
Admittedly, half the sides in the Premier League have neither the speed nor the resolve to put forth the defensive effort Newcastle gave for 100 minutes against City.
But Newcastle's style of play in this match is clearly the way to make City's high-octane offense look ordinary.