May 6, 2012, 10:49 AM EDT
Man of the Match: Of course, it was Yaya Touré. While Vincent Kompany got the big goal on Monday against rival United, it’s usually the Citizens’ midfield general that comes up with the big goals. On Sunday, that goal came in the 70th minute, with Touré opening his right foot on a 20-yard shot, slotting the game-winner one foot inside Tim Krul’s left post.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Though the winner came relatively late, this match took a predictable form. After an initial feeling out period, City started the slow process of breaking down a Newcastle side playing as if they knew they were second best. By the end of the first, City was consistently creating chances down their left, with a Davide Santon intervention on the line needed to keep Gareth Barry from putting City up near intermission.
- “Can they get to halftime?” It’s the question that’s always asked in these scenarios. It’s clear one team is vastly better than the other, but if the underdogs can just make it to intermission, they’ll get to reset. Maybe they can extend that momentum-less, expository opening to the second half into the game’s last half hour, when they can hold on for dear life. Yeah, Newcastle was way off City’s standard, but we’ve seen this match before. Once Howard Webb blew halftime, the idea of a 0-0 draw started to take hold.
- The Magpies never looked capable of more. This was a team that could have moved third? It was hard to believe, based on their performance. There was no urgency, no drive, no sense that had been given an opportunity to cease control of their Champions League destiny. Their performance gave justification to all the patronizing analyses marveling how a plucky club like theirs could venture into places that should be far, far beyond their meager reach. Today, they approached this match more like an Fulham-esque upstart than a Champions League candidate.
- This was most evident with Newcastle’s Senegalese striker tandem. We know Manchester City’s central defenders (Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott) can match up with anybody in England, but Sunday’s muzzling of Papiss Demba Cisse and Demba Ba was devastating. The only thing missing was Kompany taking an ether-drenched rang from his sock, sneaking behind Cissé and whispering “there, there” as he put him to sleep. “It’s all over now. You can rest, Papiss. You can rest.”
- Still, for much of the second half, it looked like Newcastle could hold out, as City left Tim Krul wanting for action throughout the first 15 minutes. Slowly you saw wide midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez creep deeper and deeper. “It’s happening,” you said to yourself. “They’re about the slip the switch, bunker, and bleed this thing out.”
- Minutes later, Touré happened. On the ball 28 yards from goal, he got a pass away to Sergio Agüero just as Yoann Cabaye put in a challenge. With Newcastle’s midfielder unable to recover in time to track Touré, Agüero immediately played a ball into the space Cabaye vacated. Fabricio Coloccini couldn’t close him down in time, and with his impeccably placed shot, Touré instantly extinguished every flicker of hope Magpies’ supporters had kindled over the first 69 minutes.
- Touré would go on to add a late second, but it could have been worse for Newcastle. He missed another easy chance in the 84th minute, while Agüero went wide on an opportunity in the 75th after being put in alone on Krul.
- Newcastle’s shortcomings aside, it was a second stifling performance from Manchester City within the span of a week. On Monday they held Manchester United to no shots on goal, while Newcastle only generated one moment of danger.
- City will close (what is assumed to be) their first Premier League title campaign next week against relegation-embattled Queens Park Rangers, a team bossed by Roberto Mancini’s predecessor, Mark Hughes. Newcastle travels to Everton needing help to from West Brom (hosting Arsenal) and/or Fulham (at Tottenham) to realize their Champions League dreams.
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