English Football Football Full Tyne Manchester City Newcastle United Premier League

Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle: Difference in quality too much for Magpies, but momentary fightback offers hope

Playing Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium was never going to be an easy prospect for Newcastle and the difference between the two sides showed.

City’s lineup was worth five times than the Magpies and that gap showed in the quality of play coming from those in blue.

It was always going to be a tough game and when the Newcastle lineup was announced it looked certain that Rafa Benitez was setting up his side in the same defensive manner he had in the previous meeting just a few weeks earlier.

Yet, it was Newcastle who sprinted into the first attacking chance with a blistering pace.

A quick free-kick taken by Jonjo Shelvey released Christian Atsu, taking advantage of a sleeping City defence, and when the cross finally fell to a black and white shirt in the box all Isaac Hayden could do was scuff the volley.

He should have done better, and Newcastle should have stunned the league leaders in just the second minute.

However, it wasn’t to be and quickly City reasserted their expected dominance.

Attack after attack peppered Karl Darlow’s goal as those in blue found the extra yard and inch perfect pass – those with that said, they misplaced a number of passes too.

City thought they’d opened the scoring soon enough, when David Silva’s low cross was turned in by Raheem Sterling, but the goal was ruled out for a dubious offside.

The breakthrough was just a matter of time, and in the 34th minute of play it came.

Talisman striker Sergio Aguero found the slightest of flicks – the ball just brushing his hair – on a Kevin De Bruyne cross and the ball bounced into Darlow’s far corner.

It had been coming and most just worried that the floodgates would open.

Yet, they didn’t.

City had the possession but Newcastle, by hook and by crook, kept the ball clear of their goal.

There was nothing pretty about it, and they didn’t keep the ball for long, but it wasn’t going in the net. The Magpies were just looking to survive until the break.

In fact, Newcastle had only had 17% possession in the first 45 minutes.

They did end the half with one more chance on the counter attack, however, or at least would have had any of several attempted crosses by Joselu and Paul Dummett found their way into the box.

The second half offered much of the same to begin with; City came forward in strides and Newcastle fought hard to clear the ball.

It was far from glorious football but there was a determined resilience about Newcastle. There was little hope of getting anything, but at least the team weren’t be hammered.

Then just past the hour mark disaster struck.

Javi Manquillo failed to stop Sterling at the edge of the box and put a foolish hand across the Man City winger – outside the box, though, I might add.

Sterling strode through the arm but was unbalanced and as Manquillo continued to try and recover stumbled, bringing down the City man with him.

Truthfully, it probably should have been awarded outside the box, as the foul actually took place there and they stumbled their way in, but it was only clear that had happened on a replay.

In real time, there was little to no way for the referee to make that distinction.

Up stepped Aguero, and with calm assurance the penalty was scored. Newcastle looked doomed to defeat.

There was a slight element of controversy in the penalty, as Aguero made a hesitation in the run up, but it was not ordered to be retaken and Newcastle found themselves two down.

That was the end of it, an easy three points for City, or at least everyone thought that was the case.

Four minutes later, a moment that really stunned more than amazed anyone occurred.

City gave the ball away cheaply and Ciaran Clark lumped a ball forward, which inadvertently split the high City defence and allowed Jacob Murphy, practically anonymous up until that point, to race onto it.

Murphy had pace to burn, making it impossible for City youngster Oleksandr Zinchenko, to catch him and netted an incredibly cultured, chipped finish for his first ever goal for the club.

It was a magnificent goal, and one nobody truly knew how to react to other than to sit in stunned silence.

The Magpies did react, though.

Suddenly all emphasis shifted. City were rocked, and Newcastle barreled forwards on the attack.

They had smelt fear and weakness in the City back line and started to give them an almighty scare.

Mo Diame had the best chance of an equaliser as he drove into the box in a move reminiscent of Moussa Sissoko’s at the Etihad in the cup a few seasons back – the last and only time Newcastle have won at the Etihad.

Ederson managed to parry the effort into the air and after a truly bizarre Sunday League-quality scramble in which the Brazilian goalkeeper tried to catch the falling ball, missed it and then struck it inadvertently into the path of Ayoze Perez with his knee, whose shot he then managed to save, Diame couldn’t keep the ball under control for a third attempt and Ederson pushed it clear.

It was a bizarre moment, especially odd to see from City being so entirely uncharacteristic of the league leaders, and it encouraged Newcastle to keep at City after,  bringing on Dwight Gayle for Joselu to offer fresh legs and more movement.

Defensively the Magpies were domineering too, with Darlow producing an absolutely amazing save, a true world-class stop, to deny Sterling’s volleyed attempt and keep the Newcastle momentum going.

However, it wasn’t to be as Leroy Sane and Aguero combined soon after to kill the reinvigorated Magpies off.

Sane danced past several Newcastle defenders on more than one occasion, completely mesmerising those in black and white, before playing a simple cross-box pass for Aguero to slot home his hattrick.

It was Aguero’s seventh goal in five matches, and the first perfect Premier League hat-trick (header, left foot, right foot) since the Argentine himself scored one against Newcastle in October 2015 – he scored five times in that match.

Almost immediately after, with Newcastle still knocked for six, City came again but some last-ditch defending kept out a combination of Aguero, De Bruyne and Fernandinho.

Gayle had one more chance to add some pressure again late on, but in what is becoming a worrying habit in recent matches, completely missed an easy header.

That proved to be the last real chance of the match and City finished the match winners, as had been expected, but not without a scare.

Newcastle’s defensive approach hadn’t worked, and the monumental difference in quality had proved fatal, but there was some hope to be taken in the way the Magpies managed to rally around after the Murphy goal.

There was real power and determination for that ten or fifteen minute period, and had City not scored a third to settle the nerves, the points were there to be had.

It had always been a game Newcastle had expected to lose but they went down kicking, creating an almighty scare for the Premier League league leaders.

The only worrying statistic to come out of the full time result, however, was that of the Newcastle team that finished the match, ten of them played for the Magpies last season in the Championship – and the one that didn’t, goalscorer Murphy, was playing for Norwich in the same league.

It’s a team that doesn’t lack the spirit and desire, those ten or fifteen minutes showed that, but it lacks that quality to back it up.

Newcastle is a team crying out for investment, and its being ignored by the ownership.

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