Professor Manuel Pellegrini’s class of 2013 emerged with top marks, but forget any notion of ‘A’ grades, this was a triple ‘F’ showing – fast, fluid and fantastico!
The feel-good factor was flowing – positively oozing – out of every pore at the Etihad Stadium, after City annihilated a bewildered Newcastle United, who were clearly out of their depth within six minutes.
That’s all it took for David Silva to open the floodgates with something as common as rocking horse droppings – a headed goal – for a City side regarded as Premier League favourites by many pundits and punters alike.
City boss, Pellegrini, could not have wished for a better start to his reign as the Sky Blues served up a high octane performance, with new signings Fernandinho and Navas debuting with distinction.
Fair to say City’s flying Spaniard has more ‘speed’ than a Moss Side drugs cartel and, as befits a man called Jesus, he knows all about quality crosses. And, when it comes to wide boys, the man from Sevilla is wider than Del Boy and Rodney put together.
Fernandinho, Navas’ new £30m team mate from Brazil, via Shakhtar Donetsk, was instrumental in driving a City side high on industry and intensity. Not only did he use the ball to great effect when in possession, he ensured The Toon didn’t see too much of it, working tirelessly with Yaya Toure in a powerful, productive and potent midfield display.
The Brazilian picked up a yellow card, but that comes with the territory with the silky South American’s all-action play.
The new boys blended harmoniously with the old guard on the field, as those in the stands sensed a real team spirit, sadly absent in Mancini’s side last season.
There was no greater evidence of this assertion than Edin Dzeko – often the fall guy under the fiery Italian’s regime. The Bosnian striker – awarded the Man of the Match honours, despite not scoring, played as if he’d been eating Duracell batteries all summer.
Full of verve and vitality, Dzeko set up the season’s opening goal with his probing pass into Newcastle’s six yard box, only to see it deflected off Toon centre back Steven Taylor and into Silva’s flight path.
The diminutive Spanish playmaker found the ball at perfect nodding height and the ball flew past goalkeeper Tim Krul. An evening that began with rapturous appreciation of fallen City legend, Bert Trautmann, was shaping up to be a marvellous and memorable Monday night.
Having lauded Jesus, the near 47,000 crowd was then treated to an almost God-like creature, when Sergio Aguero’s heavenly play put City two in front.
Captain Kompany carried the ball from defence passing to Dzeko, whose deft flick fell perfectly into Sergio’s stride pattern. The Argentinian striker, with no pre-season game time, was fresh and incisive as he left Taylor trailing in his wake and fired home from an acute angle.
The finish was reminiscent of his winner at Old Trafford in April – he slowed his pace, deceiving Taylor, as he had done United’s ‘Beaker’ Phil Jones – before accelerating with a quickstep and scoring.
As City’s play had the home fans and neutrals alike purring with joy, The Toon were getting increasingly tetchy on the pitch. Yanga-Mbiwa was booked for a double assault on Dzeko, which also earned the exasperated City strike a yellow card for standing his ground. United’s left back should have been sent-off for a second bookable offence when he downed Navas in the 40th minute.
Sissoko was booked for hacking Aguero down, as was DeBuchy for throwing a ‘strop’ – and the ball – when he didn’t get a throw-in, to which he obviously felt entitled.
Steven Taylor went one better and threw a forearm into Aguero’s head in first half added time and saw red. At least he was spared any further embarrassment at the hands – or rather feet – of City’s attacking riches.
The Magpies had suffered a torrid time and in truth could, and should have conceded three penalties, but for Andre Marriner’s sub-standard refereeing. Zabaleta was up ended, Yaya pushed to the ground and the villainous Taylor had handled in the box.
It was a case of deja vu when the second half began in similar vein. With five minutes gone Yaya added an exquisite third goal with a lovingly caressed, curling free kick from 20 yards out and over the wall, eluding Krul’s grasp.
In the 75th minute City scored the table-topping fourth goal when substitute Samir Nasri, displaying a tenacity often lacking since his move from Arsenal, broke clear and slid the ball past the luckless Krul.
The Dutch keeper alone, ensured Alan Pardew’s men were not pummelled further with a string of fine saves – particularly a purely instinctive stop, clawing a Dzeko header to safety from point blank range. If Bert was looking down on proceedings he would have approved of the flying Dutchman’s display between the posts. Better still, he would have enjoyed City’s eighth consecutive win over ‘The Barcodes’.
The two blots on the evening were an Alvaro Negredo debut goal, incorrectly chalked off for offside when clearly he was onside and, more worryingly, a groin injury to Vincent Kompany in the 70th minute.
With Matija Nastasic already out injured, City’s preferred centre back pairing will be absent in Cardiff on Sunday.
Pellegrini’s options will be to play Joleon Lescott alongside Javi Garcia who came on for Kompany, youngster Dedryk Boyata or, potentially, switch Micah Richards into the centre.
If anything positive can come from Kompany’s absence it would be to highlight the need for another top quality centre back, before the transfer window closes.
With City’s pursuit of Pepe possibly continuing, it is clear Pellegrini wishes to make at least one more signing in defence – an acquisition that could make all the difference, especially in the Champions League campaign.
On the domestic front and the pursuit of PL glory, one look at a City bench that included – Milner, Nasri, Garcia, Negredo and Rodwell – and that’s minus the injured Jovetic – must send shivers down the spines of City’s PL rivals.
Performances like this certainly give the Etihad faithful goosebumps.
By David Walker
Aspiring football writer and keen Newcastle United fan, 17-yearold Adam Dunwoodie guest writes in this special ‘one-off’ #READBUTNEVERRED edition giving his take on City’s 4-0 demolition of his team…
Magpies get the blues
4-0 was a fair score line. City on the attack were quick and creative and our defensive barricade was easily broken down on numerous occasions. If it was not for a Tim Krul save or a Steven Taylor handball we could have lost 5-0 or even 6-0!
Our passing was good and we looked comfortable in possession, much better than last season’s hap-hazard performances. It was our final pass that let us down nearly every single time!
Hatem Ben Arfa was our best player, causing the City defence a few problems, especially with his speed and creativity. He should have scored in the first half but his long range shot sailed fractionally over the bar. We did ‘score’ but it was correctly ruled offside with Yoan Gouffran being about a yard in front of the last defender.
Steven Taylor was rightly sent off after a needless elbow to the head of Sergio Aguero. Why do something so stupid in the middle of the park well away from the danger zone. Pure idiocy! We were 2-0 down at this point but his sending off extinguished any faint hopes of a recovery.
Verdict – City deserved the win, they were much better on the night and it was obvious from very early on they would win because they were far the stronger side. We put up for a fight but it was never going to be enough. I expect City to go on and challenge for the title, while Newcastle will finish somewhere between 8th and 12th.
By Adam Dunwoodie