NEWCASTLE UTD 0 MANCITY 2 – Carry on Costel?

So that’s two vital away wins in two cup competitions on consecutive Wednesday nights for Manchester City.

Football wisdom has it that it’s results and not performances that count. It’s just as well then for Manuel Pellegrini.

Last week in Moscow it was a case of watching paint dry – literally as well as metaphorically – as the Russians gave the dreadful Khimiki Arena turf a makeover. City then laboured to overcome CSKA 2-1 in the Champions League.

Job done - All the 'P's Pellegrini & Pardew at St James' Park last night

Job done – All the ‘P’s Pellegrini & Pardew at St James’ Park last night

Last night City’s hearty travelling support were better off watching the grass grow at St James’ Park for 98 minutes, up until the point when the boys in blue decided to win an insipid encounter with Newcastle, within a five minute spell in extra time.

Not that anyone associated with City is complaining. The team is set fair to progress to the Champions League knockout stages and are through to the Capital One Cup quarter finals.

It hasn’t been wildly entertaining but frankly, who cares?

The 2-0 win over The Toon was City’s fourth consecutive game on the road. During their travels to the North East, twice to London and Russia, they’ve produced three wins and suffered the injustice of a cruel last gasp defeat at one of their fiercest rivals.

Going for the Cup - City players celebrate the 2-0 win at The Toon

Going for the Cup – City players celebrate the 2-0 win at The Toon

It puts City’s ‘dreadful’ away record into a slightly better perspective than the merchants of doom and gloom would have you believe, albeit there is obvious room for improvement.

It’ll be home sweet home for City when they play Norwich on Saturday and hopefully a continuation of the imperious Etihad form with four wins in four so far in the PL.

But the main item on the media’s agenda will continue to be the bone of contention, that of who keeps goal against the Canaries. Is Joe Hart to be dropped and Costel Pantilimon promoted to make his PL debut?

Top display - Costel Pantilimon produced two fine saves as he pushes for a PL start

Top display – Costel Pantilimon produced two fine saves as he pushes for a PL start

The giant Romanian enhanced his credentials with a faultless showing against the Magpies with two particularly excellent saves – the first from Ameobi’s low strike, the second from Cisse, early in extra time after the Senegal striker sprang City’s offside trap.

Had Newcastle taken the lead at that stage it could have completely changed the complexion and dynamics of the match.

It was left to the ‘beastly’ Alvaro Negredo to do the cup-tie transforming honours in the 99th minute, forcing the ball home after Dzeko breezed into Newcastle’s 18 yard box and delivered the assist.

Beauty of The Beast - Negredo scored his 5th goal for City

Beauty of The Beast – Negredo scored his 5th goal for City

Five minutes later and Dzeko the supplier became Dzeko the taker, as the Bosnian benefitted from some wonderful approach work from James Milner.

The England international, playing here there and everywhere on the night, played an exquisite one-two with David Silva, before releasing a wonderfully weighted pass to the Bosnian striker in the Toon box.

Dzeko took it in his stride, rounding keeper Krul and securing City’s place in the last eight of the competition.

Edin to the last eight - Dzeko was on target yet again for City

Edin to the last eight – Dzeko was on target yet again for City

City’s win had been anticipated before kick-off, notwithstanding 10 changes on the team sheet, with Javi Garcia the only one left standing from the defeat at Chelsea.

As if those changes were not enough, Pellegrini was forced into even more when Jovetic limped off in the 10th minute, to be replaced by Negredo.

Signed for similar £20m+ fees last summer, the two forwards have experienced wildly differently fortunes.

The Beast is already a cult hero and a big hit with the fans, whereas the man from Montenegro is in danger of rivalling the likes of Roque Santa Cruz, Trevor Sinclair and Claudio Reyna, in having a medical room at Carrington named in his honour.

Injury plagued - Jovetic has been so unlucky since joining City

Injury plagued – Jovetic has been so unlucky since joining City

Jovetic oozes potential and has all the skills and attributes to succeed with City, it’s just unfortunate he seems bedevilled by injuries since August.

Similarly, skipper for the night, Micah Richards, succumbed to either a knock or what looked like cramp, and was replaced by Pablo Zabaleta.

As a grounded Micah was helped by team mate Negredo, Newcastle put the ball out of play earning the appreciation and respect of the blue side of Manchester in the 81st minute.

Clearly Richards did not have a head injury – the sole criteria that dictates play should stop – and with Negredo attending, City were effectively down to nine men in the last knockings of a balanced tie. This further amplifies Newcastle’s sportsmanship.

A strangely lethargic City display (no excuses about tiredness) was only transformed with the 64th minute introduction of David Silva, on for Jack Rodwell.

Magic - David Silva transformed the match coming on as a sub

Magic – David Silva transformed the match coming on as a sub

Merlin’s creativity and guile, aligned with a tactical switch to bring Milner into the central midfield role, began to find gaps in the Toon’s tiring defence.

Milner could have ignited the match a minute before Silva appeared. Jesus Navas’ speed saw him race down the right wing, retrieve the ball on the edge of the 18 yard box and leave Krul stranded way out of his goal.

He slipped the ball back to Milner whose first time shot from 20 yards curled agonisingly wide of the gaping goal.

Even at 2-0 up and with just three minutes remaining, City were nearly dragged back into a scrap. Thankfully, a quick-witted Joleon Lescott was able to clear off City’s line when Ben Arfa’s power drive beat Pantilimon.

A quarter final tie away at Leicester offers City a healthy opportunity to edge Manuel Pellegrini closer to silverware in his debut season. The Capital One Cup is the lowest of four targeted trophies, but even the big teams take it seriously in the latter stages of the competition.

By the time the tie takes place at the Walker Stadium – a week before Christmas – City should have qualified for the CL knockout stages and closed the points gap in the PL.

That would be an appropriate juncture to examine City’s progress – or otherwise – in the post Roberto Mancini era.

It will also tell us if City’s goalkeeping ‘dilemma’ has been decided in-house or whether Pellegrini will need to go New Year shopping in the net department.


 By David Walker



This match report is dedicated to Jacqui Elliot @jacqui77 a very brave #MCFC lady blue from Antrim in Northern Ireland. She is battling for her life so let’s give her all the encouragement in the world in these challenging times #STRENGTHHOPEBELIEF xxx



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  1. October 31, 2013  12:22 pm by carole Reply

    Very well done David...especially as it must have been a wee bit of a chore after a somewhat uninspiring encounter!

    Especially pleased that you highlighted Milner's wonderful creativity. Afraid I berated a Blue last night for describing his display as 'solid'......he is so much more than that, can exchange passes with the best of them. One of my favourity City moments was his corner at Reading last season... remember it?

    • October 31, 2013  12:54 pm by David Walker Reply

      ZZZzzzzzzz - oh bloody hell we've scored! Thanks Carole. I didn't remember it - but I will now. I had pleasure of chatting with 'Jimmy' at Chappy's Tribute Dinner recently - what a terrific, grounded and all round pleasant guy.

  2. October 31, 2013  12:24 pm by Alan Baxter Reply

    The Jovetic massage suite in Carrington? It may be a franchise, I'm sure I visited one in Prague!
    Spot on about the introduction of Silva, until then we were struggling to get the ball through the centre of the park.
    I was also pleasantly surprised about the fitness levels of the lads who haven't had much game time. Lescott was back to somewhere near the form that made him second only to Vinny. Like you say not pretty, but, job done.
    Looking forward to Saturday we owe Norwich after the last game debacle, time to show Delia we can still cut the mustard.

    • October 31, 2013  12:55 pm by David Walker Reply

      Indeed - stuffed Canary Pot Roast and plenty of chopped onions - 'Delia'stears!

  3. October 31, 2013  1:35 pm by carol main Reply

    how you can continue to be so eloquent in the face of such mediocrity is a source of wonder to me Davy, not even sure how you stayed awake! still a wins a win, good, bad or indifferent and god knows we were indifferent! Beautifully written as always though, thanks

    • October 31, 2013  11:36 pm by David Walker Reply

      I just put on my sky blue tinted goggles and off I go - I had imagined writing about 200 words at one stage - and I bet there's a fair few folk out there had wished I had limited it to just that - whatever!

      Thanks Blondie I just do the best I can...

  4. October 31, 2013  1:44 pm by Nev Artingstall Reply

    Good work again David. Not sure MP can win with his goalie choice on Saturday. Personaly I think Pants should start. Joe needs to understand he has competition as I think this is the reason his form has dipped. A few weeks on the bench should sort him out. I'm not bothered about last nights performance, we're through and that's all that matters.'re next.

    • October 31, 2013  11:40 pm by David Walker Reply

      I'm with you on that Nev. I'm a big Hart fan but he needs something to either get him re-focused or just a kick up the jacksy. On the other hand, if a player is struggling and needs help, how best is that aid administered. I don't know how Joe's mentality works - will he respond to tough love or calm reassurance? I would put him in against Norwich and take it from there BUT any more mistakes like Sunday then give Pants a chance. I am resolute though in that JOE IS CITY'S FUTURE 8 YEARS OR MORE STILL TO COME.

  5. October 31, 2013  1:50 pm by Eileen Fullen Reply

    Another dose of the jitters last night but thankfully it came good in the end. A great read once again and keeps novices like me reliably informed. Chelsea v Manure would be a great draw ha-

    • October 31, 2013  11:43 pm by David Walker Reply

      If you're a novice you're a pretty clued in one at that. Having said that don't view City through my eyes - there are more sage like individuals than me who are far more tactically savvy. I write as a fan but, I like to think a balanced fan, once I step back from the passions and emotions of the moment. Thanks for continuing to read & comment.

  6. October 31, 2013  2:09 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    I'll just echo the general sentiment - it was laboured, but when needed, City produced a couple of moments of real quality to win the game.
    Silva made a real difference, and Milner looked more effective in the middle....may he now be slightly ahead of Garcia in the running order?
    Pants commanded his area fairly well, and, indeed, Pellegrini has some thinking to do.
    On Monday, I was all for him continuing against Norwich, but I think now Hart has one final chance against Norwich.

    • October 31, 2013  11:46 pm by David Walker Reply

      I'd agree and hope MP gives Joe another chance to get games under his belt and distance himself from recent errors. He is a better keeper than Pants but if - if - his confidence is shot then it might do him a favour to take him out of the firing line. Pants looked like a man on a promise against the Toon - if you get my meaning...?

  7. October 31, 2013  6:08 pm by susan richardson Reply

    Amazing even the first 90 minutes sound interesting and I know they weren't, thought it was a bit harsh taking Rodders off but I should. have trusted our MP. It was the 2 grandsons first away match and they had a ball which is really what it's all about MCFC and their superfans

    • October 31, 2013  11:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Susan but, look closely and I don't actually focus massively on the play itself to any large degree. I often don't because I don't believe people want to read a blow-by-blow account of what they themselves have already witnessed. I know I don't. I'll go off at a tangent, try and rustle up a couple of strange metaphors and try and wing it with some Walker waffle. It seems to work most of the time :-)

  8. October 31, 2013  6:47 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    Good read as always Dave apologies for no comment on your pre Newcastle blog it was your usual top notch. As you say game wasnt very good but result was what matters it need spainsh Dave & Jimmy Milner moving in to the middle to spark us into life, cant understand why Millner dosent play more. Pantillimon certainly did his chances of replace Joe no harm, Lescott had a good game,Garcia I thought had one of his better games. My own opinion is to take Joe out for a while dont know what this would do to him but hopefully it will make him raise his game.We have played 4 away games won 3 lost 1 unlucky I thought according to the critics we have problems with are away form well if thats right wait till we click in to gear.

    • October 31, 2013  11:53 pm by David Walker Reply

      Stop bloomin' apologising - I'm just chuffed that you read me! I honestly haven't a clue what is best for Joe at the moment - not many of us know him well enough to know how he would react. We can but hope that, irrespective of what happens, he draws strength in adversity and serves us well for many years to come. As for Javi, I have tried and tried to warm to him but I just don't think he is suited to the English game. If we could get £12m from a continental side - where he would more than likely be a success - then let's take it and club and player move on.

  9. October 31, 2013  6:54 pm by Chris Williams Reply

    10 Changes from Sunday, it was a great work out for some players who otherwise wouldn't get any game time. I thought although as some say laboured, it actually underlines how far we've come over the last few years.

    To be able to put out a second string team away at Newcastle with a strong pretty much first team, and come away with a victory and progression to the next round job done.

    • October 31, 2013  11:55 pm by David Walker Reply

      Great perspective Chris. I was there in September 2005 when Michael 'Mr Charisma' Owen (that should read MISSED A CHARISMA) scored the winner in Kevin Keegan's time with City. It's an amazing hoodoo we've built up over the Toon over the years - they'll celebrate long and hard the day they actually put one over on us.

  10. October 31, 2013  8:17 pm by Glyn Rathbone Reply

    Got to say you've done well to fill as many lines as you have reporting on last nights game. I thought we looked very ordinary for long periods but a wins a win and I'll take that. Winning ugly brought the rags a lot of silver wear so I'm not going too much. Still a few players in our squad I'm not convinced of but while they pull that blue top on I'll shout them on. Roll on Saturday and 3pts hopefully.

    • October 31, 2013  11:59 pm by David Walker Reply

      Too right GR - if they wear the shirt with pride, effort, honour and distinction then you cheer their every move, in adversity as well as success. My mate's elderly Dad watched his team - non-league Droylsden FC lose 10-0 on Tuesday night in the pouring rain. He stayed until the end and actually clapped his team off. Now THAT is being a supporter so, Mr Terry Entwistle, father of Brian - take a bloody big bow!

  11. November 1, 2013  2:56 pm by bluewelder Reply

    Another good read,we were very lucky against a good N'castle squad but this thing with Joe will not go away,mistakes happen to the best and i still think he's No 1 for club & country but its like his minds not on the job,i would start him v N'wich on Sat'day and lets see how he goes,lets hope he and the squad has a solid game,till we die people.

    • November 1, 2013  3:02 pm by David Walker Reply

      With you 100% on the Joe situation.

  12. November 2, 2013  11:09 am by Mole Rocks Reply

    After stopping up several hours to watch the match, I echo the sentiments that the result outweighed the performance.

    Not sure if it's a good draw against Leicester, but could have been worse.

    Leicester will be looking for another Premiership scalp, and hopefully City will prove tougher opposition than Fulham.

    Pantilimon was excellent, however I'd be happy if MP stuck with Joe, as you write, Joe has the potential to be No.1 for City and England for many years to come.

    Still trusting in MP.

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