Newcastle United v Manchester City: Five things we learnt from St James' Park League Cup clash

 

1. Multiple team changes show you cannot be serious

Forget whatever platitudes the respective managers may offer up about the importance of the Capital One Cup – and Newcastle's Alan Pardew even took to name-checking John McEnroe in a bizarre effort to underline his squad's readiness for battle. The acid test of their commitment to the competition is the number of changes made which involve resting key personnel ahead of the weekend's Premier League action. It's a simple equation – the more new faces, the greater the lip service paid. City walked it in the couldn't-care-less stakes, with 10 changes, compared to a more modest five from Newcastle.

2. Maintaining a free press is an elemental struggle

Newcastle's decision to ban three local newspaper titles, after perceived unbalanced coverage of what was a modestly attended fans' protest before the recent home game against Liverpool, remained a hot topic of conversation – mainly among the assembled reporters rather than supporters, it must be said. As the rain lashed down on to assorted laptops in the press box thanks to the non-existent shelter offered by the vertiginously high main stand roof, several other hacks no doubt wished they had been serving a similar ban as they cut sodden figures in their efforts to ensure reports were filed before deadline.

3. Pantilimon casts a shadow over Hart's safe keeping

Costel Pantilimon is one big unit – Newcastle supporters in the Gallowgate End defended by Joe Hart's 6ft 8in understudy before the break could conceivably have claimed their seats were restricted view, such was the amount of floodlight eclipsed by the frame of the giant Romanian. As Hart looked on from the bench wondering whether his banishment to the substitutes was just a Capital One Cup thing, or something more long-term, his replacement enjoyed a largely trouble-free first half, which is more than can be said for those sat directly behind him.

4. A throw-in curve ball can throw out the statistics

ProZone provides a statto's delight of facts and figures regarding a player's performance and work rate during a game, but it would be interesting to see how it coped when Mathieu Debuchy went the extra mile. In his eagerness to take a throw-in early in the second half, the Frenchman vaulted the advertising boards and went off down the exit tunnel in search of a ball that had beaten the stewards and ballboys to bounce its way down along the concourse under the seats. Finally returning after several seconds in the bowels of the stand, let's hope for his sake Debuchy's extra-curricular sprint was included in his vital statistics.

5. City have enjoyed visiting St James' in the long run

City could have been forgiven for thinking they'd been given a bye into the last eight when the draw was made, such is their impressive record against a Newcastle side they are unbeaten against in their last 14 meetings, a run stretching back to Michael Owen – remember him? – scoring the winner for the home side at St James' Park in 2005. That eight-year unbeaten run included victories in the previous eight fixtures between the clubs going into this tie, the most recent a 4-0 stroll at the Etihad in the opening game of the campaign in August.

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