It was a nasty night for Joey Barton, who kept his place in the Manchester City side despite his show of disaffection with the club, but an even nastier one for Graeme Souness, who is likely to face another crescendo of calls for his dismissal after Newcastle suffered a fifth defeat in six Premiership games.
City too have been faltering lately, but were well in control before half-time through goals from Albert Riera and Andy Cole, before Darius Vassell wrapped up the points with a third in the second half. City supporters made it clear where their sympathies lie in the dispute between Barton and the club, subjecting him to boos as his name was announced in the starting line-up following his rejection of a £28,000-a-week contract and subsequent transfer request.
Barton had denied he was being "greedy", but City fans appeared to have taken the view that, after the support he had received from the club during a troubled year, their former favourite had betrayed that loyalty.
They continued to voice their displeasure whenever the player touched the ball, despite his key role in City's 14th-minute opener. Barton took a pass from Trevor Sinclair before supplying the cross from which Albert Riera scored his first goal with a fine half-volley.
Souness might have mused that at least here was somebody else getting it in the neck. But his own precarious position came back into focus as City doubled their lead seven minutes before half-time. Andy Cole nodded home Darius Vassell's short cross, nipping into a space left by Titus Bramble and Jean-Alain Boumsong to collect his 10th goal of the season.
Barton was the centre of attention again just before half-time, earning a yellow card after felling Boumsong with his leading arm as they contested a header.
Alan Shearer, meanwhile, had not had even the faintest sniff of that 201st goal and when Souness changed his system for the second half, bringing on Nolberto Solano and Albert Luque, he was left largely to forage on his own. It was not a move that inspired much confidence among the Newcastle fans. And when City scored a third, Cole's fine ball over the top from inside his own half setting up Vassell to outpace Boumsong and fire low and hard past Shay Given, the heat was back on Souness with a vengeance.
By then, City were enjoying themselves so much that Stuart Pearce was able to take off both his strikers and give a debut to his £6m signing, Georgios Samaras. And when Barton went close to adding a fourth, half the home crowd almost forgot to boo.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Sun Jihai, Dunne, Distin, Jordan; Sinclair, Barton (Richards, 78), Musampa, Riera; Vassell, Cole (Samaras, 65). Substitutes not used: Sibierski, Ireland, Wright-Phillips. Newcastle United (4-3-1-2): Given; Ramage, Bramble, Boumsong, Babayaro; Parker, Clark, N'Zogbia (Solano, h-t); Emre (O'Brien, 81); Shearer, Chopra (Luque, h-t). Substitutes not used: Elliott, Harper (gk) .
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).Reuse content