The level of risk, that was what irked Robert Mancini so much. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “Why are we missing all these chances? When you have six, seven, eight chances to score, you need to score more goals.”
For a period yesterday, Manchester City bore the swagger of champions: slick, stylish and in total control of a difficult game – the perfect return to business after the heartache of last week’s derby defeat to Manchester United.
Here was the possibility to make a statement, to remind people how this team combined goals and grit to chisel out the most dramatic championship success in living memory last season. Instead, they gave Newcastle a chink of light, just enough to let them believe they should have got something out of a game in which for periods they could not get near their visitors.
The level of perfection Mancini seeks is understandable. It is the level of detail that can help a football club retain the domestic title for the first time in their history; but it is also the kind of margin that can cost a team what should have been a fairly routine victory.
“Am I frustrated? Only because we took a risk in the second half, only for this,” said City’s manager. “In the end it is important to win, only for this reason.” And to be more clinical? “Sometimes. It will be better. If you do not score, it can happen like it did in the second half where they score their goal, after it can change everything. I was anxious, that is normal.
“The message to him [Sir Alex Ferguson] is Happy Christmas for the 25th of December. The season is longer. He knows the football better than me, this championship is not finished when there are only there games to the end, now there are 21 games to the end. It is open.”
As this game somehow became. The match came in four sections. For 10 minutes Newcastle were good. For the rest of the first half Manchester City ran rings around them. For a period in the second half Newcastle rallied and threatened. By the finish, Mancini’s team were back in control, creating some of the seven or eight chances that Mancini was annoyed at them missing.
The reasons for Newcastle’s failure to match what they achieved last season are varied, but their defending has at times been woeful. For Davide Santon, this was an afternoon to forget. In the tenth minute he lost Samir Nasri. The pass from Yaya Touré was outstanding, but in that fraction of a second the gap between the sides was exposed. Nasri had beaten an unsure off-side trap, teed up Sergio Aguero, and in the blink of an eye Manchester City were ahead. In the last 13 times Aguero and Carlos Tevez have played together, City have won. It makes the decision to start last week’s derby with Mario Balotelli even more puzzling. He was not in the squad that travelled north yesterday. “Mario wasn’t in good form at this moment,” added Mancini. “It is better for him he continues to train. When he will be in good form he will play. His form is not good. He is not good to play.”
Manchester City were so much better for his absence. Three minutes after the goal, delightful skill from Aguero teed up Tevez. Tim Krul produced an outstanding save. Three minutes after that, Nasri slipped a ball across the face of the exposed Newcastle goal, with Tevez close to steering the ball home for a second. Then Aguero teed up Nasri, his narrow, angled shot struck the post, hit Krul and rebounded to Aguero who shot for goal from close range, only to be denied by a saving tackle on the line from Mike Williamson. The second goal, in the 38th minute, however, came from a corner. Fabricio Coloccini and James Perch could not deal with the run of Javier Garcia, he glanced a header towards the far corner of the Newcastle goal, where Santon was stood. The defender made a pitiful effort and it seemed from there City would march on to a statement victory.
Instead, Newcastle rallied impressively. By the 51st minute Demba Ba had headed in a Coloccini cross after a Vurnon Anita corner had been half cleared. From there, St James’ Park opened its lungs and City wobbled. Papiss Cissé turned on the edge of the visiting penalty area and shot over, Ba fired into the side-netting as Newcastle pressed.
The champions themselves cleared their heads. In the 78th minute David Silva fed Pablo Zabaleta, he cut his cross back and Yaya Touré steered the game deciding goal past Krul.
“At two-one we were really in the game against a team that didn’t play poorly,” said Alan Pardew. “Man City were right at it. Unfortunately it is zero points going into the QPR match which we know is a big game now. There was a period of the game when we were hanging in there but after half time we completely bossed it.”
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Krul; Simpson (Ferguson, 83), Williamson, Coloccini, Santon; Tioté (Marveaux, 75), Perch; Cissé (Ameobi, 77), Anita, Gutiérrez; Ba.
Manchester City (4-4-1-1): Hart; Zabaleta, K Touré, Nastasic, Clichy; Nasri (Kolarov, 38; Dzeko, 72), Y Touré, Garcia, Silva; Aguero; Tevez.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Aguero (Man City)
Match rating: 7/10
Start spreading the wealth... City in talks over New York MLS club
Manchester City have been in discussions about buying the franchise for a new New York club in the United States’ Major League Soccer, according to sources close to the talks.
The reputable Bloomberg news agency has also reported that David Beckham was approached about a possible role now that he has finished playing for LA Galaxy.
A statement from City yesterday did not deny that talks had taken place, and left open the possibility of either a minority investment or of the club’s Abu Dhabi owners being involved. This could be done indirectly, keeping it off City’s books although the club insist they ‘‘are not buying an MLS club”.
It would not be the first time City have raised the issue of investing in a franchise; the former chief executive Gary Cook was reported to have spoken to the MLS commissioner Don Garber about it two years ago, when the club were beginning to expand their brand world-wide. Furthermore the current chief executive Ferran Soriano, who once studied business in New York, discussed buying an MLS franchise for Barcelona when he was financial vice-president there.
MLS have been keen for some time to have a second club in New York to rival the New York Red Bulls, for whom Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill play. The plan is to build a 25,000-seat home for a new team based in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, east of Manhattan. Garber said recently that the League was talking to a “wide variety” of potential owners, declining to name them. The previous record for buying a franchise is 40m dollars (£28.2m) but it has ben suggested the cost of the prestigious New York deal could be as high as 100m dollars.
Reports come the day after City declared an annual loss of £97m, which was half of the previous year’s record loss but still leaves them with a difficult task to meet Uefa’s new financial fair play guidelines. This year is the first of a two-year monitoring period in which clubs are not supposed to lose more than a maximum of £38m. But they will hope to escape sanctions by showing that they are “trending positively”; ie, cutting down on previous huge annual losses.