The champions of England will have more memorable days than these over the next nine months, and Manuel Pellegrini’s team will have to play better over the course of the season if they are to fulfil all the targets that their ambitious masters in Abu Dhabi have in mind. But if this was Manchester City simply getting started, they will be formidable once they hit their stride.
Sergio Aguero, on as a substitute, closed the argument in injury-time with a second goal for Pellegrini’s side as Newcastle pressed for an equaliser. There are 37 games left and tomorrow night, Chelsea, most people’s idea of City’s nearest contenders have their first match of the season. Yet, three points away at St James’ Park is no bad first day launch-pad for any team.
The threat that there was in Newcastle’s new-look team was gradually extinguished by City who look now like the kind of side - and the kind of club - that are comfortable in their position at the head of the elite. When there was danger, Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis were superb, especially a block late on by the City captain when the Newcastle substitute Ayoze Perez had a sight of goal.
In the Premier League era, the champions have never lost on the first day of the following season, and from the moment that David Silva scored his team’s first on 38 minutes it never looked as if City were in any danger of defeat. That was not to say that Newcastle were poor, they had two periods at the start and then at the end of the second half when they created chances but it takes a lot to place City under the kind of pressure that might break them.
Pellegrini selected Joe Hart in goal ahead of Willy Caballero, and there were not many moments when the City goalkeeper found himself tested. The new signing Fernando, £12m from Porto, looked accomplished in midfield, another giant to go alongside Yaya Toure. Some of Newcastle’s new signings showed some promise too, but it gets no harder than trying to break down the reigning champions.
Newcastle 0 Manchester City 2 - player ratings
Newcastle 0 Manchester City 2 - player ratings
1/14 Daryl Janmaat
The debutant put some teasing crosses in from the right. 6
2/14 Paul Dummett
The young Welshman put in some strong tackles at left-back. 7
3/14 Remy Cabella
Showed flashes of brilliance on his first Newcastle start. 7
4/14 Jack Colback
His free-kick deliveries were a constant menace. 7
5/14 Emmanue Riviere
His eagerness to impress hampered his performance. 6
6/14 Moussa Sissoko
Lacked composure in front of goal. 6
7/14 Gael Clichy
A steady performance on his unfamiliar right side. 6
8/14 Martin Demichelis
Impressively dominant in the air. 7
Slotted in nicely to the Manchester City midfield on debut. 7
10/14 Samir Nasri
Showed his talent only in flashes, and was eventually subbed. 6
11/14 Yaya Toure
After a sloppy start, his influential presence grew with the game. 7
12/14 David Silva
As tricky as ever, he capped a wonderful move for the opening goal. 8
13/14 Stevan Jovetic
A decent performance on a rare City start for the Montenegrin. 7
14/14 Edin Dzeko
The Bosnian produced some exceptional hold-up play, and gave the Newcastle defence a punishing afternoon. 9
Newcastle had four newly-acquired players in their starting XI and St James’ Park was given its first opportunity to admire the swooping undulations of Remy Cabella’s quiff-mohican. The signing from Montpellier was the pick of the new boys, along with Jack Colback, a local lad on his competitive debut having crossed the divide from Sunderland. The chance Cabella created for Moussa Sissoko in the 90th-minute was arguably the best for the home side.
That was before Aguero’s goal. City’s first had arrived seven minutes before the break and spoiling all the momentum that Alan Pardew’s team had built up to that point. Their two supporters killed in the MH-17 flight, John Alder and Liam Sweeney, were remembered with a touching pre-match presentation to the families from both captains and representatives of Sunderland. Then the silence came to an end, the flowers were removed and the roar signalled another nine months in the tumultuous life of Newcastle.
In spite of the changes to Pardew’s side, they looked quite well-organised with Vurnon Anita working in front of the defence and Colback and the impressive Sissoko operating in the centre. Cabella looked like he was capable of all sorts of trickery but he kept it low-key in the first half, his best moment a ball through the City defence for Emmanuel Riviere to run onto.
The striker signed from Monaco failed to hit the target on that occasion, amid a first half where not much he attempted worked out. There was one excellent touch to kill the ball on the right side and, having given himself a run at goal, he elected for a daft strike from too far out. It ended up the kind of shot goalkeepers need only trap with their foot.
As or City, they created an excellent opening for Edin Dzeko on four minutes from Stevan Jovetic’s pass but he seemed unprepared and hit his shot straight at Tim Krul. They had to wait more than 30 minutes for the next decent opening. This was made by Toure’s ball forward and a fine back heel first time from Dzeko which afforded Silva two touches with his left foot – one to control and one to shoot past Krul.
Newcastle had opportunities through Yoan Gouffran and a Cabella shot that went over the bar at the start of the second half. At the end they came strong again, but it was Aguero who prevailed, holding off Fabricio Coloccini once to hit a left foot shot and then, when Krul saved, to pick himself up and score the rebound first time with his right. The challenge is now for Chelsea to match them tomorrow night.
Newcastle (4-1-4-1): Krul; Janmaat, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Anita (Obertan, 63); Gouffran (Aarons, 74), Sissoko, Colback, Cabella; Riviere (Perez, 84).
Substitutes not used: Elliot (gk), Haidara, Taylor, Abeid.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Clichy, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Fernando, Toure; Nasri (Milner, 78), Dzeko (Aguero, 82), Silva; Jovetic (Fernandinho, 72).
Substitutes not used: Zabaleta, Caballero (gk), Navas, Boyata.
Referee: M Atkinson
Booked: Newcastle Janmaat. Manchester City Silva, Demichelis, Kolarov, Kompany, Fernando