Record success on the pitch, record losses off it. In Manchester City's case the two have gone hand in hand, yesterday's comfortable win establishing a new best of 15 League games at the highest level without defeat at the same time as an eye-watering annual loss of £195 million. Critics of financial doping such as Uefa's Michel Platini and Arsenal's Arsène Wenger disapprove but a majority of City followers are loving it all, not least because they continue to look down on Manchester United.
Resting David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Gareth Barry, they scored two goals in three minutes just before half-time after tweaking the starting formation by moving the excellent James Milner deeper and setting Yaya Touré free to rampage forward. Newcastle's brief revival was then killed off by the second penaltyof the afternoon, earned by Micah Richards, who had a fine game following Roberto Mancini's assertion that he occasionally "left his mind at home". It was typical of City's new enterprising approach this season that the right-back scored once and almost did so again from a cross by the other full-back Gaël Clichy.
City now hit the road for three different competitions, which take them to Napoli, Liverpool and Arsenal in the next nine days. "After the international break it's always difficult," Mancini said. "We played very well but at some moments we were also lucky. There will be a time when we lose but I'm happy for the players."
Before yesterday Newcastle had established a record of their own by remaining unbeaten in 14 games at this level, but third place is likely to prove the high-water mark of their season. A disappointing performance when finally matched against seriousopposition confirmed them as pretenders rather than contenders.
An equally remarkable statistic of their campaign was having made only seven team changes all season. Yesterday that had to be increased to nine, with Sylvain Marveaux and Leon Best dropping out, which still left all members of the defence plus Yohan Cabaye as ever presents. For half an hour it was easy to see how Newcastle had conceded so few goals, harder to work out how they had scored any. Tight and compact at one end with Steven Taylor throwing himself in the way of everything, they protected their goalkeeper Tim Krul until he had to make an excellent one-handed save as Mario Balotelli rose to meet a cross from Milner, who had come inside from the right on his left foot.
Only then did the visitors break out of their shell, when Hatem Ben Arfa, starting for the first time since breaking his leg here a year ago, set up Demba Ba for a low shot that Joe Hart pushed away. The giant scoreboards at that point showed City as having had 72 per cent of possession – more than Spain against England – a statistic that they belatedly capitalised on by scoring twice in quick succession.
Having taken on his more offensive role with relish, Touré was heavily involved on both occasions. In the 41st minute the ball broke loose from Clichy's shot and Touré drove it against the outstretched arm of Ryan Taylor, who could have no serious complaint at the award of a penalty. Balotelli, cool as you like, waited for Krul to commit himself before rolling his kick into a bottom corner, folding his arms to take the applause and then deciding he could just about manage a smile.
Next it was Touré who fed Sergio Aguero for an attempted pass that Ryan Taylor should have cleared comfortably. He delayed and lost possession to Richards, who easily beat Krul.
In Newcastle's best period immediately after the interval Ben Arfa hit the inside of a post and Danny Guthrie brought a save from Hart but the introduction of Silva – surely an unfairadvantage for any team – changed all that. With one reverse pass he straight away played in Richards, who was nudged over by Ben Arfa, Aguero putting away the penalty. Job done, Mancini removed Aguero and Touré but looked displeased when the substitute Dan Gosling took advantage to score with one minute left.
Now Newcastle must continue to taste the new realities with a return trip to Manchester on Saturday taking them to Old Trafford before a home game with Chelsea. Their manager Pardew had said he would settle for three points from these three games and may have to be content with fewer. He was "frustrated" on behalf of his squad yesterday, believing they failed to take key chances at 0-0 and again at 2-0 down. "Nothing seemed to go for us," he said. "But 25 points after 12 games speaks for itself. How we'll deal with a disappointment like today is unanswered."
Manchester City (4-2-2-2): Hart; Richards, Kompany,Lescott, Clichy; De Jong, Y Touré (Barry, 84); Milner, Nasri; Balotelli (Silva, 69), Aguero (Johnson, 75).
Newcastle United (4-4-1-1): Krul; Simpson S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor; Sa Ameobi (Gosling, 79), Guthrie, Cabaye (Perch, 85), Gutierrez; Ben Arfa (Lovenkrands, 76); Ba.
Referee Chris Foy.
Man of the match Richards (Manchester City).
Match rating 7/10.
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