Friday 23 March 2018

City close the gap: Dzeko signals intent for Barca clash

Manchester City 5 Newcastle 0

Edin Dzeko gets to the ball ahead of Newcastle's Jack Colback
Edin Dzeko gets to the ball ahead of Newcastle's Jack Colback
Newcastle United's Vurnon Anita (L) fouls Edin Dzeko resulting in a penalty
Fernandinho avoids a challenge from Newcastle United's Yoan Gouffran
A dejected Papiss Demba Cisse looks on after Newcastle concede a third goal in the first half of their premiership clash with Manchester City
Manchester City's David Silva scores his team's fourth goal
Edin Dzeko (R) celebrates after putting Manchester City 3-0 up

Paul Wilson

Manchester City will notice a certain difference in quality once their next opponents arrive at the Etihad, though that consideration apart the preparations for Tuesday's crunch game against Barcelona could not have gone more swimmingly.

Not only were City able to cut Chelsea's lead to five points at the top of the league, they also boosted their confidence and goal difference with an easy home win while Barcelona were being beaten at Camp Nou by Manuel Pellegrini's old team, Malaga.

Add the fact that Edin Dzeko not only scored his first goal for six months but looked thoroughly rejuvenated as the leader of the attacking line and City could hardly have asked for anything more. This game was supposed to be about Wilfried Bony, but now there must be some doubt over whether the £25m striker will be an automatic selection against Barcelona after all.

City began with Bony on the bench, resisting the temptation to give their signing an instant debut after the long wait for the Africa Cup of Nations to be over. Many had assumed he would go straight into the team, though having already upset Stevan Jovetic through making room on the Champions League roster to accommodate the former Swansea striker, Manuel Pellegrini was probably wary of sending the wrong signal to Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian has not scored for City since September but he was named up front with Sergio Aguero.

The partnership was in business as soon as the first minute thanks to some early stages doziness from Vurnon Anita. The game was a mere 29 seconds old when the midfielder miscontrolled on the edge of his own area to allow Dzeko to steal in, then trundled into the City player in a clumsy attempt to rectify his mistake. Dzeko went down, Chris Foy pointed to the spot, a reasonable decision even though there had been little clear intent, and Aguero beat Tim Krul from the spot.

That was simply good fortune, though when Dzeko played a part in creating a second goal 11 minutes later it began to look like Pellegrini had made an inspired decision. Taking a pass from David Silva, Dzeko held up the ball in the area and found Samir Nasri, who took a clever first touch to create a shooting opportunity before rifling past the helpless Krul.

For his next trick Dzeko popped up on the right wing, crossing from near the corner flag for Pablo Zabaleta to dummy and allow Aguero to shoot narrowly wide. If Bony was not worried at that stage, he might have begun to wonder about his future role when Dzeko added a third goal in emphatic manner midway through the first half.

Newcastle's bright start to the second half only spurred City to add two more goals in the space of a couple of minutes. Both were scored by Silva and owed a lot to Aguero, who created the first to set up Nasri, whose unselfish pass allowed Silva to stroke home from close to the penalty spot.

More ballwatching by Newcastle's defenders then allowed Aguero to be first to reach Yaya Toure's hopeful prod forward, chesting the ball into Silva's path for another crisp finish.


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