Hughton fury over De Jong horror tackle
Manchester City 2
Newcastle Utd 1
Three months after tainting the World Cup final with an horrific challenge on Spain's Xabi Alonso, Nigel de Jong was accused of breaking Hatem Ben Arfa's leg with a "needless" tackle just three minutes into Manchester City's victory over Newcastle United.
Adam Johnson's stunning goal, three minutes after being introduced as a second-half substitute, settled a contentious clash, but De Jong's latest brush with controversy overshadowed the England winger's match-winning intervention.
De Jong, who escaped a red card from Howard Webb following his chest-high foul on Alonso during Holland's 1-0 defeat in South Africa, went unpunished by referee Martin Atkinson following the sliding challenge.
The tackle resulted in Ben Arfa receiving oxygen during five minutes of treatment on the pitch.
The Frenchman, on a season-long loan from Marseille, was taken directly to hospital where he underwent X-rays last night.
Although City's assistant manager Brian Kidd moved to defend De Jong by insisting he is "not that type of player", Newcastle manager Chris Hughton was less charitable.
Hughton said: "It doesn't look good. At the moment, it looks as though Hatem has broken his leg, although we are waiting to hear whether it is a broken tibia and fibula.
"Let's just say that I thought it was a challenge that did not need to be made. I'm sure everyone will have their own opinions and it will be shown again several times, but it didn't need to be made.
"We have a young, exciting player who has come off second best in that challenge. It has upset everyone in the dressing-room. When it happened, all of my thoughts were with the player, so I wasn't aware that the game had carried on."
Reckless challenges have provided an unsavoury running theme this season, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Fulham's Mark Hughes speaking out after overzealous challenges against their players.
Kidd, speaking in the absence of manager Roberto Mancini following his departure to Italy to visit his sick father, denied that De Jong's tackle was rash.
He said: "There was no malice in it. Nigel de Jong is not that type of player. He is as honest as the day is long and he is exactly the same in training.
"It is so sad when injuries happen, but hopefully it is not too serious for the lad."
Perhaps motivated by the loss of Ben Arfa, Newcastle put up a stern resistance against a City team that had beaten double winners Chelsea last week.
But Hughton's team fell behind on 18 minutes when referee Atkinson awarded a penalty following Mike Williamson's challenge on Carlos Tevez. Williamson appeared to win the ball and television replays suggested that, in any case, the challenge was outside the penalty area.
Williamson said: "I'm sure I won the ball and even Tevez said it wasn't a penalty. The linesman was in line and he didn't signal for a foul."
Despite the controversy, Tevez converted the penalty to put City ahead, but Newcastle responded well.
The visitors were level within seven minutes when Jonas Gutierrez pounced on a loose ball 12 yards out to volley past Joe Hart, who had done well to deny Fabricio Coloccini seconds earlier.
Gutierrez, who tormented right-back Jerome Boateng throughout, started the move for the goal by crossing into the penalty area. Vincent Kompany's half-clearance dropped free within range of goal, but while Kolo Toure hesitated, Gutierrez sensed the opportunity and he took it emphatically.
City enjoyed more possession, however, and they went close to adding to the scoring through Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor before Johnson scored the winner.
Having received the ball from James Milner, Johnson waltzed past Joey Barton and Jose Enrique before curling his shot into the far corner.
It was a goal good enough to win any game, but Newcastle argued that it should not have won this one.
With Atkinson dismissing Newcastle appeals for a penalty following Joleon Lescott's trip on Shola Ameobi, it completed a hugely frustrating day for Hughton's team. Hughton said: "Two horrendous decisions have gone against us. Mike Williamson won the ball for the first penalty and then Lescott lost his footing before fouling Ameobi. It was an absolute penalty."
Newcastle were unfortunate, but City have underlined their emergence as a growing threat to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United for the title this season.
It was anything but an impressive performance, but Mancini's team still emerged victorious and Kidd, who assisted Alex Ferguson at the outset of United's domestic dominance, insisted that the points, rather than the performance, are the key.
"Sometimes you have to win ugly," he said. "You have to scrap and fight. And if you are going to win things or get a top-four place, you need some luck as well.
"Manchester United dropped points yesterday and we knew either Chelsea or Arsenal would drop them as well.
"The aim is to make sure when the others slip up, we are in a position to take advantage. That is what we have done. We have won this one and that's all that matters." (© Daily Telegraph, London)