Tevez turns on style to rev up City's title hopes
MAN CITY 3
Forget Christmas, Manchester City supporters got the only present they wanted earlier this month when Carlos Tevez withdrew his transfer request and renewed his commitment to the City of Manchester Stadium.
Come May, however, they might have an even greater gift to cherish.
It is 42 years since their club won the league title, but despite having passed up an opportunity to spend the festive period at the top of the table when they lost to Everton last Monday, this restorative win lifted City to second and underlined their title credentials.
Tevez was the crucial figure as he scored twice and created the other goal. "I'm happy that Carlos scored two goals," manager Roberto Mancini said, "but I'm happy for all the players because they did very well."
Arsenal and Chelsea have both failed to beat Newcastle this season, but from the moment Gareth Barry and Tevez fired City into a two-goal lead inside the opening five minutes at St James' Park, a sixth away win of the campaign appeared all but inevitable.
Mancini said: "I always thought it would be a difficult game because Newcastle are a strong team. They played very well at Eastlands and we knew it would be difficult."
Andy Carroll gave Newcastle hope with his 11th goal of an increasingly stellar season 18 minutes from time, but City's victory was confirmed when Tevez's strike found the corner of the net via a deflection off Fabricio Coloccini with eight minutes left.
Since taking charge of his first game in England last St Stephen's Day, Roberto Mancini has spent more than £120m to lift Manchester's second club four places up the table.
There is just one more place to go, and with City's Abu Dhabi-based owners determined to shift the Mancunian balance of power, the next five months could see their mission achieved in double-quick time.
Speed was certainly of the essence yesterday. Christmas is a time for giving, but City's players cannot have expected to receive a gift from their opponents so quickly. It came in the shape of a wretched pass from Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul, who could be replaced by a fit-again Steve Harper when the Magpies travel to Tottenham tomorrow.
Krul panicked when he received a routine back-pass from Jose Enrique, and his hurried clearance was intercepted by Tevez. The Argentinian slipped a slide-rule ball to Barry, who calmly slotted home from eight yards.
Newcastle were shell-shocked, but their St Stephen's Day headache was about to get worse. This time, at the least, the pain was not self-inflicted.
Tevez's 11th goal of the season was arguably his best. Having played the ball to James Milner, he continued his run into the box and his first-time finish hooked Milner's cross into the roof of the net.
Tevez almost scored again on the quarter-hour mark, blazing over from the edge of the penalty area, while Newcastle had early chances of their own, with Carroll heading Wayne Routledge's cross straight at Joe Hart when the City defence left him all alone on the edge of the six-yard box.
It was a rare aberration from Carroll, but it was symptomatic of much of Newcastle's day. They battered Manchester City's defenders into submission for much of the afternoon but failed to cause Hart any concern.
That all changed with 18 minutes left as Carroll barged his way into the six-yard box to meet Joey Barton's corner, and Kevin Nolan came close to an equaliser when he stabbed wide following Nile Ranger's knock-down.
Nine minutes from time, though, Tevez's close-range strike beat Krul with the aid of deflections off Danny Simpson and Coloccini.
"The start cost us the game. We had talked about not making errors in the final third and we came up with two howlers," said Newcastle manager Alan Pardew. "But the response of the team was outstanding. We gave City a good old game and at 2-1 I thought something special could have been on. Our performance outside the first eight minutes was as good as we've produced, but you can't gift goals."
Newcastle's position, however, requires some perspective. This time last year they were travelling to Hillsborough to take on Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship.
Twelve months on, losing to the potential Premier League champions should hardly be viewed as a disaster. (© Independent News Service)