Saturday 17 November 2018

Walker rocket gets City past Magpies' parked bus

Manchester City 2 Newcastle United 1

Manchester City’s Kyle Walker celebrates scoring their winning goal against Newcastle. Photo: Reuters
Manchester City’s Kyle Walker celebrates scoring their winning goal against Newcastle. Photo: Reuters

Daniel Taylor

On the far side to where Pep Guardiola was standing, the banner paying homage to Sheik Mansour had been changed to mark the occasion. "Manchester thanks you for 10 great years," it read. Vincent Kompany took a microphone to proclaim "this is just the beginning" and Newcastle's record at this stadium is so abysmal most of the people arriving for this match would probably have anticipated the reigning champions would usher in their second decade of Abu Dhabi ownership with a freewheeling win.

It was not that simple and at half-time, with Newcastle holding their own at 1-1, the home supporters must have been rather nonplussed to find Guardiola's men falling below their usual standards. City can certainly play much better but, such is life in the lopsided Premier League, it was still largely comfortable for the home team once Kyle Walker had restored their lead with a firecracker of a shot early in the second half.

Newcastle United's DeAndre Yedlin scores his side's goal. Photo: PA
Newcastle United's DeAndre Yedlin scores his side's goal. Photo: PA

This was their 10th successive home win against Newcastle and, for City, that equals a record going back to 1930s when they did the same to Wolves. Newcastle have conceded 34 goals in the process and it was disappointing that Rafael Benítez's team offered so little in attack once DeAndre Yedlin had provided the equaliser to Raheem Sterling's early goal. There have been worse teams to visit this stadium but not too many have played with such a lack of adventure. Newcastle have taken only a solitary point from their opening four fixtures and, as has become the norm, there were mutinous chants aimed at Mike Ashley from the away end.

City's supporters, in stark contrast, made a point of serenading the sheikh - in absentia - for his transformation of the club, the only real issue for concern being the absence of Leroy Sané, who was omitted from the squad after learning the hard way that Guardiola will not tolerate slackness on the training ground.

Sané was one of the brightest stars in City's constellation last season but he has not started a game in the new campaign, his only contribution being three substitute appearances totalling 30 minutes, and his omission here was a direct consequence of some listless performances behind the scenes. Guardiola is also said to have been unimpressed by the winger's 13 minutes on the pitch in the 1-1 draw at Wolves last weekend. The City manager is hardly short of penetrative wide players and when Sterling opened the scoring, seven minutes in, the goal emanated from Sané's usual position on the left.

This stadium has provided so many bleak memories for Newcastle over recent years it was probably no surprise that the visitors started so apprehensively. Sterling's goal was a fine finish, cutting inside Yedlin before aiming a diagonal shot past Martin Dubravka from the edge of the area. The opportunity would not have arisen, however, but for Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles giving the ball away with a slack pass 20 yards from his own goal; at this level, no team can commit those kind of errors and expect to get away with it.

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero performs an overhead kick. Photo: PA
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero performs an overhead kick. Photo: PA

After that, Newcastle might have surprised even themselves with how few problems they encountered through the rest of the first half. Again, they spent long periods pinned into their own half, just as they had against Chelsea last Sunday. Yet there were encouraging signs for Benítez's team in the sporadic moments when they had the chance to venture forward on the break, with their new recruit Salomón Rondón eager to impress.

Rondón was prominently involved in the equaliser, after 29 minutes, when the speed of Newcastle's counterattack seemed to catch out their opponents. John Stones was unable to cut out the decisive pass, with Rondón picking out Yedlin's far-post run, and when the ball went through the legs of the England international there were no other defenders back. Instead, it was Gabriel Jesus, a striker, trying to catch Yedlin inside the penalty area. Yedlin reached the ball first and City were punished for their disorganisation.

Dubravka did much better with a triple save to deny Fernandinho and then Silva, twice, before keeping out Sergio Agüero in the final exchanges. Ederson, City's goalkeeper, was largely untroubled and Newcastle have now gone 22 games without beating these opponents.

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