Manchester City 2 Norwich City
1 Late Late Show
Saturday 31st October 2015 : GYKO at the
Here was the dullest of games with the liveliest
of endings, thanks to clangers from each goalkeeper in the last 10
minutes of the match. Joe Hart appeared to have presented Norwich
with a share of the points seven minutes from the end when he
dropped Robbie Brady’s cross to leave Cameron Jerome the simplest of
tap-ins, and he must have been the most relieved man in the stadium
when John Ruddy returned the favour five minutes later.
The Norwich keeper came out to claim the ball and stranded himself
at the edge of his area, allowing Raheem Sterling a shot at an
unguarded net that Russell Martin could only divert with his arm.
The Norwich captain received a red card as a result, while Yaya
Touré slotted home the penalty to keep his side at the top of the
table. Even then there was still time for Hart to redeem himself
with a fine save from Martin Olsson that denied a second Canaries
comeback, and for Aleksandar Kolarov to miss another penalty with
the last kick of the game after Brady had brought down Sterling.
There was plenty to talk about in the end, though it was all packed
into those final 10 minutes. Before that Manchester City had been
making conspicuously hard work of seeing off a resolute Norwich
side, conserving energy for their trip to Sevilla on Tuesday perhaps
but displaying a lack of attacking ideas and invention that will
encourage their Champions League opponents. Spanish scouts will also
have noted below-par performances from Touré and Kevin De Bruyne,
and the fact that Wilfried Bony is far from lethal in front of goal.
“Norwich defended very well,” Manuel Pellegrini pleaded in
mitigation. “They made it very difficult for us to find space.”
Norwich boasted a flat back five and a plan to stay compact behind
the ball, which worked for over an hour even if it did invite the
home side to camp out on the edge of their area.
Bony three times had chances to open the scoring but found Ruddy
equal to his first speculative effort, then he missed the target
completely from a better opportunity set up by Kelechi Iheanacho.
Having swooped on to the ball and past Sébastien Bassong in one
imperious surge the striker seemed to have done all the hard work,
only to allow Ruddy and the Norwich goal a reprieve by firing into
the crowd. Bony had just put another shot wide from De Bruyne’s pass
when Norwich almost scored on the counterattack, Matt Jarvis showing
more accuracy than Bony from Brady’s diagonal ball forward and
bringing a good save from Hart. While it would have been completely
against the run of play Norwich could have put themselves in front
before the interval.
City did not have a great deal to show for almost three-quarters of
the first half possession. Pellegrini was boasting in the match
programme about his side having scored 18 goals in the previous four
home games and at half-time he must have been demanding to know
where the attacking desire had gone. Early in the second half he
made the obvious change, sending on Sterling in place of Iheanacho.
The 19-year-old had not looked out of place on his first Premier
League start – just prior to his withdrawal he had created an
opening for Bony that Bassong had to be alert to snuff out – though
between them the front pair were not really giving Norwich too much
to think about.
These are the sort of games in which Touré can usually step up to
make a difference, though the Ivorian was quiet and when the
breakthrough came it was a defender who scored from a set piece.
Norwich must have been kicking themselves. De Bruyne swung over a
corner in one of his last acts before being substituted and Nicolás
Otamendi rose unchallenged to nod firmly past Ruddy from close to
the penalty spot for his first league goal for the club.
It all felt a bit anticlimactic really, after all the goals that had
rained in during October, though no one had any idea of the drama
still to come. “It feels like we chucked away a point,” Alex Neil
said when the dust had settled. “We thought it would be naive to go
toe-to-toe with City so we set up to defend, we were doing well, and
for basic errors from individual players to let us down was
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi,
Kolarov, Toure (Demichelis 90+4), Fernandinho, Navas, De Bruyne
(Fernando 73), Bony, Iheanacho (Sterling 57)
Unused subs: Caballero, Mangala, Garcia, Roberts
Bookings: De Bruyne
Norwich City: Bennett, Martin, Bassong; Brady, Mulumbu (O'Neil 70),
Tettey, Olsson; Howson, Jarvis (Redmond 46), Jerome (Grabban 87)
Unused subs: Rudd, Whittaker, Hoolahan, Dorrans
Bookings: Jerome, Martin (sent off)
Referee: Richard Madley
Manchester City 5 Crystal
Palace 1 Iheanacho's Raid on the Palace
Wednesday 28th October 2015: GYKO at the
The Capital One Cup has lost its last
representatives from the capital. Crystal Palace were left flying
the flag for London but they encountered a northern powerhouse, in
the shape of Manchester City, and were duly dispatched from the
Alan Pardew had overseen City’s elimination last season, when his
Newcastle side won at the Etihad, but the sequel had an altogether
sorrier ending for the 54-year-old, who suffered his heaviest defeat
as Palace manager. Wilfried Bony, Kevin De Bruyne, Kelechi
Iheanacho, Yaya Touré and Manu García secured a fifth win in six
games for the 2014 winners, who host Hull in the quarter-finals and
must be the favourites to regain this trophy.
If this was another exhibition of attacking potency, a sense of
freshness was the most encouraging element. City are accustomed to
seeing expensive signings strike but the presence of two products of
their youth system on the scoresheet was welcome indeed for a club
with aspirations to develop their own players. Their fifth goal was
made in the academy, with the 17-year-old García sweeping in the
19-year-old Iheanacho’s pass.
The Spaniard made his home debut, the Nigerian his full debut. Each
was an auspicious occasion. Iheanacho, who was named the outstanding
player in the 2013 Under-17 World Cup, had struck a minute into his
senior career against Palace last month, prompting calls from
supporters for him to be unleashed sooner. It was a populist gesture
by Manuel Pellegrini to grant him a maiden start. “I had no doubts,”
said a manager who is not renowned for trusting teenagers. The
forward scored one goal, made two more and performed with the verve
and assurance to suggest he belongs on this stage.
“He is not just a striker and not just a finisher,” said Pellegrini.
“He always played with his head up so he made two important
assists.” Indeed, Iheanacho illustrated his passing range, along
with the maturity to make the right decision. City’s second goal,
just before half-time, was a case in point. He skipped clear and
while everyone else converged at the near post, calibrated his cross
perfectly to allow De Bruyne, arriving unseen at the far post, a
The favour was returned for the third goal. De Bruyne provided a low
centre and Bony dummied to give Iheanacho the chance to deliver a
composed finish. That was a highlight of Bony’s night; so, too, was
the header to open the scoring, when he stooped to meet Aleksandar
Kolarov’s corner as Adrian Mariappa lost the Ivorian. “Every time
they had a great chance, they punished us,” said Pardew.
That was not strictly true. De Bruyne could have had a hat-trick,
with Wayne Hennessey making one outstanding save; Bony perhaps
should have had one as well. His performance was akin to a curate’s
egg. He scored, almost supplied another and, without touching the
ball, contributed to City’s third goal. He also scuffed a shot at
Hennessey and skewed another embarrassingly high over the bar after
the purposeful Fernando had fashioned the most inviting of chances
with a surging run.
Bony’s patchy display mirrored a stop-start City career, which has
now spanned nine months and brought only five goals. With Sergio
Agüero hamstrung this sequence of four successive starts is his
first chance of an extended run in the side, but there is a case for
Iheanacho to leapfrog him in the pecking order. “Kun is impossible
to replace,” said Pellegrini. “But Bony knows he has the trust of me
and the team.”
A second Ivorian joined him among the goals when Damien Delaney
wrestled Eliaquim Mangala to the ground and Touré scored from the
resulting penalty. García’s stoppage-time goal took City’s tally to
16 goals in three domestic games at the Etihad, rendering Sunday’s
stalemate in the Manchester derby still more of an anomaly. “This is
the way we normally play,” said Pellegrini. “Maybe it was an
accident on Sunday that we couldn’t create chances.”
Both sides fashioned plenty. Palace were afforded hope by the
wretched Willy Caballero. Pellegrini’s preference is to pick Joe
Hart’s deputy, an ally from their time together at Málaga, in the
cups, but his inability to cope with the crossed ball renders him a
liability. The victory was achieved despite, not because, of his
presence in goal. Palace’s two clearest openings were created by
Caballero, first spilling Jordon Mutch’s cross at the feet of Joe
Ledley, who blazed over, and then coming for, and missing, Mutch’s
free-kick. Mile Jedinak’s header would have crossed the line but for
Martín Demichelis, sweeping up behind the errant goalkeeper.
Caballero contrived to cost himself a clean sheet by allowing
Delaney’s late header to escape his grasp but the real blight on
City’s night involved another Argentinian.
Pablo Zabaleta had already had his head bandaged after a collision
with Yannick Bolasie – “Yala had over 10 stitches,” said Pardew –
before he thudded into a challenge with Wilfried Zaha and was
carried off on a stretcher. “Pablo had the same injury he had two
months ago,” said Pellegrini. “The same ligament, the same knee.”
The right-back will have a scan onThursday, and a period on the
sidelines seems inevitable.
Manchester City: Caballero, Zabaleta (Sagna 56), Mangala,
Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernando, Yaya Toure, Navas, De Bruyne (Roberts
75), Iheanacho, Bony (M Garcia 84)
Unused subs: Hart, Barker, Otamendi, Kompany
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Kelly, Jedinak, Dann, Mariappa, Mutch
(Chong-yong 75), Ledley, Zaha, Bolasie, Delaney, Bamford (Gayle 77)
Unused subs: McCarthy, Ward, Hangeland, Campbell, Sako
Referee: Paul Tierney
Manchester Utd 0
Manchester City 0 Bus Well and
Sunday 25th October 2015 : Glenn Porter for
GYKO at OT
This was the first goalless draw in this famous
fixture since November 2010 and given the disappointing quality on
show, it was a fair result. Yet Manchester United came close to
claiming the city’s 170th derby as the end neared.
Anthony Martial was the best player on show and after 84 minutes he
illustrated why. Stepping inside from the left-wing position Louis
van Gaal had asked him to occupy again, he flipped a precise pass in
to Jesse Lingard. The second-half substitute stuck out a leg to
instinctively volley and was unlucky to see the ball rebound from
Joe Hart’s crossbar.
Moments later Chris Smalling struck a knockdown from Marouane
Fellaini – another replacement – at Hart and he saved well.
This late action made the preceding dour fare seem all the more
disappointing. Martial appears to be wasted when not operating as
the No9. Wayne Rooney again played there and was as ineffective as
he has been for a while, and this may have been why Van Gaal refused
to answer post-match questions about the captain’s form.
Yet Manuel Pellegrini was also to blame for not seizing the
initiative. With David Silva injured, Kevin De Bruyne is the natural
No10 for City yet he was stuck out on the right and Yaya Touré, who
is no quick-minded reader of games, played behind Wilfried Bony. “We
must try to choose the starting 11 that is better for the team,”
said Pellegrini when defending his selection.
Eleven minutes passed before there was a shot on goal. It came from
Raheem Sterling and the pause-then-shoulder-drop inside United’s
area was reminiscent of when he showed the composure that secured
him a hat-trick against Bournemouth the previous weekend.
No goal followed but United had been given a warning. Moments later,
City received the same. This time it was Martial. He also displayed
youthful zest in skipping past Fernandinho, drawing the foul and the
latter’s entry into Mark Clattenburg’s book for a yellow card. When
the 19-year-old was felled again moments later Rooney sent in a
dipping free-kick that was awkward though the City defence did
enough to repel it.
Touré’s position at No10 meant he was expected to join the attack as
City roved forward. He did so when Sterling released the ball from
around halfway. Here was a chance to launch a buccaneering run at
David de Gea’s goal. The 32-year-old did just that but after Marcos
Rojo raced across from left-back Touré lost conviction and the
The hope for Van Gaal would be that faith in Rooney as the leader of
the attack would be vindicated by the forward offering more than at
CSKA Moscow in midweek. Yet the half hour came and went and beyond
his free-kick Rooney’s only headline act was to have staples
administered to a head wound.
Phil Jones will not have been pleased with his standout contribution
as the interval approached. A header that should have been a
clearance or left for De Gea to collect was spooned out for a
Five minutes before the teams wandered off Touré aimed a free-kick
at De Gea’s goal that was deflected for a corner, headed wide the
subsequent cross and later banged a shot wide. For United, Rooney
had punted a 45-yard pass straight out of play and that was about it
for the home side.
It had not been a great match and the hope was that it would get
better. Yet the suspicion remained that it could be the first
goalless Manchester derby since that at the Etihad Stadium five
Neither manager made a change at half-time. United’s starting XI had
one adjustment from the draw at CSKA, Van Gaal reinstating Juan Mata
Pellegrini had provided the headline team news by selecting Vincent
Kompany after omitting him from the previous two games due to
disquiet at the captain’s appearance for Belgium in a Euro 2016
qualifier following a calf injury. The manager, who dropped Eliaquim
Mangala, had also switched Aleksandar Kolarov for Pablo Zabaleta and
Fernando for Jesús Navas.
As with the majority on show, none of these players made any
material impact. Martial had done so, however, and now conjured more
magic from which United might have scored. The forward’s clever
footwork allowed him to offload the ball to Bastian Schweinsteiger.
He passed to Mata who did the same to Ander Herrera and the latter
pulled the trigger and won a corner.
From this United again threatened seriously. First Sterling might
have conceded a penalty when tangling with Herrera – Van Gaal
believed the winger had done so but Clattenburg was unmoved. Then,
from a second corner, Mata’s delivery was headed by Smalling across
Hart and the ball bounced to safety.
City were in siege mode. United had them pinned and defending
desperately. Schweinsteiger can be laboured yet he still had enough
about him to make a patsy of Kompany by selling him a dummy inside
the area. The cross went for a corner and when this was cleared
Rojo’s stabbed intervention rolled to Mata, who seemed clear until
Hart punted the ball away.
The stalemate that seemed the certain result duly occurred on what
was a good day for Arsenal. City move back to the top only on goal
difference from them. United are two points back in fourth. City,
United and the Gunners may make it a three-way fight for the title
all the way until May.
Manchester United: de Gea, Valencia (Darmian 81), Jones, Smalling,
Rojo, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger (Fellaini 75), Mata (Lingard 66),
Herrera, Martial, Rooney Unused
subs: Depay, Carrick, Blind, Romero
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov,
Fernando, Fernandinho, Toure (Demichelis 77), Sterling (Navas 55),
De Bruyne, Bony (Iheancho 83)
Unused subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Mangala, Roberts
Bookings: Fernandinho, Kompany
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Manchester City 2 Sevilla 1
De Bruyne to the Rescue
Wednesday 21st October 2015 :GYKO at the
It was one of those chaotic and jubilant finales when we were
reminded why Manchester City’s supporters like to sing about the way
their team fight to the end. It had been a disjointed performance
and, in the most awkward spells, it was difficult not to watch their
latest attempt to get to grips with the Champions League and wonder
whether Manuel Pellegrini will ever be capable of finding the keys
to unlock the secrets. Yet they persevered and the electronic
scoreboard had ticked into its 92nd minute when Kevin De Bruyne
decided to take control.
What followed was a demonstration of why City have made the Belgian
their £54m record signing. The elite players can deliver in the
high-pressure moments and when De Bruyne took Yaya Touré’s pass he
would have known it was probably his team’s last opportunity.
Sevilla had been too ambitious, looking for a winner of their own
with too many players out of position, but De Bruyne still had a
player to beat and was outside the penalty area when he drew back
his left foot to take aim. The accuracy of that shot was exquisite,
skidding across the turf and going in off the post, completely
changing the complexion of Group D before these sides renew
acquaintances at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán 3 November.
City had also won their previous match, against Borussia
Mönchengladbach, in stoppage time and their knack for late drama is
dragging them through at a time when everyone connected with the
club, whether it be in Ardwick or Abu Dhabi, must wonder when
everything will finally click in Europe.
Pellegrini, so often accused of lacking tactical nous in the
Champions League, also deserves some credit for the way he changed
his team in the last quarter of an hour. Wilfried Bony was replaced
by Fernando and that was the point when De Bruyne moved into the
striker’s role. “We had gone at least 15 to 20 minutes when we
didn’t create a chance,” Pellegrini explained afterwards.
A few minutes earlier Raheem Sterling had released a quick through
ball and Bony did not anticipate that he could be set free. That was
one of Bony’s final acts although, in mitigation, he did play a
prominent part in City’s equaliser, an own-goal by the centre-half
Adil Rami six minutes after Yevhen Konoplyanka had given Sevilla the
Without Sergio Agüero and David Silva it was probably inevitable
that City would not be at their most exhilarating. Pellegrini,
incensed by Vincent Kompany playing for Belgium during his
rehabilitation from a hamstring injury, also chose to leave City’s
captain on the bench for a second successive match, preferring to go
with Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolás Otamendi as his centre-back
Pellegrini is entitled to be annoyed but Kompany is still the best
organiser City have in defence and there was a makeshift feel to
this back four. Mangala did plenty of good things but he and
Otamendi also leave the impressive sometimes that if the opposition
keep pressing a mistake will eventually happen.
There are also signs that the Argentinian Pablo Zabaleta is not the
player he once was and it was probably no coincidence that Sevilla
also threatened on the side where Bacary Sagna was filling in as
left-back. City were susceptible in the full-back positions all
Sevilla are 13th in La Liga but they have beaten Barcelona recently
and the Europa League champions quickly made it apparent they wanted
to examine City’s occasionally brittle nerve in this competition.
They moved the ball quickly and with imagination and they also had
that knack of knowing when to speed up play and when to slow it
down. Konoplyanka was a constant threat and they had enough chances
to feel they ought to have won the game.
Konoplyanka had already thudded a free-kick against the upright,
with Joe Hart and the entire City defence anticipating a cross,
before the Ukraine international opened the scoring on the
half-hour, capping off a 10-minute spell of concerted pressure.
Vitolo had run free on the right and the cutback fell invitingly for
Konoplyanka in the middle of the penalty area. His right-foot shot
picked out the bottom corner and at that stage the home crowd could
have been forgiven for a feeling of deja vu that this was another
night when City’s deficiencies might be laid bare against European
The equaliser was fortunate in the extreme and, though the public
announcer credited it to Bony, it would be enormously generous if it
was not logged as an own goal. Bony had merely jutted out his left
leg after Sterling’s shot came back off the goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
Jesús Navas, facing his old club and having one of his best games
for a while, started the move. Yaya Touré eluded Timothée
Kolodziejczak on the byline and from Bony’s leg the ball took a
final ricochet off Rami to wrong-foot Rico before plopping into the
corner of the net.
City continued to ride their luck bearing in mind the moment, 10
minutes into the second half, when Kévin Gameiro turned a header
over the crossbar from only six yards out. Gameiro was unmarked and
at this level that sort of chance is rarely spurned. Sevilla had let
the home side off the hook and De Bruyne made them pay.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta (Kolarov 60), Mangala, Otamendi,
Sagna, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, De Bruyne (Kompany 90+2), Navas,
Bony (Fernando 76), Sterling
Unused subs: Caballero, Demichelis, Barker, Glendon
Sevilla: Rico, Tremoulinas, Rami, Kolodziejczak, Coke, Krychowiak,
Iborra, Konoplyanka (N'Zonzi 79), Vitolo, Banega (Krohn-Dehli 66),
Unused subs: Soria, Reyes, Andreolli, Llorente, Ferreira
Bookings: Iborra, Gameiro
Referee: Bas Nijhuis Att:45,595
Manchester City 5 Bournemouth 1
Saturday 17th October 2015 : GYKO at the
This was a day when Raheem Sterling offered a
sweet answer to those who believe his finishing is powder-puff. By
the break, the Manchester City forward had three goals to become the
11th player under 21 to net a hat-trick in the Premier League era.
Manuel Pellegrini said: “He is improving and I’m sure he will score
more goals than when he played for Liverpool.”
With City’s big three of David Silva, Sergio Agüero and Vincent
Kompany missing, Sterling showed precisely why he was purchased and
the depth of quality the Sky Blues possess.
With Silva and Agüero already out having suffered injuries while
playing for Spain and Argentina respectively, Kompany joined them as
an absentee from the starting XI. The captain played for Belgium in
their Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel despite a recent calf
injury and his training was restricted on his return; a critical
Pellegrini said: “Kompany was on the bench having only worked one
City required only 11 minutes, though, to suggest the gilded trio
would not be missed. They were 2-0 ahead, Sterling had his third for
the club and Wilfried Bony a first of the campaign.
Sterling’s opener came when Fernandinho swept a diagonal ball on to
Pablo Zabaleta’s head. He nodded the ball back into the danger area,
Bony stuck a foot in and Sterling, hanging near Adam Federici’s
right post, slotted the finish.
Bournemouth were trying to steady themselves when Pellegrini’s team
doubled the lead. This was an untidy affair for Eddie Howe’s side.
Bacary Sagna, operating at left-back due to Aleksandar Kolarov’s
hamstring injury, pinged over a cross. Federici, fatally, spilt
this, and Bony was ruthless. Federici was in the XI only because
Artur Boruc felt “discomfort in a thigh” during the warm-up, Howe
said, though he did not offer this as an excuse.
Was this now to be the proverbial duck shoot for City? The answer,
on the evidence thus far, seemed in the affirmative. But the
defensive frailties that are often the corollary of Kompany’s
absence cost the home team. Glenn Murray was the lone forward in
Howe’s 4-5-1. He had seen close to nothing of the ball yet when
possession came to him he ran at Eliaquim Mangala, the defender
stood too far away, and he fired a 25-yard shot past Joe Hart.
That was 2-1 and only 22 minutes had gone. The game’s fourth goal
arrived before the half-hour. This time all from Sterling was
supreme. Kevin De Bruyne placed a lovely pass into the England man,
who proceeded to skate past Steve Cook and Sylvain Distin, before
shooting beyond Federici.
Going forward City were smooth operators; when the Cherries took the
contest to them they could be disjointed. Nicolás Otamendi offered
an illustration when up-ending Charlie Daniels. The Argentinian was
booked and Matt Ritchie swung a free-kick at the home rearguard that
dropped into the area and was awkward to repel.
Sterling’s first-half parade was about to be completed. The referee,
Mike Dean, was in look-at-his-watch territory with half-time
approaching when Hart hoofed a ball downfield. As Federici hesitated
Jesús Navas received the ball and, after creating space, took aim.
The rebound came off Federici to Sterling. With one of those feints
defenders hate, he bought a fraction and banged the ball in for the
Sterling said: “It’s my first and I’m delighted. I get quite a lot
of chances and it’s something I’ll keep working on and hopefully get
For the second period City lined up without Yaya Touré, who was
replaced by Fernando. “It was not with Sevilla [in the Champions
League] in mind, it was with Yaya in mind – to give him a rest,”
It made scant material difference to them when moving forward. Bony
should have added a fifth when shooting at Federici but found the
keeper’s gloves. Sterling also spurned a golden chance. Bony
threaded the ball to him and the attempted rolled finish went wide.
Bony, did, finally, make it 5-1, to follow the 6-1 here against
Newcastle. It meant City confirmed their status as leaders and
Sterling could depart smiling broadly
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Mangala, Otamendi, Sagna,
Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Fernando 46), Navas, De Bruyne (Nasri 62),
Sterling (Iheanacho 78), Bony Unused
subs: Caballero, Kompany, Demichelis, Roberts
Bookings: Sagna, Otamendi
Bournemouth: Federici, Daniels, Francis, Distin, Cook, Gosling,
Surman, Smith (Pugh 78), O'Kane (MacDonald 65), Ritchie, Murray
Unused subs:Bennett, Cargill, Kermorgant, Tomlin
Referee: Mike Dean
Manchester City 6 Newcastle
United 1 King Aguero
Saturday 3rd October 2015 : GYKO at the Etihad
Sergio Agüero scored five goals in 20 minutes as
Manchester City moved back to the top of the table by running riot
against Newcastle. As remarkable a scoring feat as that is, it was
all the more astonishing for being utterly impossible to predict at
half-time, when City were jeered off the field by their own
For poor old Newcastle, still searching for their first win and in
front for much of the first half, this result was even more cruel
than Chelsea’s late comeback on Tyneside last week. At least they
salvaged a point from that match. Here, despite more than holding
their own in a first half they shaded, they were blown away by a
second half explosion that appeared to come from nowhere.
City could have taken the lead in the first few minutes when Tim
Krul could not quite hold a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick at the foot of
his right post. An almighty goalline scramble ensued but somehow
Newcastle survived. A couple of minutes later Kevin Mbabu got in the
way of a close-range Agüero header and that was all the home side
managed to create in the first half-hour, despite fielding their
first-choice attacking quartet for the first time in the Premier
Considering the amount of money involved in bringing in De Bruyne
and Raheem Sterling over the summer, City’s lack of penetration was
a worry for the home support, particularly as Newcastle appeared
capable of opening up their opponents with ease. Kevin Mbabu, the
makeshift left-back who was again impressive, set up a chance for
Aleksandar Mitrovic that Joe Hart had to be alert to foil, though
the concern for City was that one decent ball into the area had left
the Newcastle striker with only the goalkeeper to beat.
That happened on a number of occasions in the first half. A couple
of times City were reprieved by borderline offside decisions, Hart
also came to the rescue again by sticking out a leg when Mitrovic
really should have scored, so there was no question that Newcastle
deserved the lead they took midway through the first half with a
goal that fully exposed the uncertainty that usually afflicts this
defence whenever Vincent Kompany is missing. First Mbabu knocked the
ball past Pablo Zabaleta on the left and confidently beat him for
speed. Mbabu’s cross was not particularly well-directed and Eliaquim
Mangala managed to cut it out, but only succeeded in setting up
Georginio Wijnaldum to have another go, and this time a better
delivery that left the central defenders struggling to regain
position and allowed Mitrovic to beat Hart with a free header from
the six yard line.
The only good news for City was that Newcastle did not add to their
lead in the period when they were on top. As half-time approached
the home side gradually clawed their way back into the game, with
first Agüero and then Fernandinho sending shots narrowly wide, and
just as against Chelsea last week Newcastle found themselves asking
for trouble by defending too deep.
An equaliser finally arrived three minutes before the break,
Fernandinho heading David Silva’s cross back across goal for Agüero
to finish from close range. There were half-hearted boos as the
players left the field at half-time. Not full-throated, angry
dissent, just a low level expression of disappointment. City were
supposed to be better than this. Newcastle are winless at the bottom
end of the table yet they played the best football. It was no
surprise that Sterling was replaced by Jesús Navas for the second
half, because it was exactly what some of the home fans had been
It should not be said that the substitution changed the course of
the game, for Navas was not immediately into the action and
Newcastle contributed to their own downfall by dozily surrendering
possession in their own half to invite Agüero to score a quick
second. Nevertheless, the fact remains that a mere five minutes into
the second half City were 3-1 in front and Steve McClaren’s side
were back on duty as cannon fodder.
There was a touch of good fortune about Agüero’s second goal, a
deflection off Yoan Gouffran made life difficult for Krul when the
goalkeeper might otherwise have had the shot covered, yet there was
nothing streaky about the third, fourth or fifth. The Argentinian’s
hat-trick arrived in the 50th minute, his third goal coming just
eight minutes of play after the first, when he latched on to De
Bruyne’s through ball and instinctively lifted a shot over Krul.
Then on the hour the Newcastle defence unwisely stood off the
striker to allow a shot from the angle of the area with wholly
predictable results, before a fifth goal in 20 minutes came when
Agüero turned up on the end of a neat passing triangle involving
Silva and De Bruyne.
The Agüero-fest was only interrupted when De Bruyne scored City’s
fourth, arguably the best of the afternoon, meeting a Navas cross
from the right with a perfectly executed volley to loop the ball
over Krul and into the far corner.
There were more grumbles from the home fans when Agüero was taken
off shortly after his fifth, though this time they were clearly
intended in jest. Had he remained on the field against a dispirited
Newcastle side he might easily have approached double figures and
Wilfried Bony must have had mixed feeling about coming on as the
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Mangala, Kolarov,
Fernando, Fernandinho, Silva (Iheanacho 75), Sterling (Navas 46)_,
De Bruyne, Aguero (Bony 66)
Unused subs: Caballero, Demichelis, Sagna, M. Garcia
Bookings: Fernandinho, Zabaleta
Newcastle United: Krul, Janmaat, Mbemba, Coloccini, Mbabu (Lascelles
53), Sissoko (Tiote 66), Anita, Gouffran (Thauvin 66), Wijnaldum,
Unused subs:Elliot, Williamson, de Jong, Cissé
Referee: Kevin Friend