Manchester City earned maximum points with a 2-1 victory over a stubborn Newcastle side at the Etihad on Saturday evening.
Raheem Sterling opened the scoring early on with a deft finish, curled past Martin Dubravka in the Newcastle goal.
With their first real attack of the half, Newcastle equalised through DeAndre Yedlin, who latched on the end of a Rondon cross. The American had a tap in at the back post, despite the best efforts of Gabriel Jesus, who was the last man back as Benjamin Mendy failed to get back – much to the anger of captain David Silva.
Despite a poor showing in the first half, Pep Guardiola’s City stepped it up in the second, despite not creating many clear cut opportunities. Kyle Walker scored his first goal for the club with a thunderous strike from distance, which proved to be the winning goal in an interesting encounter in Manchester.
City’s English trio the best of a star studded bunch
In a game where City didn’t really excel at their blistering best, the performances of John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker were exceptional.
With Benjamin Mendy back in the side, Raheem Sterling has thrice been deployed in a left wing position, allowed to cut inside and roam. At the World Cup, we saw that centrally, he is an exciting player, but he didn’t really have the players around him making movements as he does at City. From the left, his impact on the game is felt more and his goal was a well taken effort, not too dissimilar to his strike at the Emirates on the opening day.
John Stones told BT Sport after the game that he is trying to work on five attributes:
“Clean sheets, defensively be more solid, become more of a leader, everything that comes with being a defender,” he said.
“Aerial duels, crosses into box. I never stop learning. I have got a lot to improve on in my game. They’re a few I want to improve on this season.
So far this campaign, Stones is showing all of them. I was at the game, so see things you don’t on the TV: off the ball, Stones is more and more commanding every week, encouraging players around him. He also looks extremely calm with the ball at his feet and is ever improving off the ball.
The third Englishman, Kyle Walker, showed again that he is probably the best right-back in world football, with another athletic display on and off the ball, that is not to mention his goal of the month candidate.
De Bruyne’s absence is felt
It says a lot that at half time, one of the trending topics was Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian is rumoured to be doing well in his recovery, but is still the best part of six weeks away from a return to action.
With City’s wide men looking good, there were a few times when you thought “De Bruyne would have done better there”.
Pep Guardiola’s men missed a cutting edge or a drive from midfield to great extent, not just against Newcastle, but against Wolves the week before.
There were a few times where David Silva received the ball on the counter attack, with half the pitch to drive into – Silva is great, but this is De Bruyne’s forte.
Again, the ball broke on the edge of the box and was cleared – City fans collective murmured “who’s there?!”. De Bruyne would have been there, popping up at the right time to unleash a shot.
City got the three points yesterday, so it doesn’t really matter, but the quicker they can get their star man back, the better, as they look a bit lost without him at times.
Rafa’s Newcastle prove they should have enough to stay up
Newcastle have been on the receiving end of 2-1 defeats to Spurs, Chelsea and now Manchester City. Rafael Benitez will feel extremely hard done by, as his side have been very unlucky on all occasions.
The Magpies didn’t have it in them to take on City and try and win the game, Benitez was realistic about that. Thus, as he did against Chelsea and Spurs, he put 10 men behind the ball and tried to absorb pressure.
For the most part, it worked – City looked frustrated and void of options at times, often having to pass sideways in a ‘U’ shape as forward passes were unavailable due to Newcastle’s tight and rigid structure.
As a fan of football being played at a fast, fluid level, seeing teams ‘park the bus’ is frustrating, but sympathy has to be given to teams like Newcastle. Without Rafael Benitez, the team would be relegation favourites, as they don’t have a star studded line up by any stretch of the imagination – Rafa is realistic and knows that the defensive style is the best way to win points.
Newcastle enter the international break on the back of three narrow losses against big teams, but there is a lot of positive signs. Many (better) teams will go to The Etihad and lose by a bigger score this season, and that is testament to the solid Benitez outfit, that will have enough to stay up.
City: Ederson 6; Walker 7, Stones 8 (MOTM), Laporte 7, Mendy 6; Sterling 8, Fernandinho 6, Silva 7, Mahrez 6; Jesus 6.5, Aguero 6.
As has been highlighted, the English trio at City was pleasing for City fans. Another bright spark was Aymeric Laporte, who seems more at home in Pep’s side every week. The partnership of himself and John Stones looks set for the future, with the duo born just one day apart and both with the twilight of their careers well ahead of them.
It was a quiet afternoon for the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Aguero for City. The former made his first home start, but struggled to impact the game. He often went long periods without seeing the ball, and his replacement Bernardo Silva instantly injected some pace and purpose about City’s play.
Newcastle: Dubravka 8; Yedlin 7, Clark 6, Lascelles 5, Fernandez 6, Dummett 5; Kenedy 6, Diame 5, Ki 5, Perez 6, Rondon 6.
The highlight for Newcastle today was the performance of Martin Dubravka, who is proving himself as a crude buy from Sparta Praha. The Czech goalkeeper looks a great shot stopper, but also seems more than capable when he rushes from his goal to close down attackers and made the right decision a number of times in the game at the Etihad.
The midfield duo of Mo Diame and Ki Sung-Yeung struggled at the Etihad. They struggled to get the ball off City, which is nothing to judge them by, as not many midfielders in the world do get the better of City’s midfield. However, neither looked to have a creative spark and apart from their goal, Newcastle hardly threatened Ederson’s goal, highlighting their lack of creativity. Had Shelvey been playing, Newcastle may have created more.