The moment the Manchester City superhero masks slipped…
Going in to this game, things were looking very bleak indeed.
Out of the FA Cup with a whimper as the field tantalisingly narrowed, Rafa dropping hints that he could leave as soon as the transfer window shuts, as well as the usual unruly squabble about how to protest/whether to bother/which fans with different opinions are mackems in disguise.
To put a cherry on top of it all, the most ominous, expensively assembled wrecking crew in the Premier League were rolling into town, looking to extend their 22 PL game unbeaten run against us. January 29th was all set to be a stinker all right.
At some point in the day though, things started to change. The news that Miguel Almiron was on his way to Newcastle with fee, terms and details all sorted, provided an unexpected lift, accompanied by the news that further reinforcements were heading in (albeit the usual loans with an option). Maybe this ignited a spark of hope, even when the grossly mismatched teams were released.
That spark seemed to be quickly extinguished when Aguero scored his 400th goal against Newcastle after 24 seconds. Raheem Sterling ran rings round Lejeune down the right and his cross seemed to create confusion for Dubravka, who rushed out to meet the onrushing David Silva but couldn’t prevent him heading across the face of goal. When the ball reached Aguero the sinking feeling registered immediately, 0-1 before half the crowd had taken their seats and if anyone tells you they didn’t consider leaving for a second, they’re lying.
This early switch off was to be cursed though, as United decided against letting in six and dug deep to get back into the game. Atsu and Ritchie were full of running and Longstaff put in a magnificent display against a superstar opposition midfield of Fernandinho, De Bruyne and Silva. The main difference from the sorry cup exit though, was surely the man in the number nine shirt. Rondon again played the lone role admirably, holding the ball up, defending from the front and working non-stop to give United a presence in that final third.
Chances were unlikely to come easily against this lot but occasionally gaps were appearing. Danilo was robbed by Perez, who beat Ederson with his shot but steered it wide in doing so, as did Atsu after another crazy mazy run went unchecked.
At the other end, Aguero looked to move things on towards 0-6 by putting the ball in the net for the second time as he latched onto De Bruyne’s quick free kick. However, the ref had clearly warned not to take the free kick before his whistle, and De Bruyne earned himself a booking (I heard that our mates on BT Sport could not stop blethering on about this all night). Fair play to the ref, Paul Tierney, who had clearly set out that he wasn’t taking any smoke from the entitled big club and kept this game well under control in spite of their whinging.
Tierney did blot his copy book a bit when the aforementioned De Bruyne cynically went through Ritchie as he attempted to break with a decent amount of space in front of him. A clear booking but Tierney bottled it, giving the Belgian a talking to and prompting Guardiola to make a swift withdrawal, forcing him to resort to £40 million worth of Bernardo Silva instead, diddums.
Within seconds of this change, the game turned unexpectedly on its head. Ritchie was full of running as ever and his burst down the left saw a teasing cross only half-cleared. Hayden headed the ball back into the box and Rondon was on it, turning and steering it past Ederson for an unlikely equaliser to a soundtrack of guttural old school roars.
Entering the final ten minutes, the sensation that we could hold on for the point everyone would have taken at ten o clock in the morning was growing into reality. There was still room though, for one more moment of madness. When the Perez ball into the box was cut out before reaching Yedlin, City decided to football their way out of defensive danger, piff, paff and dibbling away at the ball like they were messing about in the park.
When Fernandinho was set upon by Longstaff and Rondon while mid-dither, he panicked and lost control in his own box, instinctively lunging and clumsily upending Longstaff. The whole place collectively waited for the waves away of the latest miscarriage of justice, probably a booking for one of ours to rub it in. I saw it straight away, the ref in his striking pink shirt having had a perfect view, whistling and pointing without hesitation.
My next move was to check for the linesman who would likely be influenced to somehow overrule the decision by City players protests. This didn’t happen, we had a penalty, in a Premier League match against the Champions, who we hadn’t beaten in 13 years and Matt Ritchie had the ball, not some flaky sod who was destined to miss.
Unfortunately, we were made to wait for two or three minutes as Ederson, who had not been involved in the foul at all, set about a display of shameful sh..housery to try and put Ritchie off, faking a false injury in an unadulterated, simplistic and blatant attempt to cheat. Ritchie belted it in like nowt was the matter. Bedlam. Hang on for ten minutes and we could actually beat Man City here.
There were the usual late corners to endure but City’s superhero masks had slipped. An incredible three points and a series of welcome results around the league saw a rise to the heady heights of 14th in the table. The planned sit in protest gained some traction, with pockets hanging back, but the delirium of the result mixed with the bitterness of the cold, sent people heading for homes and pubs.
Magnificent performances from Longstaff, Schar, Rondon, Ritchie etc but we so desperately need reinforcements. Today could prove critical as the day Michael Owen lost two records for Newcastle United; last man to score a winner v Man City and record transfer.
Hopefully both will be significant in creating better times ahead.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 Manchester City 1
Newcastle United: Rondon 66, Ritchie 80 (pen)
Man City: Aguero 1
Possession was Man City 76% Newcastle 24%
Total shots were Man City 12 Newcastle 6
Shots on target were Man City 4 Newcastle 2
Corners were Man City 8 Newcastle 1
Referee: Paul Tierney
Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie, Hayden, Longstaff, Atsu (Kenedy 87), Perez (Manquillo 90+1), Rondon
Woodman, Roberts, Clark, Murphy, Fernandez
Crowd: 50,861 (Man City 3,000)
(A must see – Watch Alan Shearer’s reaction when the winner goes in HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle 2 Man City 1 – Read HERE)
(Great quotes from Rafa Benitez after beating Manchester City – Read HERE)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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