Manchester City FC
Manchester City FC
Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle: Balotelli & Aguero both score penalties to end visitors' unbeaten record
First-half strikes from the Italian and Micah Richards were followed up a spot kick from the Argentina international before Dan Gosling provided late consolation for the Magpies
By Jonathan Birchall at Etihad Stadium
Two late first-half goals from Mario Balotelli and Micah Richards sent the hosts in at the break with a comfortable advantage before a Sergio Aguero penalty secured City's 11th win in 12 league fixtures. Dan Gosling's late finish was to provide little more than scant consolation.
With City’s last game an explosive affair on bonfire night, Mancini made five changes to the side that won 3-2 at Loftus Road, with Vincent Kompany, Gael Clichy, Nigel De Jong, Samir Nasri and Balotelli all coming into the side. Talisman David Silva, who scored for Spain away to Costa Rica in midweek, was left on the bench.
The visitors also saw changes to their side from a fortnight ago, with Hatem Ben Arfa and Sammy Ameobi replacing Sylvain Marveaux and Leon Best in the first XI as Alan Pardew stuck with the same defence that has been so impressive in the season’s infancy.
There were indeed fears at the beginning of the game that Newcastle would look to simply sit and absorb the the City attack but their early endeavour was indicative of a side through whom confidence is brimming, as Ameobi caused Clichy some concern down the right flank.
That said, the hosts looked equally threatening on the opposite wing, with Micah Richards ploughing forward early on and delivering a dangerous low cross into the Magpies' box, which was eventually cleared after some uncharacteristically nervy defending from Pardew's men.
City were proving dominant in possession and their neat build-up play was nearly rewarded on the 20th minute, as Aguero met Toure's ball on the edge of the box before turning Taylor with ease and lashing his effort over the bar.
Newcastle then had Tim Krul to thank for keeping the scores at nil as Milner floated an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Balotelli, who was left aghast as the Dutchman tipped his powerful effort over the bar. The air of comfort at the Etihad was fast being replaced by frustration.
Two easy | Richards doubles City's lead after capitalising on Taylor's error
And it should have been even worse only five minutes later, as Ben Arfa and Ba linked up tidily in the area before the Sengal international forced an excellent save from Joe Hart with the ball seemingly destined for his bottom-left corner.
City's response was absolutely ruthless and Mancini's side were in front only minutes later, was Ryan Taylor handled in the area to block Toure's volley. Balotelli dispatched the resulting penalty with unerring cool as the hosts finally broke Newcastle down.
If Taylor's handball had a touch of misfortune to it, then his dawdling on the ball that led to City's second only two minutes later was an act of utter mindlessness. Richards showed the sharpness of mind to nick the ball from the Magpies left back and hammered home from point-blank range to double the the home side's lead.
Mancini's half-time team talk was written for him and his side emerged for the second 45 minutes exuding the confidence of a side who looked set to move eight points clear at the top of the table and they nearly got a third shortly after the restart, with Steven Taylor forced to hurriedly clear Aguero's squared ball across the area with goal at the waiting Toure's mercy.
Newcastle carried on regardless and looked in no way ready to settle for damage limitation, with Ben Arfa denied by the post after stealing the ball from Kompany and dancing his way through the league-leaders' defence.
However, City responded with typical ferocity and the tie was wrapped up with just over a quarter of an hour remaining as Richards latched on to substitute Silva's divine ball before being brought down in the box by Ben Arfa. With Balotelli substituted, Aguero stepped up to make it three.
Substitute Dan Gosling provided his side a consolation strike as injury time approached after pouncing on a loose ball left following a collision between Ba and Hart but there was little fear of a collapse for the hosts
Mancini's side, although disappointed to concede, then closed the game out and will travel to Naples in midweek with yet another dominant domestic performance under their belt. Newcastle's unbeaten run may have come to an end but there will be no shame on their part. The City juggernaut looks likely to take some stopping.
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