Newcastle's season took another turn for the worse at Eastlands, but things are looking up for Manchester City after they shrugged off recent traumas to claim an important win...
Manchester CIty 2-1 Newcastle United
Manchester City gave themselves and their fans a much-needed tonic after all the negative publicity surrounding their links with two high-profile Brazilians. Shaun Wright-Phillips and debutant Craig Bellamy were on target at Eastlands against struggling Newcastle, whose late goal by Andy Carroll could not save them from another damaging defeat.
Both teams went into this game with a raft of well-publicised problems in recent times, but with points an absolute priority for both. Newcastle were only two points above the drop zone, and City only two points better off than that.
And there were talking points wherever you looked. Robinho, back from Brazil and released on bail by West Yorkshire Police investigating an alleged sex assault in a Leeds nightclub, started for City, along with new signings Wayne Bridge, Holland international midfielder Nigel de Jonng and former Magpie Craig Bellamy, recruited for £14 million from West Ham. Steve Harper was in goal for Newcastle, ostensibly because Shay Given - being pursued by City - was injured. It is believed that Newcastle will let Given go if City make them a realistic offer of around £8m for the Republic of Ireland international. And ex-City midfielder and notorious bad-boy Joey Barton was in the Newcastle line-up.
This was only City's second game in the last 25 days, and they started purposefully. It didn't take Nigel de Jong long to make an impact on his debut - and Newcastle striker Michael Owen won't forget the Dutchman's introduction to English football, be cause De Jong clattered Owen with a tough challenge that left him hobbling.
However, De Jong's contribution was positive overall, and he looks to be a shrewd acquisition by Mark Hughes on this showing. He linked well with Stephen Ireland and the pair were controlling the midfield in the first half, De Jong setting the tempo of the game and offering a tenacious, hard-tackling edge in an area where City have often been found wanting. Ireland and the Dutchman were putting their opponents under pressure and denying them time on the ball.
Sebastien Bassong conceded a free-kick for a foul on Robinho, who fired the shot just over Harper's crossbar from 22 yards. Robinho then had an effort on goal from the edge of the box that flew wide of the target.
But City's pressure soon told as they took the lead in the 17th minute. Bridge crossed from the left and Robinho, his back to goal, took a sublime touch and teed up Shaun Wright-Phillips, who lashed the ball past Harper into the bottom left-hand corner of the net at the far post from outside the six-yard box.
Two minutes later, Owen bowed to the inevitable, limping off following that early challenge by De Jong.
But Joey Barton also had to leave the fray early in the second half, leaving the Eastlands pitch to a crescendo of boos after picking up an injury. He was replaced by Newcastle debutant Peter Lovenkrands, but Magpies boss Joe Kinnear was in need of real inspiration for his toiling side.
Yet Newcastle had started the second half much more purposefully, stringing passes together at last, and they had an appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Mike Jones when Steven Taylor tangled with Micah Richards on the hour mark.
Damien Duff's cross was cleared by Pablo Zabaleta on the line with Lovenkrands poised to capitalise, before City had two penalty shouts of their own rejected by referee Jones. First Bellamy hit the turf in a sturdy Bassong challenge, then Wright-Phillips was relieved ofg t he ball questionably by Jose Enrique.
De Jong tried a shot from long range which went wide of the right-hand post, but City increased their lead when Bellamy struck against his former employers on 77 minutes. Ironically, the Welshman had scored against the Magpies in his last appearance for West Ham. He repeated the punishment at Eastlands when Pablo Zabaleta's pass found him just inside the Newcastle area and he turned deftly before shooting into the opposite corner, leaving Harper stranded for a fine goal.
However, Newcastle gained a consolation on 81 minutes when Bridge dwelt too long on the ball and David Edgar dispossessed him, crossing to the far post where Andy Carroll turned it into the net.
It was too little too late, though,, and City held out for the three points, leaving Kinnear's Newcastle in serious trouble.
Man City: Hart, Richards, Onuoha, Kompany, Bridge, Zabaleta, Ireland, De Jong, Wright-Phillips, Robinho, Bellamy.
Subs: Schmeichel, Elano, Vassell, Jo, Garrido, Fernandes, Caicedo.
Newcastle: Harper, Edgar, Taylor, Bassong, Jose Enrique, Geremi, Barton, Coloccini, Duff, Owen, Carroll.
Subs: Forster, Gutierrez, Xisco, Lovenkrands, LuaLua, Donaldson, Inman.