Newcastle United 1 Manchester City 3
James Perch called them magicians.
And, until the halfway stage, Manchester City’s front men conjured up a masterclass that proved they won’t give up their Premier League title without a fight.
Samir Nasri was the pick of them for 37 minutes, tormenting Davide Santon and creating the opening goal for Sergio Aguero before he was injured.
Aguero was equally electric, Carlos Tevez was definitely in the mood and David Silva was elusive as he joined in their first-half attacks.
Newcastle midfielder Perch said: “They’ve got little magicians up front. I don’t think any of them are taller than five foot eight, but the way they pass and move is great.
“I’m sure it was good to watch from the sidelines, although it wasn’t great to chase around. They are capable of doing that to anyone, and they have too much quality in the side not to do that week in, week out.”
A second goal — headed in by Javi Garcia in the 39th minute — was inevitable as Newcastle failed to deal with City’s flowing football before the break.
But it was a different story in the second-half when Demba Ba’s goal increased the anxiety levels of the City manager Roberto Mancini before Yaya Toure ended United’s revival.
By coincidence, it was another pint-sized player — United’s 5ft 6in Vurnon Anita — who was an influential figure in their improvement after the first-half mauling.
Perch said: “He’s only 23 and has come from the Dutch league, which is probably the most relaxed in Europe. You get a lot of time on the ball over there and the intensity is nothing like as quick. We’ve talked about it and he says the intensity is the biggest difference. It takes time to get used to it, and that’s the same for most players. There are players in the Man City team who cost £25m but it still took them a few games to get used to things (in the Premier League). It is like that and it can be hard initially for the foreign players. He’s been working hard in training and now hopefully he’ll start reaping his rewards.”
Yet, despite the contribution of the mini-men, Mario Balotelli was still a major topic of conversation — and he wasn’t even at St James’ Park.
Mancini, who told the Italian to stay in Manchester, said: “At this moment Mario is not in good form and, for this reason, he is at home. It is only for this reason.
“To get back into the team he needs to work in training and when he plays. He needs to play well.
“I have to talk about him every day and I am not frustrated about that. But I would like Mario to play well because he has great quality.
“He still has a big part to play this season — absolutely — because he is a good player and a huge talent with good quality and a good technique.
“But it is important that he puts all these things on the pitch.”
Goalscorer Garcia said: “It was an important game after what happened against United. We had to show we could continue to have a winning mentality.
“We had to lift our heads. We had to continue to believe and remain positive and I think we have shown that against Newcastle.
“I don’t know if the first-half was our best of the season, but we definitely played very well. If we maintain those standards I think we can chase down Manchester United.
“If we play as well as that we are going to be very difficult to stop.”
Mancini is equally bullish. He said: “With all our problems we are six points behind and have another 21 to play. In six months everything can change and I am confident — just like I was confident last year.”
But he knows what is needed to sustain their challenge to United. “I think if we put our heads in our job, we can do very, very well — like today.
“It’s important to play always at 100% with a good attitude.”
NEWCASTLE (4-2-3-1): Krul 6; Simpson 5 (Ferguson 83, 5), Williamson 5, Coloccini 5, Santon 5; Tioté 6 (Marveaux 75, 6), Perch 6; Cissé 7 (Shola Ameobi 77, 5), Anita 8, Gutiérrez 5; Ba 7.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-1-1): Hart 7; Zabaleta 6, K Touré 6, Nastasic 5, Clichy 7; Nasri 8 (Kolarov 38, 5); Dzeko 72, 6), Y Touré 8, Garcia 6, Silva 8; Aguero 9; Tevez 8.
Referee: Andre Marriner 7.
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