St James' Park
There was no 'boxing' clever in this festive fixture, as Newcastle United proved to be Manchester City's very own Santa Claus, presenting them three points within minutes of the kick off.
The club's ability to shoot itself in the foot off the field appears to have extended itself once again to the players on the pitch. Kevin Nolan looked like having over-indulged in too many pigs-in-blankets but it was Tim Krul and Cheik Tiote who gift-wrapped a 2-0 lead to the visitors.
Pardew predictably tried to stay with the same team that was victorious in the 3-1 win over Liverpool. But he was forced into bringing in Routledge for the injured Ameobi. The winger taking his usual place wide on the right, while Barton tucked inside to fill the ample space left by Kevin Nolan who partnered Carroll upfront. He also brought Coloccini back in after his suspension, replacing Sol Campbell who was reported as being 'unwell'. Whether this proves to be something more sinister with regards the manager's opinion remains to be seen.
The worry for home fans was that the changes might result in a defensive 4-5-1 formation. But from the outset, it was clear Nolan was plying a more forward role. And yet, no formation would have prevented the onslaught from the visitors in the first 20 minutes as Newcastle once again came out of the blocks slowly.
When Coloccini gave a bouncing ball back to his keeper, Tim Krul's control was laboured and an awful misplaced pass to Barton was easily intercepted by Tevez who drove into the box and found Gareth Barry. The midfielder took the ball into his stride and drilled the ball under the stunned Krul to put Man City 1-0 up after two minutes.
And it wasn't long before that lead was extended as Tiote's sloppy pass in the middle of the park, ricocheted off Nolan's heels and fell to Tevez. The Argentinian was full of hustle and again drove forward in that inimitable style before finding James Milner on the right. Milner won't be the last ex-player to rub salt in the wound and his whipped ball was diverted into the top corner of the net by the on-rushing Tevez for 2-0. Other than that, and for some 'committed' challenges, it's difficult to understand why Milner came in for such stick, all things considered.
The scoreline will suggest differently, but really after that goal, it was the home side who dominated. Two headed chances for Andy Carroll came either side of another dangerous bit of play from Tevez, the first of which might have got us back in the game if Routledge had been able to whip the ball in rather than hang it. As a result Andy Carroll's efforts to get something behind it, gave him too much to do in terms of direction and he headed the chance straight at Joe Hart.
Chances also fell to Steven Taylor and Kevin Nolan, while Kolarov had a speculative effort at the other end. Going in at half time, the concern was that the home side might get their heads down but as ever with the current crop of players, in albeit needless adversity, they rallied and gave it a good go in the second half.
The introduction of Nile Ranger once again proved critical, giving an added dimension to the black and whites. He came on for Routledge and took his place alongside Carroll, while Nolan dropped back into the middle and Barton moved to the wide berth he'd recently made his own.
And not surprisingly, it was Barton once again the creator as his corner was met by a towering Andy Carroll header to reduce the deficit. That spurred the home side and crowd on and chances for Ranger and Nolan could easily have levelled the scores.
But a classic counter attack saw substitute and Newcastle supporter, Adam Johnson, combine well with Tevez before the Argentinian's shot inside the box deflected cruelly off both Danny Simpson and Coloccini to wrong foot Krul and end up in the back of the net for 3-1 and effectively game over. Newcastle had one final chance with a free kick from Barton which was well saved by Hart.
Reflecting on the game, most Newcastle supporters will bemoan silly mistakes and an unnecessarily sluggish start. Also a lack of invention in a team that is fast becoming route one oriented with the objective to get the ball to Andy Carroll's head from anywhere on the pitch. It's effective mostly but becoming a little predictable.
Manchester City are undoubtedly giving rise to the opinion that they are real contenders for the title with the results they're getting. But for their all their fortunes spent, are they really getting value for money? For all our misgivings, who on their side would we have taken?
Certainly the invention and pace of Adam Johnson, who is used sporadically by a manager with a glut of options, might be welcome. And yes, the exuberance and tenacity of Carlos Tevez is something we're crying out for as a foil for Andy Carroll and the direct route we've started to take.
Other than that, maybe the ever improving Joe Hart, given the nervous disposition Tim Krul has displayed and the laid back nature of veteran Steve Harper, a youthful but experienced goalkeeper at the top of his game might be useful. But from there I'm struggling as to who I would take on the evidence of yesterday, which suggested while millions has been spent, there is a squad of players who are much of a muchness.
And yet, they appear to have that knack of picking up points like any successful side does, whether they've played below par or been outplayed. And surely that's what's needed?
I used to have a soft spot for Manchester City but for a number of reasons in recent years, I've gone off them a bit. And considering they've tried a few times to wreck the place, their ditty 'Newcastle's a ****hole, I wanna go home', would suggest they'd prefer not to visit. For now, the feeling is mutual lads and if all that money didn't pay off, I wouldn't be losing any sleep over it.
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