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Yaya Toure helped Manchester City stay in touch with Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United by sealing a hard-fought win at Newcastle United.
The reigning champions looked to be coasting to victory at St James' Park after Sergio Aguero and Javi Garcia gave them a 2-0 lead before the break. However, Newcastle launched a fightback after Demba Ba dragged them back into the game with a 51st-minute header, his 11th goal of the season. Papiss Cisse came agonisingly close to equalising in front of a raucous crowd of 49,579, but the visitors eased over the line when Toure restored their two-goal advantage 12 minutes from time.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was left to reflect upon a sixth defeat in seven Premier League matches, but buoyed by a performance of real character against a team which at times threatened to rip them apart. Deprived of the threat of mercurial Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa, Pardew beefed up his midfield by introducing the more defensively minded James Perch.
The home side enjoyed the better of the possession in the first 10 minutes and might have been ahead had Joe Hart not got down smartly to turn away Cisse's early half-volley from Cheick Tiote's cross. However, City responded and the pace and movement of Samir Nasri, David Silva, Carlos Tevez and Aguero, coupled with the vision of Toure, was too much for Newcastle to handle at times. Had it not been for the efforts of goalkeeper Tim Krul and some chances spurned, the game could have been out of their reach long before the half-time whistle.
City took the lead with 10 minutes gone when a Toure pass split the home defence and Nasri unselfishly squared for Aguero to slide the ball into the empty net.
In an instant, the flow of the game had changed and Pardew's men found themselves chasing shadows. Tevez was denied a second three minutes later by Krul's point-blank save and Nasri fired against the foot of a post after 20 minutes before Mike Williamson blocked Aguero's follow-up on the line.
Newcastle rallied with Williamson forcing another good save from Hart with a left-foot volley after central defensive partner Fabricio Coloccini had headed upfield, before Cisse fired over from long range 13 minutes before the break.
City doubled their lead with six minutes of the half remaining. Garcia met Silva's left-wing corner with a header that full-back Davide Santon could not clear at the far post.
Newcastle returned determined not to capitulate, and went close twice within four minutes of the restart with Ba heading over at the far post and Santon drilling a low drive into the side-netting. They got their reward with 51 minutes gone when, after Vurnon Anita's corner had been half-cleared, Coloccini hooked the ball back into the penalty area where Ba beat the offside trap to head firmly past Hart.
The home side came within inches of levelling two minutes later when Cisse span on Anita's pass and fired narrowly over, but it took another crucial save by Krul to keep their hopes alive after Tevez had been played in over the top with 57 minutes gone. Ba stabbed the ball into the side-netting from the last of a series of right-wing Anita corners with City's composure eluding them for once, and then prompted Hart to make a solid save with a rasping drive from distance.
However, City made sure 12 minutes from time when Pablo Zabaleta got in down the left and crossed for Toure to make it 3-1. Aguero might have extended City's lead considerably as time ran down, curling a shot just wide and then chipping harmlessly across goal after racing from halfway, but the damage had been done.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew: "It was a soft second goal [to concede]. But we looked like we had got goals in us, unfortunately we look like we'll concede goals.
"I was happy with a lot of things we did. We opened them up on a lot of occasions. But they are a good side. Their best players played well today. I was proud of my players in the second half. We came out with intent."
"I look at us and I have been in runs with other teams and I have played in some teams as well where you don't feel you can score, and that's a real worry, when you don't think you have got a goal in the team. But you have to say over the last three or four games, you can't say that about us. We look like we have got goals. We are just missing a bit of concentration, a little bit of resilience.
"At 2-1, we were really, really in a game there with a team who you couldn't say had played poorly. They were right at it today, Manchester City, so there are a lot of positives for us. Unfortunately, it's zero points and that's putting us under pressure now going into QPR, which we know here is a big game now."
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: “All the players played well. It could have been five, six or seven as we missed so many chances. When you’re missing so many chances like we did in the first half then if they score they re-open the game like this afternoon but after we were strong because we scored another goal and had chances for more. It was like last year at times today, because we created so many chances to score.
“Today was difficult because clearly after the United defeat, we needed to start quickly but the guys were very, very good today. The best football we’ve played this season was against United in the second half because if you keep a team like that in their own half for 45 minutes, you played a very good game.”
“Aguero and Tevez are perfect because they play so well together but we have Edin to come in as well and Mario [Balotelli]. Mario has a future - he is just at home because he needs to work, if he had deserved to play because he had worked hard then he would have done like all of the other players.”
|22 Dec 2012||v QPR (H)|
|26 Dec 2012||v Man Utd (A)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Arsenal (A)|
|02 Jan 2013||v Everton (H)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Norwich (A)|
|19 Jan 2013||v Reading (H)|