Date: Sun 06th May 2012.
Referee: Howard Webb.
On a day that United unveiled a statue of the late great Sir Bobby Robson, Manchester City were in town desperate for a win to keep their title hopes alive.
United were also in need of a win to keep our Champions League aspirations going, so the scene was set for a titanic battle between two of the best teams in the English Premier League, with both sets of fans able to point to players capable of winning the game.
There was a pre-match scare with Tim Krul having a hand injury but relief when the teams were announced and Krul’s name was there. Not many United fans would have wanted to go into this game without our Dutch keeper, who Alan Pardew reckons has won us at least 12 points this season on his own.
Cheick Tiote started the game with 8 stitches in his head and it was a bit of a concern early on when he overhit his first couple of passes. Was he affected by the head wound or maybe he’d eaten too many shredded wheat. Anyway the good news is that he settled down as the match went on. The first six minutes were cat and mouse with the only highlight being Cabaye’s boot unintentionally colliding with Barry’s face – sadly for Barry, the event didn’t improve his looks.
United were playing 4-4-2 with Ba and Cisse up front in what was arguably our strongest team except for the absence of Steven Taylor. City’s first attack came in 9th minute and this resulted in a corner and a great save from Tim Krul. In 11th minute the Man City fans sang “where were you when you were sh*t”. That’ll be the same Man City fans who are top of the league but still have empty seats at their home games.
Co-commentator on Sky TV was Niall Quinn, who was recently sensible enough to quit a small, poorly-supported football club for a career in the media. To be fair to the big man, his comments on United were supportive even though, as an ex Man City player, we might have expected something else.
As the half evolved Manchester City were gradually getting on top. On 16 minutes a great save from Krul denied them the lead, and more City pressure followed culminating in Krul rushing out of his goal towards the corner, not getting the ball, and relying on his defence to get him out of jail. City won another corner in 20th minute which Perch cleared and were back again 3 minutes later with Krul again in action.
Ben Arfa got the first yellow card of the game. Tevez took the free kick and Krul saved yet again. Just before the half hour mark, great work from Ben Arfa saw Ba shoot just over. This must have rattled Hart who put his subsequent goal kick straight at Ba, who ran forward and was about to slip it through to Cabaye when Barry “took one for the team” and brought Cabaye down. Cabaye’s free kick was straight at the wall, but at this stage United were clearly forcing themselves into the game.
The 32nd minute brought Tiote’s almost inevitable yellow card, for a foul on Silva. Silva took the free kick himself but weakly put it into touch. A minute later United had a great opportunity. Ba in the area had his shot blocked, then Ben Arfa’s follow up effort was saved. Cabaye also put one past the post shortly afterwards.
Another yellow card, a bit of a soft one, saw Perch being penalised for standing too close to Tevez – at least that’s what it looked like to me. Howard Webb, supposedly Manchester United’s 12th man was not giving us the lickings of a dog. I trust someone will report this behaviour to “Sralex”. I was actually shouting as much at the telly and it seemed to work, as Webb almost immediately tried to go some way to evening things up by booking Toure. After the early Man City dominance, the game was a lot more even now.
The half ended with some excitement. Firstly a good run by Jonas saw Ben Arfa switch to the left and cross for Ba to head over the bar. Then at the other end we saw a Barry double shot – the first blocked by Coloccini and the second cleared off the line by Santon. Great defending by the lads.
Man City again started strongly winning a few free kicks in the first five minutes of the second half, but not doing much with them. A corner in 52nd minute was cleared by Jonas but fell to Tevez “he plays when he wants” – who’s shot was high and wide. Another Tevez shot a couple of minutes later was saved by the finest dutch keeper in the world.
The 61st minute saw a substitution which was to ultimately change the game. Nasri went off, and notorious leg breaker De Jong came on to a crescendo of boos and catcalls. I only used “crescendo” there because I know the owner of this blog likes us to introduce a few posh words to demonstrate how we’re a class above the other blogs! 3 minutes later a great link up between Ba and Ben Arfa should have paid dividends, but ended with Ben Arfa firing over.
Tevez was hooked off on 70 minutes and replaced by Dzecko. After 69 minutes Mancini’s ploy of bringing on De Jong to allow Toure to push forward unfortunately worked. Toure got the ball on the edge of the United area and curved a shot into the right hand corner of the net past the outstretched fingers of Krul diving to his left. Sadly for us, even Howard Webb couldn’t think of a reason to disallow the goal. Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 1
Alan Pardew reacted 5 minutes later by sending on Ferguson to replace Perch – which seemed sensible as he would give us more in forward positions. He also however took off Hatem Ben Arfa and sent on Ameobi. Whilst I could see how Shola might give us more options, I admit to being confused as to how withdrawing Ben Arfa would help us get back into the game.
On 77 minutes Cisse got on the end of a cross from Ameobi but his header was too firm when more of a glance was neded and it went past the post. A couple more yellow cards were then dished out by Webb in a game which was far from dirty. He must have felt the TV camera’s weren’t giving him enough attention. Anyway, Zaballeta’s was deserved for a cynical foul on Ferguson, then Ferguson himself was yellow carded for a soft one on Silva.
Pardew then threw on Ryan Taylor for Tiote in a bid to liven up the last ten minutes, plus injury time. He was probably hoping we might get a free kick on the edge of the box. City responded by putting Richards on for Silva. To their credit, United were still producing some good football and setting up half chances as they tried their best to get the elusive equalizer.
Unfortunately pressing forward proved to be our undoing in 88th minute when City poured forward from their own area and we found ourselves with 2 men back as 4 City players arrived. The move ended with that man Toure again applying the finishing touch and it was game over. Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 2
We went into this game knowing that Arsenal had only drawn yesterday and a win would give us a shout at third place. To be fair though, whilst United played well and fought to the last minute, we were beaten by a better team on the day. With European football already assured however the United faithful stayed behind at this last home game of the season, to give the lads a rousing reception for what has been a great roller coaster ride, a very successful season for us which not many people predicted before a ball was kicked. Thanks lads!
Goals: Yaya Toure (70, 89).
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul (G), James Perch (Shane Ferguson 74), Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (C), Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote (Ryan Taylor 83), Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa (Shola Ameobi 74), Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse.
Subs: Rob Elliot (G), Shane Ferguson, Ryan Taylor, Dan Gosling, Gabriel Obertan, Sylvain Marveaux, Shola Ameobi.
Manchester City (4-4-1-1): Joe Hart(G) Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany (C), Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy; Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure; Samir Nasri (Nigel de Jong 62), Carlos Tevez (Edin Dzeko 70), David Silva (Micah Richards 85), Sergio Aguero.
Subs: Costel Pantilimon (G), Micah Richards, Aleksandar Kolarov, Nigel De Jong, James Milner, Adam Johnson, Edin Dzeko.
Yellow Cards: Ben Arfa (25), Barry (28), Tiote (31), Perch (35), Toure (37), Zabaletta (77), Ferguson (79),
Red Cards: None
Possession: Newcastle United 43.7%, Manchester City 56.3%.
Territorial Advantage: Newcastle United 44.9%, Manchester City 55.1%.
Shots on Target: Newcastle United 3, Manchester City 6.
Shots off Target: Newcastle United 8, Manchester City 10.
Blocked Shots: Newcastle United 5, Manchester City 7.
Corners: Newcastle United 2, Manchester City 6.
Offsides: Newcastle United 1, Manchester City 3.
Total Passes: Newcastle United 383, Manchester City 502.
Total Crosses: Newcastle United 15, Manchester City 20.
Passing Success: Newcastle United 73.9%, Manchester City 82.5%.
Lost Balls: Newcastle United 161, Manchester City 163.
Recovered balls: Newcastle United 64, Manchester City 77.
Tackles: Newcastle United 27, Manchester City 20.
Tackles Success: Newcastle United 66.7%, Manchester City 60%.
Fouls: Newcastle United 12, Manchester City 8.