Kyle Walker strikes winner to help Manchester City maintain solid start
Newcastle made the champions work hard but the England full-back gave a timely reminder of his talent in Manchester Citys 2-1 home victory
On the far side to where Pep Guardiola was standing, the banner paying homage to Sheikh Mansour had been changed to mark the occasion. Manchester thanks you for 10 great years, it read. Vincent Kompany took a microphone to tell the crowd this is just the beginning and, ultimately, it was another freewheeling win for the reigning champions to usher in their first decade of Abu Dhabi ownership.
No surprise, either, given that Newcastles record at this stadium is so calamitous. This was their 10th successive league defeat on this ground and, for City, that equals a club record going back to the 1930s when they did the same to Wolves. Newcastle have conceded 34 goals in the process and the differing fortunes of these clubs could be explained via the songbooks of the two sets of supporters. From the home fans, there were tributes to the sheikh to mark the 10th anniversary of his takeover. As for Newcastles followers, their discord manifested itself in mutinous chants against Mike Ashley, a very different kind of owner.
Worse sides have visited this stadium but not many have played with such a lack of adventure. It was disappointing that Rafael Bentezs team offered so little, attacking-wise, once DeAndre Yedlins equaliser had offered Newcastle hope on the back of Raheem Sterlings early goal.
Newcastle held their own in the first half but, such is the lopsided nature of the Premier League, it did not matter greatly in the end that Citys performance rarely ventured above six out of 10. They could afford to have an off day when the opposition was so inferior and the narrow margin of victory felt like a deception: this was a comfortable win once Kyle Walker had restored the home sides lead with a firecracker of a shot early in the second half.
Guardiola noted afterwards that while his team had defended very, very bad for Newcastles goal, they did not concede another meaningful chance against a side whose tactics were based entirely on playing on the counterattack. He also addressed the fact that Leroy San was left out of the squad, though if there is a problem between the two then Guardiola was reluctant to say what it was.
San has not started a single game so far this season, his only contributions being three substitute appearances, and his omission from the bench was apparently because Guardiola had detected slackness on the training ground.
The German struggled during a brief appearance in the 1-1 draw at Wolves last weekend but when Guardiola was asked if the players attitude was in question he denied the suggestion, stating it was simply a consequence of Citys squad size. In the last game, Phil Foden was not in the squad and I was so sad for him, just as Im so sad for Leroy.
Instead, Sterling was operating on Citys left wing, with Riyad Mahrez on the right and David Silva in the space directly behind Sergio Agero and Gabriel Jesus. This was Sterlings 100th league appearance for City and his goal was a fine finish, cutting inside Yedlin before aiming a diagonal shot past Martin Dubravka from the edge of the penalty area. Jamaal Lascelles, Newcastles captain, had given the ball away with a slack pass, and at this level no team can expect to get away with that kind of carelessness.
After that, Newcastle might well have been surprised by how few problems they encountered through the rest of the first half. Again, they spent long periods pinned in their own half, just as they did against Chelsea last weekend. There were, however, encouraging signs for Bentezs team on the few occasions when they did venture forward and their new striker Salomn Rondn looked eager to impress, laying on the decisive pass for their 29th-minute equaliser.
Rondn had picked out Yedlins run to the far post and when his low delivery went through John Stoness legs there were no other defenders in position. Instead, it was Jesus, a striker, trying to catch Yedlin inside the penalty area. Yedlin reached the ball first and City were punished for their disorganisation.
It was unusual to see City looking as lethargic as they did in the opening half and Jesus, in particular, found it difficult before his substitution after 56 minutes. City, in short, looked like they missed Kevin De Bruyne, but a wonderful shot from Walker from 30 yards out put them back in front, fizzing the ball into the bottom corner for his first Manchester City goal.
Bentez might reflect that his goalkeeper should not have been beaten from that distance. Yet Dubravka saved Newcastle from a more punishing ordeal in the last half an hour, including a triple save to deny Fernandinho and then Silva, twice. Ederson, Citys goalkeeper, was largely untroubled, and Newcastle have now gone 22 league games without beating these opponents.