Manchester City 2 Newcastle United 1: Stuart Rayner match analysis
MARTIN Atkinson was the villain of the piece as Newcastle United lost away from home in the Premier League for the first time since they last visited Manchester – but it could be the reckless Nigel de Jong who has done more damage to their season.
For a manager as placid as Chris Hughton to call the refereeing “horrendous” tells you how hard done by Newcastle felt as they filed out of the City of Manchester Stadium, denied a point by two incorrect penalty decisions.
Undeserved though it was, a defeat on the Premier League’s billionaires’ row is no great drama.
Better – and better resourced – teams than Newcastle will come away with nothing from City’s citadel.
More damaging than sacrificing a point could be the loss of Hatem Ben Arfa, stretchered off with a broken leg.
The Frenchman had already shown the flair which could make the difference in tight matches such as this, but it is unclear whether the Magpies will see much more of him before the end of his season-long loan from Marseilles.
Newcastle caught Manchester City on a good day.
Lifting the team for a humdrum domestic game after the excitement of a midweek European adventure is a skill even the top-flight elite sometimes struggle to obtain.
Invited to take the lion’s share of possession by Newcastle’s tactics, City squandered most of it.
United also began badly, their rhythm no doubt thrown by witnessing Ben Arfa, his leg sticking at an angle, taking oxygen after the kind of tackle for which de Jong is getting an unfortunate reputation.
Hughton’s team thrives on a challenge, however, and once they pulled themselves together they did a good job of frustrating their hosts.
Not for Newcastle expected home wins against the likes of Blackpool and Stoke City, these players produce their best when the odds are against them.
They waited until they were a goal down, their playmaker stretchered off, and both centre-backs on bookings before kicking into gear.
It took 23 minutes for Newcastle to register their first shot, Fabricio Coloccini’s volley from the edge of the area forcing Joe Hart to concede their first corner.