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This was a performance of the highest quality just when we needed it most. This was the time when City showed how the squad is full of leaders, packed with determination and awash with belief. This was the game where the Blues placed one hand on the Premier League trophy and left the other close by ready to pounce. This was Manchester City at their engrossing best.
It was far from easy. Newcastle have had a superb season and are a force to be reckoned with at home, but such was our dominance for large periods that we made the Magpies look relatively average. They tried valiantly but we had the answers and although it took until the second half before Yaya Touré opened the scoring, the Blues were in control throughout and fully deserved the victory that moves us to within touching distance of fulfilling the dream of securing the title.
Much has been made post-match of Roberto Mancini’s tactical substitution, whereby the Italian introduced Nigel De Jong for Samir Nasri, a move which enabled Yaya to be deployed further forward, from where he could have a greater influence on proceedings. Indubitably, the tactic worked brilliantly yesterday, the Ivorian scoring both goals in a magnificent last half hour, but many pundits and media figures have talked with surprise at seeing Mancini make that decision.
That many have expressed their astonishment is a little confusing. They are seemingly forgetting that we played the whole of last season in such a formation, with De Jong and Gareth Barry protecting the defence, thus allowing Yaya to play just off the striker and exert his considerable presence further up the pitch. The ‘De Jong on, Yaya move forward’ substitution is one that has happened frequently this campaign and had a huge impact on last Monday’s derby game. There have been occasions this season when it hasn’t worked but fortunately it proved to be an inspired move by Mancini yesterday and was a key factor in City winning the game.
The spine of our team is one area which has stood out recently and with the defence only conceding one goal in the past five matches, the likes of Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart have rightly received much acclaim. Equally impressive, however, have been Joleon Lescott and Gael Clichy. They rarely attract headlines but the consistently superb performances of both have been essential in our recent form.
After a slow start to his City career, Lescott has improved dramatically and is now an integral part of the team. Alongside the inspirational Kompany, he has formed a near impenetrable defence at times, aided by the solidity of Clichy. The Frenchman’s recent showings have been first class and it is testament to his fitness levels and desire that he was the player who provided the assist for Yaya’s second goal. Bursting into the opposition box in the last minute of the game, Clichy displayed the type of selfless willing that has seen City come back from what looked like an impossible situation and it is to be hoped that both he and Lescott start to receive the praise they both deserve.
Opposition View: Newcastle promised much though never troubled City with any consistency, only forcing Joe Hart to make three saves all game. They defended stoically at times though with Kompany and Lescott largely nullifying the considerable threat of Papiss Cissé and Demba Ba, the outlet ball wasn’t quite there. In defeat, their fans seemed gracious and can be proud of the performance of their side this season. Thought of as possible relegation candidates before the campaign began, Newcastle could finish the season in the Champions League and that would be fully merited. A few signings in the summer and they could well compete at the same level next year.
As for the Blues, the title is within our grasp and victory against QPR next Sunday would turn the dream into reality. A remarkable home record and current form suggests that is more than possible and few would bet against us. Six more days and we will know.