Man of the Match: Of course, it was Yaya Touré. While Vincent Kompany got the big goal on Monday against rival United, it’s usually the Citizens’ midfield general that comes up with the big goals. On Sunday, that goal came in the 70th minute, with Touré opening his right foot on a 20-yard shot, slotting the game-winner one foot inside Tim Krul’s left post.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Though the winner came relatively late, this match took a predictable form. After an initial feeling out period, City started the slow process of breaking down a Newcastle side playing as if they knew they were second best. By the end of the first, City was consistently creating chances down their left, with a Davide Santon intervention on the line needed to keep Gareth Barry from putting City up near intermission.
- “Can they get to halftime?” It’s the question that’s always asked in these scenarios. It’s clear one team is vastly better than the other, but if the underdogs can just make it to intermission, they’ll get to reset. Maybe they can extend that momentum-less, expository opening to the second half into the game’s last half hour, when they can hold on for dear life. Yeah, Newcastle was way off City’s standard, but we’ve seen this match before. Once Howard Webb blew halftime, the idea of a 0-0 draw started to take hold.
- The Magpies never looked capable of more. This was a team that could have moved third? It was hard to believe, based on their performance. There was no urgency, no drive, no sense that had been given an opportunity to cease control of their Champions League destiny. Their performance gave justification to all the patronizing analyses marveling how a plucky club like theirs could venture into places that should be far, far beyond their meager reach. Today, they approached this match more like an Fulham-esque upstart than a Champions League candidate.
- This was most evident with Newcastle’s Senegalese striker tandem. We know Manchester City’s central defenders (Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott) can match up with anybody in England, but Sunday’s muzzling of Papiss Demba Cisse and Demba Ba was devastating. The only thing missing was Kompany taking an ether-drenched rang from his sock, sneaking behind Cissé and whispering “there, there” as he put him to sleep. “It’s all over now. You can rest, Papiss. You can rest.”
- Still, for much of the second half, it looked like Newcastle could hold out, as City left Tim Krul wanting for action throughout the first 15 minutes. Slowly you saw wide midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez creep deeper and deeper. “It’s happening,” you said to yourself. “They’re about the slip the switch, bunker, and bleed this thing out.”
- Minutes later, Touré happened. On the ball 28 yards from goal, he got a pass away to Sergio Agüero just as Yoann Cabaye put in a challenge. With Newcastle’s midfielder unable to recover in time to track Touré, Agüero immediately played a ball into the space Cabaye vacated. Fabricio Coloccini couldn’t close him down in time, and with his impeccably placed shot, Touré instantly extinguished every flicker of hope Magpies’ supporters had kindled over the first 69 minutes.
- Touré would go on to add a late second, but it could have been worse for Newcastle. He missed another easy chance in the 84th minute, while Agüero went wide on an opportunity in the 75th after being put in alone on Krul.
- Newcastle’s shortcomings aside, it was a second stifling performance from Manchester City within the span of a week. On Monday they held Manchester United to no shots on goal, while Newcastle only generated one moment of danger.
- City will close (what is assumed to be) their first Premier League title campaign next week against relegation-embattled Queens Park Rangers, a team bossed by Roberto Mancini’s predecessor, Mark Hughes. Newcastle travels to Everton needing help to from West Brom (hosting Arsenal) and/or Fulham (at Tottenham) to realize their Champions League dreams.
“Drill, baby, drill.” — Huge fans of ProSoccerTalk’s Offshore drilling updates.
In today’s early Serie A game, Joe Hart and Torino held down Roma to win 3-1 at Stadio Olimpico to move into the top half of the table.
Roma dominated the stat sheets, holding 69% possession and out-passing Torino 466-174, but were wasteful in front of net, only able to put just five of their 21 their shots on target.
Andrea Belotti scored just eight minutes in to put Torino ahead, and Iago Falque bagged a brace with goals 13 minutes apart in the second half to seal it. For all its possession and movement in the attacking half, Roma could only manage a goal on a penalty, scored by Francesco Totti, his 250th career goal, all coming for one club.
Manchester City loanee Joe Hart commanded a solid performance by Torino’s back line, with the home side managing a whopping 22 tackles and 33 clearances. Roma actually out-performed Torino on the expected goals front, proving Hart’s influence.
The win, the club’s first since late August, pushes Torino up to eight in the Serie A table on eight points. They have conceded just a single goal – the Totti penalty – in their last three matches. It’s a far cry from the 2-1 loss to Atalanta in Hart’s debut, in which a mistake by the England international allowed Atalanta to score the winning goal.
On the other side, Arsenal loanee Wojciech Szczesny made a mistake to gift Torino their early goal. The result for Roma is a big blow to their hopes at challenging for the title, dropping them five points back of leaders Juventus and four behind Napoli.
On Saturday, Derby County fell at home to Blackburn 2-1, with all three goals scored in a furious four-minute span midway through the second half.
It’s been a nightmare start to the season for both clubs, with the clubs in 20th and 22nd on a combined three wins.
That, however, was not the most disturbing thing on display at Pride Park Stadium. The halftime show featured a show with a character from a child’s bad dream. A man in a fish suit swallowed a person whole then spit him back out sans clothing. But don’t take our word for it:
Have fun sleeping tonight.
It’s amazing how results go hand-in-hand with off the field mood for the top teams in the world.
There is no club where that seems to be more true than Real Madrid. The team has drawn two in a row, first a 1-1 finish against Villareal at the Bernabeu that saw Los Blancos pump out 23 shots, but put only six on target. Then, they drew 2-2 Saturday with this year’s darlings Las Palmas out on the Canary Islands, crumbling at the back by blowing a pair of leads.
All this still leaves them atop the La Liga table, a point above Barcelona, and yet the wheels appear to be coming loose.
Things always start with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, and that was the case on Saturday, when the superstar was withdrawn by head coach Zinedine Zidane in the 74th minute, and appeared to be visibly upset with the decision. Zidane told media after the game he was looking ahead to Tuesday’s Champions League matchup with Borussia Dortmund, saying, “He [Ronaldo] always wants to play and be out there on the pitch, but I’ve also got to think about the player and he needed to rest and think about Tuesday.”
Ronaldo did not speak to the media following the match.
Always in his teammate’s shadow is Gareth Bale, but things aren’t going well for him either. According to a report by The Sun, Bale has increased security after his fiance’s family has reportedly been targeted for arson attacks by a drug gang. In addition, Bale is reportedly unhappy after being substituted himself in the 70th minute of the draw with Villareal, according to reports in Spain. There have been reports for a while that his agent is shopping the Welshman to top clubs like Manchester United.
“We’re relaxed,” Zidane said after the Las Palmas draw. “We are working hard and focused on what we’re doing. We have to realize that you can’t always win, but we’re on the right track.”
The game in 100 words (or less): Too many teams qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. There, I said it. Because MLS rules are written as such, two of Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders will likely make it this year, and that’s two too many. On Saturday, the former most narrowly outplayed an even worse San Jose Earhthquakes side, to the tune of 2-1, to go fifth in the Western Conference and move eight points clear of the 7th-place Sounders. The worst part about the current playoff structure: one of the above mentioned sides will almost certainly get hot in the postseason, after doing very little over the course of 34 games to establish themselves as one of the league’s elite. You know, just like the Timbers did last year. Anyway, Dom Dwyer, Simon Dawkins and Kevin Ellis scored the goals on the night. Neither side is any good, nor should they be in the playoffs. That’s MLS.
[ MORE: Playoff Picture — 4 teams can clinch playoff berth this weekend ]
Three moments that mattered
7′ — Dwyer heads home for the early opener — The ball from Paulo Nagamura was inch-perfect, and the header by Dwyer was unstoppable.
42′ — Coelho whiffs, Dawkins makes it 1-1 — That’s just unlucky, if you’re Nuno Coelho.
81′ — Ellis bundles the corner kick home for 2-1 — A fitting winner to this game.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]
Man of the match: Tim Melia
Goalscorers: Dwyer (7′), Dawkins (42′), Ellis (81′)