Monday, September 26, 2005

Mickey takes the points

Newcastle 1 - 0 Man City

One man made all the difference against Man City at the weekend - and it wasn't Celestine Babayaro.

That's what £17m buys you - a matchwinning striker.

Michael Owen had previously scored several times at St James's for a variety of teams, but on Saturday he opened his account for the Toon, notching the only goal of a tight game.

Parker returned from suspension, thankfully replacing Faye rather than Clark (who must be pinching himself - from the scrapheap and the inevitable slide down the divisions to playing in a winning side with Owen and Shearer?!), and Bramble came in for the suspended Taylor in the centre of defence.

We could have been behind early on, Antoine Sibierski heading powerfully goalwards with Boumsong all at sea. Not for the first time this season Given came to the rescue, keeping the ball out with his leg.

The game's decisive moment came on 19 minutes. Shearer won a header, and when Bowyer slid the loose ball through to Owen he finished neatly with an instinctive toe-poke into the bottom left corner from just inside the box.

Owen had an excellent first half, but unfortunately his finishing wasn't quite as clinical when the opportunities came his way. Put clear again, he was unable to beat David James, and later volleyed just over from an awkward angle.

We might have come to rue those missed chances in the second half, had City had more belief about themselves - that seems to have drained away with the undeserved defeat by Bolton and the embarrassing cup exit at the hands of Doncaster. As it was, they put our fragile defence under a degree of pressure without really threatening too much. Richard Dunne headed over when he should have done better, while teenage substitute Stephen Ireland put the ball in the net but only after Joey Barton had been correctly flagged offside.

As if to illustrate that he's about more than just selfish striking instincts, Owen did brilliantly to create a great goalscoring opportunity for Ameobi, but with the last kick of the game the substitute put it past the post.

Not a particularly convincing second half display, but it'll do. Back-to-back wins (and clean sheets to boot) saw us rise to the heady heights of 11th, with the Mackems' unexpected victory over Boro yesterday lifting us up another place into the top half of the table, above the Smoggies on goal difference.

Before kick-off last Sunday we were languishing in 19th. A week certainly is a long time in football. Whether it's long enough for us to get Dyer, Emre and Solano fit for next Saturday's trip to Fratton Park is another matter, though.

A Man City fan's perspective: Bitter And Blue

Other reports: BBC, Observer

(Incidentally, compare the Observer report to this one from the Guardian - Michael Walker really has got it in for us, hasn't he? Time to get the blinkers off, Mike - we actually played quite well on Saturday, for a change.)


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