MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 19: Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United competes with Nigel de Jong of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at the City of Manchester Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo byAlex Livesey/Getty Images)
And so THUNDERDOME™ has come and gone. Newcastle hung in for the first 40 minutes, conceding massive possession to City but not breaking. Tim Krul pulled a tremendous save from a Balotelli header to keep things level midway through the half, and Ba had an effort turned around by Joe Hart to keep things level, but it always seemed like Manchester City would break through, which they did. Ryan Taylor left his left arm high and trailing, conceding a penalty just after 40 minutes, which Mario "Be Impressed With My Attitude" Balotelli converted before Taylor again was culpable for Micah Richards' second just minutes later.
[edited to add MotM poll-OSotP]
For the first time this season, Newcastle really just looked in awe if not outclassed on the pitch, especially in the first half. It was predictable that City would possess the ball in the first half and roll it around, but we were content to watch them, by and large. Not only that, for large portions of play, the Magpies seemed stumped for any ideas about how to unlock the City in any manner, struggling for any sort of creative build-up let alone to threaten Joe Hart's net, with the best chances falling from an odd corner kick here or there.
The second half would find Newcastle a little more involved in the match... in fact a 60th minute Hatem Ben Arfa Moment of Zen nearly got the lads truly back into the game when he sublimely navigated around the City defense only for his effort to come back off the far post with Joe Hart beaten. Newcastle would have another good effort go wide off the ensuing corner kick, but Captain Colo lashed his volley wide across the goal.
In truth, Manchester City despite their obvious class on the ball had difficulties in breaking down the Newcastle defense on the run of play; we generally held shape pretty well until late in the second half when we got very narrow, allowing City space to advance and get the ball switched across field where in the 71st minute, Micah Richards' legs got very very tired as Hatem Ben Arfa brushed against him in the box. Penalty awarded, and it was 3-0 to City. In a match where you're looking for small victories, I think that it should be noted that 2 of the City goals were from penalties.
79th minute substitute Dan Gosling would pay late dividends as he followed Demba Ba through the center of the Manchester defense, putting in the rebound after Hart smothered Ba's initial shot. You hear debates on the validity of consolation goals or moral victories, but pulling back to 3-1 at the death could help Alan Pardew's men take a little something from this match in which we were to be soundly beaten off the pitch and "shown our place" as it were.
Steven Taylor was massive. Once again, he rarely put a foot wrong and was crucial to many snuffed City attacks.
Captain Colo was slightly less solid on the day, but he did several times provide the cover needed to be that last foot as City looked to break through to goal.
Hatem Ben Arfa- although he did concede the second penalty, his 60th minute effort on the ball gave sufficient hope that he may be nearly back to best form.
I'm going to go out here and say that our inability to stem City's possession in the first half, allowing them comfort and us worry, ultimately was the bad of this match. It really led up to the 5 minute stretch at the end of the first half that ultimately led to our undoing.
5 first half minutes from Ryan Taylor. The penalty concession happens, but you would have hoped that it wouldn't have been followed up with him getting turned around and failing to clear an easily defensible ball that led to Richards' goal. A bad 5 minutes from not his best match of the season, and they were very costly. If we only go into half at 1-0, I feel like it's a different match altogether.
Honestly, there's not much fall-out in this, I don't think, save for the inevitable week of "We told ya Newcastle were posers!" that we will now have to endure. We're still on 26 points from 12 matches and well ahead of any possible dreams we would have harbored before the season started. The hope will be that we learn the lessons from this match and come out against Manchester United with a little more first-half intent. 2 matches left in the #StretchOfDoom, 6 more points out there for grabs.