This was a performance of champions, a display of excellence and incision, but Manchester City's brilliance was bittersweet, writes Richard Jolly.
Manchester City too slick for Newcastle United in 4-0 win
MANCHESTER //This was a performance of champions, a display of excellence and incision but Manchester City's brilliance was bittersweet. They know it was in vain, that their crown is destined to rest on their rivals' head. They know that, superb as they were against Newcastle United, all they did was cement their grip on second place.
Had they played like this all season, with such verve and such skill, they might have retained their title. Had they been able to field a side of such strength - rather, for much of the year, the weakened team who floundered at Everton - they might be in contention.
Instead, it served to emphasise what might have been. Yaya Toure, missing when a subdued side slipped up at Everton two weeks earlier, supplied the fourth goal, which was debited to James Perch. Vincent Kompany, absent for two months, got the third in remarkable fashion.
The match was won, however, in the space of five minutes at the end of the first half when Carlos Tevez and David Silva struck. Yet, 15 points behind Manchester United, their fans ignored the league and sang about their Wembley Stadium trip in the FA Cup.
"It's important to get second place and to win the FA Cup semi-final," said Roberto Mancini, the manager. "It is impossible to win the title but if we play like this we won't have a problem in the last couple of months of the season."
There is one potential roadblock on the route to glory, however. Tevez has long led an unconventional life but, even by his standards, a significant few days beckon. The Manchester derby is next Monday, when the man who traded red for blue returns to Old Trafford. Before then, however, he is due in court on Wednesday to face two motoring charges which could result in a jail term.
In the meantime, mentions of him giving City a cutting edge abound, not least because they are true. With greater elegance, Silva and Samir Nasri were other catalysts.
The Frenchman, who had been benched, was the initial threat, wriggling away from two would-be tacklers and centring.
It seemed simpler for Edin Dzeko to score, but he sidefooted his shot against Rob Elliot, and then for Gareth Barry to find the net, but he blazed over from the rebound.
It was City's cue to play at a greater pace. Chances were fashioned: for Dzeko, who headed wide; for Gael Clichy, whose shot was saved; for Silva, who scored but was offside.
"We were lucky to get to 40 minutes without conceding," said the Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.
Then came City's quick double. Both involved Silva. He supplied the advancing Clichy, who centred for Tevez, sliding in with Jonas Gutierrez, to apply the finishing touch. Then Nasri darted between defenders to set up Silva and the Spaniard drilled his shot past Elliot.
The Magpies had threatened at 0-0, when Joe Hart kept out Papiss Cisse's fine volley, and had their best spell immediately after half time.
A comeback was snuffed by the returning Kompany.
He managed a back-heeled volley to turn Barry's deflected shot in. After the controversy surrounding his selection for Belgium on Tuesday, against Mancini's wishes, he was finally back in City colours.
"We played without him for 60 days and this was very bad for us," Mancini said.
They have been without Toure, too, largely because of the African Cup of Nations but he illustrated his importance again when he powered through a gap in the Newcastle defence.
His shot took a telling touch off Perch and beat the overworked Elliot. The goalkeeper was the one player praised by Pardew but Newcastle were impeded by a lengthy injury list.
"With my best team, I think we might have struggled against that Man City team," Pardew said.
As it is, they are only three points off the relegation zone.
"I don't think we ever thought we were out of it," Pardew added.
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