City opens season with sizzling win
MANCHESTER, England (AP)
Manchester City quickly hit its stride in the Premier League on Monday, mixing power with panache to thrash 10-man Newcastle 4-0 in Manuel Pellegrini's first game in charge and send a strong message to its title rivals.
Yaya Toure scored the pick of City's goals in an irresistible display at Etihad Stadium with a sublime 50th-minute free kick, adding to first-half goals by David Silva and Sergio Aguero and a late strike by substitute Samir Nasri.
It was a complete performance - and a powerful response to impressive wins by Manchester United and Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season. It could be some battle for the title this season between England's leading three clubs.
And on this evidence, it could be another season of struggle for Newcastle, which played the second half with 10 men after Steven Taylor's straight red card for taking a swing at Aguero in first-half injury time.
Manager Alan Pardew was already without key midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who wasn't included in the squad in the wake of a reported bid of 10 million pounds ($15.65 million) from Arsenal. A chastening day for the visitors was compounded by Argentina midfielder Jonas Gutierrez limping off with a left hamstring injury.
City also had an injury setback with captain Vincent Kompany hobbling off in the 70th but it was an otherwise perfect evening for Pellegrini, whose team played with a swagger and fluency rarely seen in the latter days of predecessor Roberto Mancini's tenure.
The mild-mannered Chilean has kept a relatively low profile since joining from Malaga in June, wrapping up his offseason spending - totaling about 90 million pounds ($140 million) - early to give his squad plenty of time to gel.
And it really showed here.
Two of his four big-money recruits - Spain winger Jesus Navas and Brazil midfielder Fernandinho - made their first league starts and slotted seamlessly into the starting team. Navas, in particular, stood out as part of an attacking unit that ripped through Newcastle's over-run defense time and again. The score could have been double figures.
Pellegrini often stood motionless in his technical area, hands in his pockets or arms folded. He must have been purring at his team's dominant display.
By the time Silva headed in from 10 yards in the sixth minute after a cross from Edin Dzeko had been deflected into the playmaker's path, City could easily have been two up, only for great saves by Tim Krul to deny Dzeko and Aguero.
Dzeko - clearly a man revitalized under Pellegrini after being on the periphery under Mancini - played a key role in Aguero's goal. He flicked Kompany's pass out of defense toward his strike partner, who got half a yard on Taylor and buried a low, angled shot in off the far post in the 22nd.
Taylor was having one of those nights, nearly giving a penalty away for handball off Aguero's goal-bound shot, and a hapless performance was further blotted when he swung an arm at Aguero as they challenged a high ball. Referee Andre Marriner had little option but to brandish a red card.
Now it was just a matter of how many for City.
Toure curled a sublime free kick from 25 yards into the top corner to make it 3-0, and Nasri, part of a star-studded substitutes' bench, ran onto a stray pass from Pablo Zabaleta to beat fellow France international Mathieu Debuchy to the ball and slot home left-footed from just inside the area in the 75th.
That put City top of the fledgling standings, above United.
Alvaro Negredo, another offseason signing, was brought on for the final 10 minutes. And the Spain striker thought he had grabbed a debut goal, only for his close-range strike to be wrongly ruled out off for offside.