Manchester City warmed up for Tuesday’s visit of Barcelona in style by crushing Newcastle 5-0 on a perfect day for the Barclays Premier League champions.
City led from the second minute as they cut Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table to five points by demolishing the Magpies at the Etihad Stadium.
Top scorer Sergio Aguero opened the scoring with a penalty before Samir Nasri and the impressive Edin Dzeko added to the lead inside 21 minutes. David Silva made the scoreline even more lopsided with a rapid double early in the second half.
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New signing Wilfried Bony did not get on the scoresheet after coming off the bench for the final 30 minutes but, even before kicking a ball, it seemed he had started paying back his $38 million fee.
His mere presence in the squad – finally available after the African Nations Cup – appeared to sharpen Dzeko, whose goal was his first since September.
The return of Yaya Toure, following his tournament success alongside Bony for Cote d’Ivoire, could also not be understated as City gained complete control of the midfield area.
Toure is suspended as City return to Champions League action this week, but they could not go into a clash against Barcelona in better heart. They needed just 20 seconds to assert their authority as Vurnon Anita gifted possession to Dzeko in the box and then clumsily brought the Bosnian down.
It was just the start of a highly impressive performance from Dzeko, although it was Aguero who tucked away the penalty for his 22nd goal of the season. Newcastle initially responded well to the setback and Daryl Janmaat sent a fierce effort narrowly wide with Joe Hart apparently beaten.
But that was about as good as it got for Newcastle as City strode through the visitors’ defence to double their lead after 12 minutes. Dzeko was the provider, cutting inside from the left and passing inside to Nasri, albeit with a slight deflection. Nasri took the ball in his stride and casually wrong-footed two defenders before scooping the ball into the roof of the net.
Dzeko continued to stretch the Newcastle defense and got the goal his early excellence deserved when a well-timed run behind the defense was spotted by Silva. The Spaniard picked him out with a superb crossfield pass and the Bosnian chested down before clipping home on the half-volley.
By now City were in complete control and they eased off the throttle to coast towards the interval. Newcastle hardly made an impression and City might have had another before the break as Fernandinho struck a long-range shot straight at Tim Krul, after more good work from Dzeko.
The Magpies had a rare good chance early in the second half as Papiss Cisse met Moussa Sissoko’s fine chipped cross with a powerful volley that deflected off Vincent Kompany, but Hart was alert.
That was enough to stir City back into life and they further increased their lead with two Silva goals in the space of three minutes. Aguero broke from deep to create the opening for the first, with Silva finishing by digging out Nasri’s pass inside and tucking home.
The Spaniard had another moments later, this time racing on to an Aguero knock-down from a Toure pass and rifling in from distance. That quickfire double put the game beyond any doubt and Manuel Pellegrini, with Tuesday in mind, decided to take star duo Silva and Aguero off after an hour.
That meant a 30-minute run-out for Bony, and he might have had a debut goal but for a fine save from Krul after racing on to a Toure pass.
Dzeko also extended Krul and the goalkeeper kept out a well-struck free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov as City, despite easing off in the latter stages, continued to dominate.