When Kyle Walker lined up his strike on 52 minutes, Martin Dubravka might not have been quite expecting what followed. After all, Walker hasn’t scored since November 2015. A shot worthy of Sergio Aguero in power and accuracy wasn’t on the agenda. Nevertheless, that’s what came and Dubravka found himself beaten and Walker engulfed by celebrating colleagues.
Here’s another stat to ponder on top of Walker’s irregular goal-scoring record. He cost around £45m. Newcastle United’s starting eleven, give or take a loan fee here and there, cost around £30m. That’s a little more than the fee paid for City’s cheapest player in their staring eleven, Gabriel Jesus.
And that Walker goal was all that separated them. So, with ten minutes to go, when Rafa Benitez finally switched from a back five to 4-4-1-1, ends seemed to justify means. No points for Newcastle, of course. Still they will feel a minor victory was recorded.
Kyle Walker's thunderbolt from 30 yards proved to be decisive as Manchester City defeated Newcastle 2-1 on Saturday
Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for Manchester City, cutting inside the area before rifling into the far corner
The Manchester City forward wheels away before leaping into the air in celebration after putting his side ahead
But DeAndre Yedlin levelled on the half-hour mark when he was found at the back post and cleverly slotted home
The Magpies man races away to find his team-mates after getting the visitors back on level terms in the first half
But it was Walker whose arrow-like, sledgehammer of a strike gave City a commanding and ultimately decisive 2-1 lead
The elated wing back leaps and punches the sky after netting City's second of the afternoon at the Etihad
Man City (4-4-2): Ederson 6.5; Walker 7, Stones 7, Laporte 6, Mendy 6.5; Mahrez 5.5 (Gundogan 76), Fernandinho 7, D Silva 7.5 (Kompany 89), Sterling 7; Aguero 6.5, Jesus 6 (B Silva 58, 7)
Subs not used: Muric, Delph, Otamendi, Foden
Goals: Sterling 8, Walker 52
Newcastle (5-4-1): Dubravka 7; Yedlin 6.5, Lascelles 5.5, Fernandez 7, Clark 6.5 (Murphy 81), Dummett 6; Kenedy 7 (Atsu 54, 6), Diame 5.5, Ki 6, Perez 5.5; Rondon 6.5 (Joselu 73, 6)
Subs not used: Darlow, Muto, Sterry, Longstaff
Goal: Yedlin 52
Referee: Kevin Friend 7
Ratings by Jack Gaughan
Raheem Sterling opens the scoring for City
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We were invited to celebrate ten years of Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Manchester City and ten years of Vincent Kompany, who actually signed just before Abu Dhabi’s elite took over. He was sent on for what seemed like a gesture of appreciation in the final two minutes. So it wasn’t as though Newcastle were exactly battering City in desperate fashion at that stage. Pep Guardiola was relaxed enough.
Still, one goal separated two teams, one backed by a Middle Eastern state the other by a businessman wealthy in Britain but small fry globally. And one who has a sharp eye on the bottom line. He took over Newcastle eleven years ago. You would have marked them down as the club with the bigger pulling power at the time but if that seems like another age, it because it was.
Nowadays, it shouldn’t really be a contest. That it was, up to a point, was the entire reasoning behind the Benitez approach. Of course, it’s easier to justify away at City, one of the world’s elite teams, than it is at home against a Chelsea team finding their way. But this is modern Premier League football. At times it resembles an FA Cup tie against a lower league team
You would think that the game plan was pretty much busted if your defender and captain decided to play a crucial assist to the opposition in the eighth minute. Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez set out their stall on Saturday night at the Etihad. No surprise that it was a team built around a back five and a four-man midfield.
It has worked before. It almost worked against Chelsea last week. Yet it looked shot here almost before it began. Jamaal Lascelles, dropped last week after reports of a training ground fight, though officially he was injured, had returned to the team.
Manchester City flags donning the players' names are flown on the pitch ahead of the Saturday evening kick-off
Rafa Benitez's side gather in a huddle ahead of kick-off as they prepare to face the champions in Manchester
City captain and playmaker David Silva unleashes a volley during the opening exchanges of the match at the Etihad
Sterling watches on after checking back inside the box and sending a wonderful,