By Joe Bernstein for The Mail on Sunday
22:01 August 19, 2023, updated 23:19 August 19, 2023
- Foden proved his worth by giving a good assist for Álvarez’s first goal.
- Erling Haaland proved to be a frustrated figure in attack as he failed to score
- WATCH: ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ – Episode 1 – Mail Sport’s new football show
Without Kevin de Bruyne, there is no problem, at least on this occasion.
With Phil Foden back in his prime, Manchester City made light of a lack of key players and a stressful midweek trip to Athens to show there is still a clear gap between them and pretenders like Newcastle.
No other team in the country can afford to do without De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and John Stones and still beat another Champions League opponent in such comfort.
Foden has the chance to be a regular with De Bruyne out for the year after hamstring surgery and this was an impressive audition.
He terrorized Dan Burn from the right flank and wreaked havoc whenever he roamed the field. He set up seven chances, most of them unconverted by Erling Haaland, and set up the winner for Julián Álvarez, although the Argentine also deserves a lot of credit for the finish.
After 31 minutes without a shot on goal, Foden cut inside and shot Álvarez just inside the penalty area. The striker took one touch to control and a second to pass to Nick Pope.
The Newcastle goalkeeper hit the ball with his left glove, but only managed to push it into the corner. Those who question whether Pope’s hand should have been stronger seem harsh considering the quality of the shot.
That lone goal proved to be the end of the scoring as City claimed their 17th consecutive home win in all competitions and their 15th consecutive home league win against Newcastle since 2006.
Guardiola didn’t even have to make substitutions despite complaining about having to play on Saturday night after winning the European Super Cup on a very hot night in Greece on Wednesday.
They paraded last season’s three trophies for the fans before kick-off and with Sheffield United and Fulham to follow, they look likely to go into the first international break next month with a maximum 12 points from 12, Guardiola tells his players. Enjoy your win with a lap of honor in front of the fans.
As for Eddie Howe, after the rave reviews his team garnered after beating Aston Villa 5-1 last weekend, this was a reality check of the best.
His fighting qualities were underlined by five yellow cards: Antony Gordon was substituted before he could see the red for two bad challenges, but they only had one shot on goal after Josep Gvardiol saved Callum Wilson and Harvey Barnes fired the rebound to Ederson.
We were one meter away from who we needed to be. There were cheap gifts,” Howe admitted. ‘We interrupted his rhythm better in the second half, but the quality was not there.
‘I didn’t think his midweek game would have anything to do with it. City is used to playing a large number of games and is conditioned by it. His ball retention is very high.
For most of the night, his priority was trying to stop the irrepressible Foden who was praised by pundits on TV.
PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH DATA
Man City (3-4-3): Ederson 6: Days 8, Akanji 7, Gvardiol 7; Walker 6.5, Kovacic 7, Rodri 6, Grealish 7; Foden 8.5, Haaland 6, Álvarez 7
Unused Supplements: Ortega (Gk), Ake, Gomez, Lewis, Phillips, McAtee, Palmer, Perrone, Bobb
Goal: Alvarez 31
Newcastle (4-3-3): Pope 5.5; Trippier 7, Schar 7, Botman 6.5, Burn 5.5; Tonali 6 (Anderson 66 6), Guimaraes 6, Joelinton 6 (Longstaff 56 6); Almiron 5.5 (Livramento 86), Isak 6 (Wilson 66 6), Gordon 6.5 (Barnes 56 6)
Unused Supplements: Dubravka (Gk), Lascelles, Targett, Livramento, Ritchie, Wilson
Reserved: Gordon, Tonali, Joelinton, Barnes, Guimaraes
Referee: Robert Jones 6.5
“The best in the league to turn around,” said Peter Crouch, who is keen to see Foden playing for England in the role of De Bruyne.
“It was tremendous to get into space and have that ability to find the next pass,” added Rio Ferdinand.
Guardiola had asked for a noisy Etihad to shake off the fatigue of his players and they responded in their first home game since they won the Treble.
They dominated the first half hour even as they were frustrated by a black and white defensive wall and felt Gordon could have received more than a yellow for a tall challenge on Ruben Dias.
But City’s quality is such that they were able to take the lead with their first effort on goal.
It was due to quick feet and quick thinking. Foden timed his pass to Álvarez to perfection and the World Cup winner’s rising finish earned him a 13th goal from his last 13 starts at home.
It was better because Haaland, who had started the season with a double at Burnley, was unable to add to his personal tally despite Foden’s slalom runs regularly creating chances.
The Norwegian number 9 fired twice wide and was denied by Pope’s feet after being intercepted by Foden.
“As I have said many times, Phil can play many positions up front,” Guardiola said. “He has incredible ability between the lines, one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Fortunately for City, the visitors were unable to take advantage of Haaland leaving his shooting boots at home.
Gordon withdrew while walking a disciplinary tightrope and the ineffective Alexander Isak withdrew after 65 minutes.
His replacement, Callum Wilson, had a half chance to advance after a loose touch from Rodri, but was stopped by Gvardiol for £77m in his first Premier League start.
An eager City fan yelled at Guardiola to make changes to keep the lead and was jokingly invited to sit on the bench.
He asked me to make a substitution, so I joked, “What players? Come here and do it!
“I thought I could use Rico (Lewis) and Kalvin (Phillips), but the team was still alive and fighting for every ball. The coach has options to make substitutions, but it’s our choice.”
Jack Grealish summed up the spirit by running back to make a block to prevent Miguel Almiron from scoring an equalizer.
But Newcastle knew they didn’t deserve a point and things don’t get any easier from here. Next up is Liverpool followed by Brighton away.
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