BEST OF THE MANSOUR ERA: City Get One Hand On The Title In 2012

Throughout June on Typical City, we’re looking at some of the best matches Manchester City have played in the Sheikh Mansour-era. Day by day, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to some of the classic encounters the Blues have had since the 2008 takeover – you can view the rest of the featured games on the Best of the Mansour Era page.

Manchester City have a great record against Newcastle, but there’s one match in the north east that truly stands out for the fans. When Roberto Mancini’s side had beaten Manchester United to go back to the top of the table in 2012, they faced a tough test at St James’s Park – and they passed with flying colours…

Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester City
Sunday 6 May 2012
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Barry, Toure, Silva (Richards 86), Nasri (De Jong 61), Tevez (Dzeko 70), Aguero.
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Milner, Johnson
Goals: Toure (70, 89)

The relief at the final whistle of the victory over Manchester United at the end of April 2012 was only tempered by the time kick off rolled around on Sunday 6 May. The 1-0 success over the Reds had moved the Blues back to the top of the Premier League table, overhauling an eight point gap to Sir Alex Ferguson’s team in just four matches, with two fixtures left. Two wins would secure City’s first title win in 44 years – but there was the sudden realisation that they had to go to Champions League chasing Newcastle.

United faced mid-table Swansea later in the day – before the final match of the season. City could have hoped for an easier tie; United had lost 3-0 at St James’s Park earlier in the campaign, after all. The way the fixtures had fallen meant that the pressure was on City to perform, playing first on the Sunday afternoon.

It was a nervy match to begin with. Newcastle had been on top for the opening stages, without really testing Joe Hart in the City goal, and the Blues looked a little tentatively. With half time approaching, it was Roberto Mancini’s men who almost went in front. A pull-back to the edge of the box was hit low and hard by Gareth Barry, but it was blocked by Tim Krul. The rebound fell straight back to the City midfielder, whose follow-up effort beat the goalkeeper but not the defender on the line. It resulted in a scramble, as Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero attempted to force the ball into the net – but they couldn’t manage it, and Newcastle carried it clear.

Mid-way through the second half, it was getting tense. With 20 minutes to play, there were still no goals – and Mancini made his trademark move. He brought Tevez off, added Nigel de Jong to the midfield and allowed Yaya Toure to push further forward. City needed to win – and this was the manager’s Plan B.

It worked almost instantaneously. De Jong won the ball in midfield and played it up to Toure. A one-two with Tevez on the edge of the area made room for a shot – and Toure bent a lovely effort into the bottom corner, leaving Krul with no chance. The City fans went wild in the away end, though it suddenly became an even tenser affair. Their side had got themselves in front, and they now needed to stay there to give themselves a shot of the title the following week.

Had Newcastle scored, City couldn’t have complained that they hadn’t had chance to kill the game. First, Aguero missed a one-on-one after latching onto a long ball over the top – but his side-footed effort flashed wide, when he’d been finding the net from that position all season. After that, Toure could have made sure – but he missed a one-on-one, slipping as he tried to go around the goalkeeper. Krul managed to tip Aguero’s follow-up over the bar to keep it out.

The home side needed to win, too. Anything but a victory would have seen them unable to finish in the Premier League’s top four – so they were throwing bodies forward in search of an equaliser. City responded, putting Micah Richards into a three-man central defence and they were in the defender’s debt as he made a brilliant point-blank block to keep the score at 1-0.

As the home side pushed forward, City were able to catch them out on the break. A ball out of defence found Toure, who was powering forward as part of a three-on-two. He fed De Jong, who played it further wide to Clichy and it looked like the chance to seal the game had gone. But the Frenchman delayed the cross, eventually delivering it low into the Ivorian’s feet – and Toure lashed the ball into the net to secure the points with only stoppage time to play.

The away fans went even more wild, knowing how significant the victory would be. United’s game later that afternoon was played at a walking pace, with the Reds having almost accepted defeat in the title race with City’s win.

Despite putting a hand on the trophy, Mancini was still sending an ultimatum to United: “It is not finished. It is important that we get three points next week, we need a big effort – there is one game more. I think for us it should be a normal week. We don’t change nothing, QPR will be tough, they are fighting for relegation. Nothing changes. It is ours to lose. It doesn’t depend on other teams anymore.

“Toure’s first goal was special, like the one he scored in the FA Cup final for us last year. This one may be more important if we can finish the season off.

“Newcastle are a good team, they have had a fantastic season. But we deserved to win today, we scored two goals and created three of four other chances to score more. Everyone played really well, the whole team played really well.”

Written by David Mooney

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