Manchester City dodged a tripwire as they began their title defence in reassuringly competent, if less than dazzling, fashion. Newcastle United may not have beaten City for almost a decade but Alan Pardew’s remodelled side proved awkward opponents, forcing the champions to complement David Silva’s first-half goal and Sergio Agüero’s late strike (above) with some solid defending at St James’ Park.
“I’m very happy,” said the manager Manuel Pellegrini, whose side can expect a sterner test at home to Liverpoolon Monday week. “We played with two Hs – we were humble and hungry. It’s important we play like this if we want to keep winning titles. In England, in the Premier League you have five or six teams who can win the title, so we need to always have the same attitude as today.
“It’s aways important to start the season winning and we concentrated very well, we were well organised and we kept a clean sheet. I didn’t feel Newcastle had clear chances to score until the last few minutes of the game. Our quality of concentration in defending was very high.”
Further up the pitch Edin Dzeko shone, epitomising his team’s exemplary attitude. The striker will be signing a new contract to join Silva, Agüero and captain Vincent Kompany in agreeing long-term extensions. “For me Edin was the best player of the game,” Pellegrini said. “He won a lot of aerial duels, he’s a very good team player. It’s not strange for me to see him play like that. He finished last season playing very well. He has grown. I’m very happy for him – and that’s why he’s renewing his contract. He has a very important duty in our team. I don’t think it’s 100% finished but, yes, he will renew his contract. He’s a very important player for us.”
Pellegrini also admitted he has forgiven Pardew for swearing at him in last season’s equivalent fixture. “I don’t have any problem with Alan,” he said. “It was a mistake he made and he apologised. He had a lot of problems last season – it wasn’t just me.”
With his squad restocked, the early indications are that this campaign should be appreciably brighter for Newcastle’s manager. “There were a lot of things about the performance that bode well for the remaining 37 games,” Pardew said. “The new signings were all solid and Jack Colback [acquired from Sunderland] and Rémy Cabella [bought from Montpellier] were outstanding. When Rémy has a hot day he’s going to punish teams. He’s a little bit like Samir Nasri and David Silva for City, he’s got that ability to find the extra second to make the pass. I’m very pleased.
“We need to take it into our next game at Aston Villa and then get a good home win against Crystal Palace, which will be important, but I’m really buoyed by a lot of things today.”