Newcastle offer positive signs in loss
It would be wrong for any noncontending team to go into a game against the Premier League's defending champion and richest club and expect a win. Still, it would be fair to expect a better return than the eight straight league defeats Newcastle have suffered to Manchester City in the Alan Pardew era.
Newcastle haven't even managed to hit the net against City in 519 minutes of football (over eight and a half hours if you can't be bothered to work it out), but despite all these negative points, there were reasons to be optimistic from the latest defeat -- a 2-0 result at St James' Park.
When I woke up this morning, it was the first time in my football-watching life that I had no feeling of excitement, no buzz for the first game of Newcastle's season. Recent years have obliterated my optimism, and the decision of the lads I have always gone to the game with to cancel their season tickets left me in an entirely pessimistic frame of mind.
The first half didn't do much to improve my outlook. City were by far the sharper of the two teams while Newcastle struggled for any sort of attacking momentum.
David Silva gave the visitors the lead with a goal that was far too easy in its execution.
But Newcastle were much improved after the break. A Jack Colback corner fell to Yoan Gouffran at the far post, and the Frenchman tried to smash the ball through Joe Hart and a host of defenders. A minute later, Remy Cabella fired over the crossbar from inside the area. More chances inside of five minutes than in all of the first half.
Another excellent Colback delivery landed on the head of Paul Dummett, who put it just over the bar. City looked happy to sit back and soak things up, offering little in the way of attacking threat.
Pardew introduced Gabriel Obertan; the groans were audible, but Obertan did well, offering a more direct attacking option. As the game approached its final 15 minutes, 18-year-old academy prospect Rolando Aarons was handed his Premier League debut.
Another new boy, Ayoze Perez, came on for Emmanuel Riviere and almost made the greatest starts of all footballing debuts. He broke clear and beat his man with a beautiful touch only to see his curling shot deflected wide for a corner. If he had scored that one, he would have gone down in St James' Park folklore for eternity.
Moussa Sissoko could have rescued a draw for Newcastle in stoppage time when the impressive new recruit Cabella pulled the ball back to him, but Sissoko's wild shot hit the Gallowgate crowd. He should probably reconsider those bright pink boots of his.
Seconds later, City sub Sergio Aguero finished the game off, netting the visitors' second goal.
Despite the result, there were real positives for Newcastle, not least from some of their six debutants.
Colback was superb in the middle of the park. His work rate was excellent, his passing tidy and his set pieces threatening. He could prove to be one of the signings of the summer. Cabella was impressive too. There will be a lot more to come from him. It was also good to see an exciting academy kid come on in the middle of it all in the athletic form of Aarons.
After the Premier League's opening round of games, Newcastle sit at the bottom of the pile, but the signs are mostly positive. Supporters should be optimistic ahead of next week's trip to Villa Park.