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Newcastle 0 City 2

A trip to crisis club Newcastle was just what was required to end a frustrating spell of football away from the City of Manchester Stadium.

Newcastle, lurching from problem to problem this season were under the pressure with Sam Allardyce once again facing calls for his head after a disappointing run of results, and Allardyce perhaps tried to deflect attention from himself with his pre-match comments which hit out at Sven's tactics against Liverpool where we had 'set out' for a point.

Well, I'm not sure what Newcastle set out to achieve yesterday they came across as a side lacking in confidence, purpose and direction. To be fair to them though, the first-half an hour was a poor affair with both sides seemingly suffering from a New Year hangover as the game was marked with a string of mis-hit passed, mis-timed runs and poor decisions.

All of that changed however around ten minutes from the half, with the first real piece of quality. Elano started a neat move outside the Newcastle area and Ireland linked well with Vassell to return the ball to the Brazillian who slotted home with his left foot from just inside the box. The goal spurred us on somewhat and we looked lively until the break, with Petrov a threat and Elano looking composed in the centre of midfield.

The second-half kicked off with the introduction of Michael Owen and with his first touch of the game should have levelled matters as he got onto the end of a through ball but slotted it too close to Hart who managed to get a foot to it and see it gratefully roll past the post.

I thought for the remainder of the second-half we looked composed and assured with the hardly languid pair of Hamman and Corluka dominating midfield and using Petrov - who remained our most potent attacking threat, on a number of occasions.

Vassell again ran gamely up front, but for the most part left you wondering what an Anelka, or even an Owen could achieve with the level of service our current midfield could provide. Defensively, we were rarely threatened at all following the Owen miss and the game was sealed late on as substitute Etuhu held the ball up well under pressure in the box to tee up Gelson Fernandes to fire past Given and earn our first victory since opening day of the season, and coupled with Liverpool's 1-1 draw at home to Wigan we move back upto fourth position in the table - marking an important result given wins for Everton, Aston Villa and Portsmouth yesterday.

Sven-Goran Eriksson and Sam Allardyce.




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