THIS was like the reworking of an old script.
It is the opening act of Manchester City's league campaign, they enter a stadium to find a team from Newcastle waiting for them and the drama concludes with City revelling in victory. That sentence could have copied from the first day of their last campaign, a production which began with a league win over Newcastle and concluded in May with Manuel Pellegrini's side lifting the trophy.
The pages of this season have still to be written but inside St James' Park yesterday it was possible to imagine a similar plot unfolding. For one thing, City are good. Once Sergio Aguero is fully fit - the Argentine scored late on, but still seemed short of his coruscating best - the English champions could be even better. They arrived in Newcastle without the trophy but their win suggests that the silverware will never be too far from their reach.
Loading article content
City did stumble in their second league game last season, a 2-1 defeat by Cardiff City, and there is a chance that they could falter similarly next weekend, albeit against a different opponent. City are slated to play at home, but against Liverpool.
"Always in England in the Premier League, you have five or six teams that can win the title, so we need to have the same attitude as we had today [when City face the Anfield side], the hunger with which we have started the season, the same humility with which we played today," said Pellegrini. "I am sure this squad can fight and we will see at the end of the season which titles we will win."
Given the riches on show at City, silver often occupies the minds of players and officials. A win in the north east can be described easily as the club getting out of the blocks in the title race, but that was not the only story on Tyneside. Club captains Fabricio Coloccini of Newcastle and City's Vincent Kompany, alongside former Sunderland goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery, laid wreaths on the centre circle as they were joined by relatives of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, Newcastle fans who died on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
It was an emotional tribute but the visitors were all business within the opening 11 minutes of the match. Tim Krul had to be alert to keep out a close-range effort from Edin Dzeko after only 120 seconds, with Steven Jovetic having played the City striker in with a delicate, lofted pass.
City produced another moment of precision some nine minutes later as Samir Nasri and Aleksandar Kolarov played a long-range one-two before the Frenchman unleashed a rasping drive which Krul had to dive to push away from his goal. The Dutchman had warmed his hands early on and was likely encouraged to watch as his team-mates began to warm to their task too.
Coloccini and defensive partner Mike Williamson managed to get to grips with Dzeko and Jovetic, which allowed the men in front of them to prosper. There were flashes of skill from new signings Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, and a series of surging runs made by Moussa Sissoko, albeit there was little of note to trouble Joe Hart, restored to the City goal having been sidelined for the Community Shield defeat by Arsenal.
Cabella chipped one shot over Hart's crossbar after 16 minutes and Riviere - who showed plenty of endeavour, if a little less composure - scuffed another wide from distance and then blazed across goal with an ill-advised cross-shot.
These were moments of impertinence. They drew a rebuke seven minutes before half-time, with both Coloccini and Williamson drawn to Dzeko as he chased down a long ball, only to be left stranded when the City forward back-heeled a pass between them for David Silva to steer a firm shot into the net.
Yoan Gouffran went close with two shots blocked in quick succession and Cabella scooped the ball over the bar after collecting a pass from Sissoko, but the home side would be unable to avail themselves of an opening day victory. Instead Aguero wrapped up the win for City in stoppage time when he stabbed the rebound into the net after Krul had blocked his initial effort. It was like following a script.