Manchester City and Newcastle United were the final two clubs in the Premier League to get their season underway as they met at the Etihad Stadium on Monday night, with the home side going top of the table with a 4-0 victory.
Early in the game there were a flurry of chances, with Pablo Zabaleta blocked in the box and Sergio Aguero seeing an effort likewise thwarted. Newcastle also got into the mix as Hatem Ben Arfa blasted over from range at the other end.
It took only six minutes for the opening goal though, even after those early misses. David Silva popped up to nod home from close range for City.
Just three minutes later, Yoan Gouffran had the ball in the net—but he was offside when the ball was played through to him.
City continued to create more chances than Newcastle as the first half wore on. A lack of fresh ideas and faces was perhaps symptomatic of the Magpies' failure to do much business in this transfer window following on from a poor 2012-13 season.
Newcastle should hire someone to bring in some new players— Rodney Marsh (@RodneyMarsh10) August 19, 2013
This new campaign didn't get off to a much better start. Dzeko set up Aguero just after the 20-minute mark, with the latter holding off Steven Taylor to fire a magnificent finish beyond Tim Krul and into the net off the far post.
City finished the half just as strongly as they started it, and Dzeko will be kicking himself for not making it three after bursting into the box onto a perfect through-pass—only to lose his footing and slip to the ground.
It got even worse for Newcastle, meanwhile. Steven Taylor was shown a straight red card before half-time for clattering Aguero around the head with his arm.
Only a couple of minutes after the restart, Krul had to deny Dzeko from two yards with a phenomenal save—but Yaya Toure immediately made it 3-0 with a sumptuous, curled free-kick into the top corner.
It was far too easy for City from start to finish, but they understandably took their foot off the gas a little in the second half once the points were wrapped up. The one piece of bad news they had was the injury to Vincent Kompany, who went off with a groin strain.
Pellegrini's side were excellent from start to finish, and the new signings look good. If anyone finishes above City they'll win the title.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 19, 2013
There remained time for more goals, though. Substitute Samir Nasri burst behind the defence to finish well for four, and Alvaro Negredo came on for his City debut for the final few minutes—and put the ball in the net, only to see a wrongly shown offside flag deny him a debut goal.
Key Player Grades
Sergio Aguero: A
Aguero was a key figure for City in a barnstorming first half. Playing just off Edin Dzeko, he didn't let his role restrict him to dropping deep, instead chasing down the channels and running behind the defence to look for through balls from his teammates.
His finish for the goal was nothing short of excellent, and already he looks capable of faring much better than he did last season for City.
If Aguero starts regularly, City are guaranteed 20 goals from him.
Jesus Navas: B+
As is likely to be the case with Navas an awful lot this season, he mixed some excellent off-the-ball movement and ability to open up the defence with some questionable decision-making and lack of end product.
Some of his pull-backs led to shooting chances for City and his crosses were often wayward or over-hit, but he linked well with Pablo Zabaleta and was always available to stretch the play and create space for his attacking teammates.
Hatem Ben Arfa: C+
Newcastle's best outfield player by some distance, and he probably didn't touch the ball in the second half. He was subbed just after the hour mark, but in the first half especially, he was the only player in black and white with an ounce of creativity or intent in the final third.
A few long-range efforts were all Newcastle really mustered, and most came from Ben Arfa.
City have laid down a firm marker for their intentions this season, with Fernandinho absolutely dominant in the centre of the park alongside Yaya Toure. Next they face back-to-back league games against newly promoted teams Cardiff City and Hull City. It's hard to see anything but six more points there.
Newcastle will now be without Jonas (injured) and Taylor (suspended) and badly need Joe Kinnear to come up with some signings before the window shuts. They play West Ham at home next and need far better performances and results.