Reigning champions Manchester City started their defence of their crown with a 2-0 away victory at Newcastle. However, the win was not as comfortable as the scoreline may suggest.
It was an emotionally charged day on Tyneside, with the home team paying tribute to two fallen fans who were on board the catastrophic flight MH17. Lifelong Newcastle fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney were on the Malaysian Airways flight that was shot down over the Ukrainian border en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Both clubs laid wreathes before kick-off and a minutes silence was impeccably observed.
The first half was one of few chances as both sides tried to get the measure of one another. The home side handed debuts to Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, with the former producing an exciting display. City, on the other hand, fielded a very familiar looking line up, with Fernando making his debut and interestingly Gael Clichy at right-back – while Micah Richards didn’t even make the squad.
There was a further tribute to Alder & Sweeney on the 17th minute when the stadium erupted into rapturous applause – a classy touch from both sets of fans.
City eventually took the lead on 38 minutes and it was some goal. A long ball forward was beautifully backheeled into the path of David Silva by Edin Dzeko. The Spaniard then fired the ball past Tim Krul. It was Silva’s second consecutive opening day goal against Newcastle, and I doubt you will see a better assist all season.
Newcastle continued to make life difficult after the break. Pardew’s men were well organised and disciplined but admittedly offered very little going forward. New signing Remy Cabella was a constant outlet for Newcastle, and you felt that if the home side were to create anything then the young Frenchman was the best source.
Promising youngster Rolando Aarons made his debut for Newcastle with 15 minutes remaining. Aarons had been impressive for the Magpies in pre-season, but struggled to get into the game.
Newcastle had a glorious chance to equalise with 7 minutes left on the clock, when summer signing Ayoze Perez was unlucky to see his perfectly shaped effort drift just wide of Joe Hart’s post – replays showed that Fernando got the slightest of touches to deflect the shot away from goal.
City rounded up the 3 points on 90 minutes through substitute Sergio Aguero. The Argentine started the game on the bench following his endeavours at the World Cup, but it didn’t take him long to get his campaign up and running. The goal came while Newcastle were pushing for an equaliser, City broke quickly and Aguero poked home after seeing his initial shot saved.
Newcastle will feel hard done by the 2-0 scoreline, but Manchester City won’t care. Their title defence got off to the perfect start.