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Published on January 13th, 2014 | by Ian Cheeseman

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Defenders take a bow, it’s teams that win titles

Most of the discussion after City’s battling win at Newcastle seems to have centred on the decision not to give a goal for a shot from Chieck Tiote, and the comments aimed towards Manuel Pellegrini by the Magpies boss Alan Pardew, but I make no apology for choosing to look at this game from a different perspective.

I felt that City’s victory at St.James’ Park in 2012, the penultimate game of the title winning season, was the moment the Blues got over the psychological hurdle of believing they would “do it”. I know there were more twists and turns to come against QPR, but I’ll always remember that win in the North East as pivotal.

This latest trip to “the Toon” might have been further from the finishing line, but it still felt pivotal. I’m not saying City have now won the title, but this was a win that demonstrated, to outside observers and possibly to some within the camp too, that this group have great mental fortitude as well as fantastic levels of skill.

We already know that the class of 2014 has the ability to beat any fair-minded footballing team. They’re a team that play with a smile on their face, with flair and panache, but this victory showed another side.

Early on, City played with skill, and Silva’s through ball, Kolarov’s perfect run and cross and Dzeko’s crisp finish nudged them ahead. The response from Newcastle was impressive. They threatened to out muscle the Blues, but whilst on the back foot for long periods, “up stepped” a different quality, never better illustrated than in the performances of City’s central defenders, Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichellis. Kompany played the perfect game (apart from one moment of confusion with Pablo Zabaleta) winning challenge after challenge, leading by example and never coming close to committing a foul. Alongside him, Demichellis was powerful in the air and showed all the qualities that allowed him to star for so many years at Bayern Munich.

Joe Hart was at his very best too, with vital, top class saves, and both fullbacks also added great defiance to Newcastle’s threat.

City’s mouthwatering creative players have rightly gained many plaudits this season, but this crucial win, owed more to the defenders, who should be thrust into the spotlight and take their deserved bow ; and among those defenders I also add Edin Dzeko & Alvaro Negredo, who helped out when needed.

For the record, I agreed with the referee’s decision to disallow the Tiote shot, how could those three offside players, crowding in the goalmouth, not have been interfering with play? The injury to Samir Nasri was heartbreaking, and needless (and felt too cynical for my liking). Nasri has been outstanding this season, and my encounters with him tell me he’s a very decent human being too. Let’s hope he recovers quickly.

Pardew’s well reported comments were undignified, especially aimed at a gentleman like Manuel Pellegrini.
The reason this win, in my opinion, could prove pivotal, is not the valuable three points that sent City top of the Premier League, but the togetherness that this victory, in adversity, is likely to bring.

My talking point on Blue Tuesday is prompted in part by this performance, but others too. The question is this: If you were one of the many critics of Aleksander Kolarov and Edin Dzeko, have you changed your mind and why? My guests are Peter Barnes, Willie Donachie and Colin Hendry – and after the win at Newcastle I asked James Milner what he thought of the spoof “Boring James Milner” twitter account, you’ll hear his response!

Blue Tuesday, BBC Radio Manchester – every Tuesday at 6pm

– Ian Cheeseman

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