Manchester City earned a narrow win at Newcastle United to pick themselves up from last week's derby defeat.
City boss Roberto Mancini made a few changes to his side, with Kolo Toure and Matija Nastasic the surprise centre-back pairing and Javi Garcia replacing Gareth Barry in midfield. It was a surprise change, with neither Toure nor Garcia having done much to warrant the decision, and it was the hosts who - initially - appeared to make the brighter start, Papiss Cisse going close to opening the scoring but being denied by a superb low stop by Joe Hart.
Newcastle continued to press as City looked sluggish, with Joe Hart once again being called into action to punch and then catch two Vurnon Anita set-pieces. The bright start for the hosts was short-lived, however, as City soon gathered their composure and began to assert themselves on the game. After a Cheik Tiote error led to Carlos Tevez receiving the ball in the box and being wrongly ruled offside, City took the lead seconds later thanks to some excellent football. Yaya Toure played a superb pass to put Samir Nasri in space down the right, and his cut-back left Sergio Aguero with the simplest of finishes to make it 1-0.
Manchester City were now dominant and Newcastle were rocking, and the Blues should have doubled their advantage sooner, Carlos Tevez seeing a shot blocked by Tim Krul before Samir Nasri's cross-cum-shot failed to find either net or teammate. The City charge was largely down to superb performances from David Silva and Samir Nasri - the latter was making up for Mancini's criticism following his culpability for United' late winner last week, although he unfortunately saw his performance cut short by injury, going off just before half-time to be replaced by Aleksandar Kolarov.
Before the half-time whistle went, however, City still found the time to double their lead. With Newcastle on the ropes, Javi Garcia sent in a header from a corner that Davide Santon - who was enduring a terrible afternoon - made a mess of clearing to allow City to take a 2-0 lead into the break.
Newcastle had more than deserved to go in at the half two goals down - in fact they were lucky to have kept the deficit so low - but after half-time, they came out with renewed intent. Vurnon Anita, Demba Ba and Davide Santon all had efforts on target within the space of a few minutes, but Joe Hart was alert to keep them out.
Shortly afterwards, Newcastle got the breakthrough they were looking for, Demba Ba scoring his eleventh goal of the season after he directed a powerful header past Joe Hart from Fabricio Coloccini's cross. Yet with the hosts suddenly back in the game, they immediately spurned the chance to equalise as Papiss Cisse managed to get free on the edge of the area but blazed over.
Newcastle continued to mount pressure against City, but the visitors managed to regroup and keep them at bay, Joe Hart having an excellent performance in goal with the aid of Pablo Zabaleta, as they had to repel a series of Newcastle attacks. On 78 minutes, they managed to kill off the game as the excellent Zabaleta put in a cross for Yaya Toure, the Ivorian's run untracked as he finished from six yards.
Newcastle were visibly deflated after the goal and offered little, and the final whistle gave Manchester City a deserved victory. It was a much-improved performance and much-needed win for them, who will be thankful of the return to form of David Silva and Samir Nasri, even though they are left sweating over the latter's injury. Newcastle's woes, meanwhile, continue - as has been the case all season, they were good in short spells today, but incompetent for far longer ones. Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa cannot return soon enough, but it was not just creativity they were lacking today. Alan Pardew has shrugged off suggestions that he needs to strengthen in January, but more options in midfield and defence are surely a priority.