City recorded a sixth successive Premier League victory as they beat Newcastle United 2-0 to return to the top of the table.
Joe Hart and Aleks Kolarov in particular were excellent throughout as the Blues extended their unbeaten run to 15 matches against a pumped up Magpies and recorded a first clean sheet in the league away from home since September.
St James’ Park has become something of a happy hunting ground for City who had won six of their previous seven visits to Tyneside in all competitions
With so many teams around the Blues winning on Saturday, it was imperative that Manuel Pellegrini’s side maintained their magnificent form of late that had seen City unbeaten since mid-November.
Looking sharp and lively from the kick-off against a team who have already beaten Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs at home this season, the visitors were ahead after just seven minutes with a goal that oozed class.
With the hosts attempting to press City in possession, the tactic backfired when David Silva turned his marker before playing a threaded ball to Kolarov inside the Newcastle full-back and the in-form Serbian’s low ball was turned in by Dzeko for his 13th of the season.
It was the prefect start and the 93rd goal the Blues have scored in all competitions this season, equalling last season’s entire total with more than four months still to go!
City went looking for the quick kill and Negredo went close a couple of times soon after, but the Magpies resisted and gradually, Alan Pardew’s team worked their way back into the game – and on 34 minutes, it appeared they’d levelled the scores.
As City scrambled a corner clear, the ball fell to Cheick Tiote who sent a howitzer of a shot through the crowded box and into the net from 18 yards – but as the home fans celebrated and Tiote ran off to celebrate, the assistant referee’s flag was raised and the goal disallowed for offside.
Replays proved that Yoan Gouffran was technically interfering with play and was one of three Newcastle players between Hart and the goal - but it was much to the dismay of the home support and manager Pardew who was furious with the decision, exchanging words with Pellegrini at one point in as the home boss momentarily allowed the heat of the moment to get the better of him.
The Blues came close to doubling the lead just before the break of what was becoming an increasingly feisty affair when Nasri picked out Silva from a free-kick and the Spaniard volleyed inches wide from 20 yards out
As the half wore on, the Blues had Hart to thank for a couple of excellent saves, the first from Yohan Cabaye and the second, following a mix-up between Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta, a stunning stop from Loic Remy with his feet.
City lost Nasri to a nasty challenge 15 minutes from time, too, when Yanga-Mbiwa hacked down the Frenchman who crumpled in agony and was stretchered off with his leg in what – let’s hope – was a precautionary splint. It should have been a straight red for the Magpies defender who had two bites at what was an awful tackle.
City were forced to cling on at times as the hosts threw everything foward late on and Kolarov made a stunning last-ditch tackle on 90 minutes that could have earned the Magpies a point, but as the gaps appeared, the Blues settled the game with a classic counter-attack goal.
James Milner, on for the injured Nasri, played a superb ball from the left wing into the path of the onside Negredo who saw his first attempt saved by Tim Krul – but the rebound fell kindly and The Beast was able to walk his 19th goal of the season into the empty net.
An excellent three points and while City may not have been at their best, they dug deep, battled hard and were resilient from start to finish.
City v Blackburn
City take on Blackburn in the FA Cup 3rd round replay on Wednesday 15 January – don’t miss the chance to cheer the Blues on as Manuel Pellegrini’s side chases a possible Wembley double. Adult prices start from £15 and Under-16s from just £5. Details here.