NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - MAY 06: Yaya Toure of Manchester City celebrates scoring to make it 2-0 with team mates Micah Richards and Gael Clichey during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester City at the Sports Direct Arena on May 6, 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
With such performances are titles won. Eyes and minds were increasingly turning towards the clock as City sought the win that would put one hand on the title as the minutes ticked away. The second half was a nervy affair no doubt; not through the threat Newcastle posed but the question as to whether or not City could get the vital goal. They had the better of the play and the territorial advantage but despite probing away at the Newcastle defence could not land the knockout blow. Step forward Yaya Toure. Released further forward with the introduction of Nigel de Jong Toure took a pass from Sergio Aguero and displayed a wonderful technique to curl the ball into the bottom corner with twenty minutes remaining. City at times this season have struggled in games where they have not led on the hour. Not this time though and the ensuing celebrations underlined the magnitude of the strike. A second was added - not before excellent chances had been spurned - as City closed out the win and put one very firm hand on the Premier League trophy.
Plenty had been written in the lead up to the game about the difficulty of this fixture for City. Newcastle, buoyed by an excellent win at Chelsea in midweek and with Arsenal slipping up on Saturday, had a real opportunity to take a big step towards securing Champions League football but nothing had been written about how difficult a task facing City would be. This was a City with momentum firmly behind them. The win against United was the culmination of a recent spell of results that saw four successive wins following the Arsenal defeat; a run of form that allowed them to take advantage of any slip by United. Newcastle showed flashes of quality and it was a display that suggested they have a bright future ahead of them. On the day though, they came across a City side that were that bit better.
There was a time when Yaya Toure was the figure held up as all that was wrong about Manchester City. The fee, the wages, the mercinary label and not to forget, the holding midfield trio that as symptomatic of Roberto Mancini's reticence and lack of invention. Not any longer. It has taken time and performances - even amongst City fans if truth to be told - but there is no doubting the value of the Ivorian to this side. City's blip in February and March can be attributed to a number of factors, David Silva's blip in productivity and the absence of Vincent Kompany both crucial of course but the departure of Toure to the African Cup of Nations saw City bereft of what possibly is the Premier League's most imposing and influential figure. Joe Hart and Kompany provided the defensive element of the spine of the team, but Toure seemingly provides the same for both the midfield and attack. He started the game yesterday in a deep lying role, part of which gave Gareth Barry licence from an attacking standpoint, but with the scores level, Mancini withdrew and attacking player (this time Samir Nasri) for Nigel de Jong and Toure moved forward - addition by subtraction if you like. A scorer of important goals in the past, Toure once again delivered when it mattered most.
City have now played five games since the reversal at The Emirates. They have of course won all five and whilst scoring fifteen goals is an impressive return, the fact that the defence have conceded just a solitary goal (at Norwich) shouldn't be underestimated. Very early in the season I wrote that the difference between City and United could be the play of the defence and City's has undoubtedly been more consistent than Uniteds. Yesterday's win made it 17 clean sheets for the season and the partnership of Kompany and Joleon Lescott has grown in stature over the course of the season. The duo of Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba are highly touted but they had little more than scraps when coming up against the Kompany-Lescott duo.
Sir Alex Ferguson equated City failing to win the title from this position as being akin to that of Devon Loch but even he would admit that is a stretch in terms of a comparison. That said, the title should now be City's. the final game of the season of course has the added intrigue of QPR - managed by Mark Hughes and still in the thick of a relegation battle - coming to town. It will be a nervy affair but the facts are that City's home record is superb: just two points dropped all season and unbeaten stretching back to December 2010. Contrastingly, QPR on their travels have struggled. If they do stay up this season it will be thanks to their home form given they have taken just eight points away from Loftus Road. Even Mancini - so reluctant to credit City as title favourites of late - conceded they have one hand on the Premier League trophy. One hand it may only be, but there is a firm grip and even the most pesimisic of City fans has to admit it would be a huge surprise if Vincent Kompany is not lifting the trophy at around 5pm next Sunday.