Pressure mounts on Pellegrini ahead of Manchester derby
MAN CITY 0
(Rolando Aarons 6, Moussa Sissoko 76)
Manchester City's molehills are becoming mountains.
In the 11 days that have followed their 4-1 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur, they have dropped two points in the Champions League, they have lost to West Ham in the EPL and now they have lost the League Cup they won in March, eliminated at home to a weakened Newcastle United yesterday morning (Singapore time).
For the first time since he arrived in the summer of 2013, Manuel Pellegrini is feeling the pressure.
Just as at Upton Park last Saturday, City took exactly what they deserved from this game: nothing.
They lacked hunger, they lacked organisation and they looked a shadow of the side who romped to the Premier League title last season.
Had they been beaten by a strong team, perhaps this would be of little consequence.
But this was Newcastle, a crisis club little over a week ago and a team with no pedigree in this competition.
CUP NOT A PRIORITY
The Magpies have a semi-official policy of not taking the domestic cups seriously for fear that it will compromise their attempts to stay in the Premier League.
Manager Alan Pardew said before the game that the actual reason for his weakened selection was the early kick-off against Liverpool tomorrow.
Obviously, the extra two hours and 15 minutes of preparation you get for a 3pm kick-off is vital.
And yet their weaknesses were turned into strengths.
This was a team full of individuals desperate to impress, none more so than Ryan Taylor, making his first start after two years out with injury.
Man City certainly didn't appear to dismiss this competition as an irrelevance.
While Joe Hart, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany were rested, many key players were retained, including Yaya Toure, James Milner, Edin Dzeko and, unfortunately, David Silva.
The Spanish midfielder was felled by an innocuous challenge in the fourth minute.
Taylor appeared to pull Silva's shoulder and the City man fell to the floor in a heap. But worryingly, he immediately clutched his knee-cap.
The resultant free-kick was spurned by Toure and Silva lasted only a few minutes more before admitting defeat.
All of a sudden, Pellegrini must have wished he had played a reserve team too. Silva's withdrawal came two minutes after Newcastle had stunned their hosts with a goal that not only encapsulated the hunger of their fringe players, but that demonstrated the slackness in the City side.
Fernandinho dawdled on the ball in his own half, Taylor harried him and the ball fell at the feet of 18-year-old Rolando Aarons.
Eliaquim Mangala cost City around £32 million ($65.6m) in the summer.
Aarons shrugged him off like a light blanket and slipped the ball between the feet of Willy Caballero.
A reaction was expected from the champions, but never came.
Newcastle's reserve goalkeeper Rob Elliot was barely made to work.
In the second half, Newcastle should have had a penalty when Gabriel Obertan was floored by Aleksandar Kolarov, but referee Stuart Attwell was unimpressed.
On the touchline, Pardew was furious, convinced that his side had been denied the chance to put the game beyond doubt.
He needn't have worried. Moments later, Moussa Sissoko pushed through the City defence like a hot spoon through ice cream and slipped the ball home to double the advantage.
City then suffered the indignity of being booed off the pitch by their own fans.
They are likely to be without Silva against Man United on Sunday and, given that he is one of their few players to have shone this season, that will be an enormous blow.
With Louis van Gaal's side galvanised by their late equaliser against Chelsea last Sunday, their shape beginning to solidify and their confidence starting to return, City are under pressure.
If they play with as little care and attention as they have in their last three games, United will crush them.
And, if they are humiliated in their own stadium, Pellegrini's position will start to look shaky.
The Manchester Derby has taken on new importance now.