If Pep Guardiola did not particularly relish receiving a reminder that, sometimes, possession can be overrated, Eddie Howe saw his Newcastle team transformed by the half-time introduction of Bruno Guimarães and Anthony Gordon.
That pair made a mockery of Manchester City’s earlier domination, paving the way for Alexander Isak’s second-half winner to earn Howe’s side a fourth-round trip to Manchester United. Not to mention ensuring that “Gulf derby” bragging rights belong to Saudi Arabia.
Guardiola departed Tyneside mildly irked by some of the officiating, which he felt insufficiently protected his City players, but he did not arrive in the best of moods either. The club’s failure to organise a plane to fly the team back to Manchester dictated that they faced a fatiguing three-hour coach journey home. Yet if the Catalan was suitably unhappy about that he seemed relatively sanguine about his team’s first defeat of the season.
“Congratulations to Newcastle,” he said. “We were brilliant in the first half but they increased their intensity and aggression and kicking. Bruno [Guimarães] was important for them, Joelinton too. I don’t know how many fouls they did but they are a top side, a very strong side.”
Significantly, while Guardiola made eight changes, Howe made 10 alterations to his starting XI with Nick Pope the sole survivor from the team that kicked off last Sunday’s 8-0 demolition of Sheffield United. At least all this mutual reshuffling allowed City’s Kalvin Phillips and Newcastle’s Sandro Tonali to find themselves in direct midfield combat, although Tonali spent most of the first half watching City pass the ball around him with metronomic efficiency.
Eventually all that monopolisation of possession resulted in a clear-cut chance involving Oscar Bobb’s deft reverse pass picking out Julián Álvarez. Pope saved with an outstretched right foot. With Howe’s players penned firmly into their own half, City seemed utterly irrepressible. Not to mention capable of outmanoeuvring their hosts at almost every turn.
The crowd fretted but they had something to cheer when Paul Dummett, making a rare central defensive start, made a goal-preventing tackle to halt Jack Grealish in his tracks. Dummett excelled throughout, reminding everyone why he was such a favourite of Rafael Benítez’s.
Ditto the debut-making Tino Livramento, who successfully blunted Grealish’s attacking edge. “Paul Dummett was absolutely outstanding,” said Howe, who now faces a repeat of last season’s final defeat against Manchester United. “The first half was very difficult but when we brought high-level players on the balance was better and we posed City problems.”
Even so, Newcastle very nearly assumed a counter-attacking lead as the interval approached. When Jacob Murphy was left clean through courtesy of Isak’s fine through pass, it took an excellent save on Stefan Ortega’s part to retain parity.
That was the first occasion Howe’s team had entered City’s box with attacking intent yet once Gordon and Guimarães replaced Lewis Hall and Lewis Miley the improvement was instant. The newcomers brought a dangerous change of pace, inventive passing and often ferocious intensity. It raised the side’s collective game to the point where Murphy and Joelinton combined to goal-creating effect. When the latter shrugged off a couple of tackles and centred, Isak arrived at the right place at the right time to lash home at the far post. Rico Lewis’s downcast expression suggested he might have done better.
Although Newcastle’s momentum wavered after Isak subsequently limped off with a calf injury, City most certainly did not appreciate their hosts’ habit of constantly getting in their faces and an evidently discomfited Phillips was booked for fouling Murphy.
Mansfield v Port Vale
Ipswich Tv Fulham
Manchester United v Newcastle
Chelsea v Blackburn
Exeter v Middlesbrough
Ties will be played on 31 October and 1 November
Guardiola, too, was yellow carded for dissent, specifically demanding that Guimarães be booked. He looked suitably annoyed when Gordon’s boot caught Mateo Kovacic in the eye but, deep down, City’s manager was quite possibly far from heartbroken by the outcome of a tie in which he left Erling Haaland on the bench. Asked if he had contemplated introducing the Norway striker he simply said: “No. The guy’s played a lot of minutes.” As for the end of his supposed quadruple dream, Guardiola had a ready reply: “I’d be more than satisfied to win the treble.”