Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport at the Etihad Stadium
Micah Richards
Micah Richards scored City's second then won the penalty that led to their third

Manchester City maintained their lead at the top of the Premier League table by handing Newcastle their first league defeat of the season.

A penalty either side of half-time and a strike by marauding full-back Micah Richards saw City pierce the league's meanest defence three times and maintain their own unbeaten run.

Italian striker Mario Balotelli scored from the spot on 41 minutes after Ryan Taylor had handled, and Richards seized on the Magpies full-back's error to double the lead before half-time.

Richards was also instrumental in the final City goal, Sergio Aguero scoring from the spot on 72 minutes, after Richards had been brought down by Hatem Ben Arfa.

Mancini relieved to resume winning ways

Dan Gosling got a late consolation for the visitors and, before Aguero struck the third, Ben Arfa hit a post but Alan Pardew's side can have little complaint about the result.

However, until the three-minute period before half-time when City struck twice, Newcastle were as resolute as their defensive record this season suggests, and Manchester City spent most of the first half tentatively probing without making a telling impression.

City had been limited to Aguero's rising shot while Tim Krul did excellently to stop Balotelli's close-range header, but with David Silva rested there was little speed or invention to City's attacks.

And they were almost made to pay just before the half-hour when Joe Hart saved Demba Ba's shot after clever link-up play with Ben Arfa.

Ben Arfa, making his first league start of the season at the stadium where he broke his leg just over a year ago, showed some clever touches.

But the visitors' defensive solidity came to an end with Ryan Taylor's disastrous intervention as half-time neared.

Steven Taylor managed to stop Aguero's shot but when the ball bounced to Toure, his follow-up was blocked by Ryan Taylor's outstretched arm. Balotelli made no mistake from the spot.

The Italian produced another distinctive celebration, walking towards keeper Krul stern-faced and with his arms folded across his chest.

Balotelli allowed himself a smile minutes later when Ryan Taylor failed to collect Samir Nasri's through-ball and Richards was on hand to steal in and score from 10 yards out.

That settled the home supporters, who had been growing increasingly frustrated, and with a two-goal cushion City began to allow Newcastle more of the ball.

That presented its own danger, though, with Ben Arfa hitting the post on the hour after Vincent Kompany had gifted him possession.

Alan Pardew unfazed despite first defeat

Still, City threatened on the break and, although Hart did well to paw away Danny Guthrie's angled shot, they made the game safe on 72 minutes.

Another overlapping run by Richards was brought to an end when Ben Arfa fouled him in the box and Aguero stepped up to tuck the penalty away for his 11th goal of the season.

It sent the Etihad Stadium into raptures as the fans broke into choruses of "We'll score when we want".

And although Gosling tucked away a late goal on the break, even Newcastle found it hard to argue with that.

Live text commentaryexternal-link