By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At St. James' Park
Newcastle United 1 (Ba 51)
Manchester City 3 (Aguero 10, Garcia 39, Y Toure 78))
Demba Ba scored his 11th goal of another prolific season, but could not prevent Newcastle United going down to a 3-1 home defeat against Manchester City.
The scoreline at St. James' Park failed to tell the full story, however, as the Magpies deserved so much more from a contest which they dominated certainly for much of the second half.
When Ba netted soon after the interval, United were already trailing by two, with Sergio Aguero and Javi Garcia netting in the first period. And while a comeback looked on for long spells, captain Yaya Toure put the result beyond any doubt with time running out.
City had goalkeeper Joe Hart to thank for a handful of excellent early stops to deny an attack-minded Newcastle side, and the visitors took an undeserved lead when Aguero tapped in to complete an excellent team move.
The lead was doubled as Garcia headed home a corner, but Ba responded by nodding in one of his own to pump up a near-50,000 strong crowd.
The Senegalese front man rippled the side netting and Papiss Cisse spurned a glorious chance of a leveller, before Yaya Toure stabbed a third from close range.
United were searching for a return to winning ways and almost got off to the perfect start inside the opening two minutes.
But City took the lead on ten minutes completely against the run of play.
Picking up the ball almost on the halfway line, there looked to be little on for Yaya Toure, but he had different ideas and disected the Magpies' back line with an outstanding reverse pass.
Nasri was on to it in a flash and, with Tim Krul rushing out, sidefooted across the area for Aguero to tap home.
The hosts were stunned and Krul had to be at his best to deny Tevez from close range almost immediately, with the Argentine then just inches away from connecting at the far post as he slid in to meet a Nasri pass.
City were completely dominant by this point, and on 20 minutes Nasri struck the post from a tight angle, with Williamson on hand to clear Aguero's follow-up off the line.
But Newcastle continued to provide glimmers of hope and looked particularly threatening from set pieces.
First, Hart had to scramble Williamson's looping header away with his feet, before the centre-back forced England's number one into another impressive stop, this time with a volley after the ball had been lobbed back into the area.
Straight up the other end, Aguero slotted a shot the wrong side of the upright and it was fast becoming an open affair, with Cisse firing over the top and Ba just failing to make a good enough connection on a hooked half-volley from 18 yards.
And the visitors grabbed their second of the afternoon six minutes before the break. Silva's corner from the left was headed powerfully goalwards by Garcia, with Davide Santon unable to hack it off the line.
Newcastle came roaring out of the traps after the interval and Ba rose highest at the far post to meet a Tiote cross, but was unable to keep his effort down.
Next Santon cut in off the left flank to finish a mazy run by drilling a low shot into the side netting, and they finally got on the scoresheet in the 51st minute.
Anita's corner was only half-cleared by the City defence, and when Fabricio Coloccini hooked it back into the danger zone, Ba snuck in unmarked to head home his 11th goal of the season.
They could have been level almost immediately. A lovely move involving James Perch, Ba and Anita ended with Cisse turning away from his marker 15 yards out but opting for power rather than placement and blazing over the top.
It was becoming one-way traffic as corner after corner was forced by the Magpies. On 63 minutes, yet another Anita flag-kick was launched into the area and, when not dealt with by the visitors, Ba smashed a shot into the side netting.
Alan Pardew made his first change of the afternoon midway through, replacing the steel of Tiote with the creative Sylvain Marveaux, in an attempt to salvage something from an excellent second-half showing.
But within three minutes City had bagged their third of the afternoon and with it all three points. Silva and Pablo Zabaleta combined down the left and the latter's low delivery was prodded home through a sea of bodies by Yaya Toure at full-stretch.
Ba attempted a response as he fired narrowly off-target from distance but that was as good as it got and Newcastle will feel harshly done by a result which could have gone either way.
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson (Shane Ferguson 82), Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon; James Perch, Cheick Tiote (Sylvain Marveaux 75), Vurnon Anita; Papiss Cisse (Shola Ameobi 79), Demba Ba, Jonas Gutierrez
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Pablo Zabaleta, Kolo Toure, Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy; Javi Garcia, Yaya Toure (c); Samir Nasri (Aleksandar Kolarov 37, Edin Dzeko 72), Sergio Aguero, David Silva; Carlos Tevez (Joleon Lescott 79)
Subs not used: Costel Pantilimon, Karim Rekik, Abdul Razak, Scott Sinclair
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
Bookings: Newcastle - Williamson (15), Simpson (27), Perch (56); Manchester City - Aguero (37), K Toure (55)
Attendance: 49,579 (2,718)