It’s an Elano show

Manchester City's Elano scoring off a free kick against Newcastle during their English Premier League match.-AP

Newcastle had no answer to Manchester City's verve and confidence and no way at all of playing Elano. The Brazilian was Man of the Match by a distance even before he capped a dazzlingly inventive display with a stunning free-kick that not even Shay Given could get anywhere near, writes Paul Wilson.

Manchester City's Elano

Three points, third place in the table, three goals at Eastlands for the first time this year and the best Manchester City league start for 30 seasons. For their next trick, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Thaksin Shinawatra will probably be seen walking on water.

Paul Merson was suggesting on ‘Sky’ during the Carling Cup snorefest against Norwich that he wouldn’t have a City season ticket as a gift. He would have changed his mind pronto had he watched this.

Anyone would. Apart from three goals of the highest quality, four if you count the class finish by Obafemi Martins that gave Newcastle an early lead, there was incident and entertainment here from start to finish with even the beaten visitors playing their part. It was just a pity the ground was not quite full for what was this stadium’s finest hour.

Newcastle had no answer to City’s verve and confidence and no way at all of playing Elano. The Brazilian was Man of the Match by a distance even before he capped a dazzlingly inventive display with a stunning free-kick that not even Shay Given could get anywhere near.

“He can do a little bit of everything, he’s got class feet,” Eriksson said admiringly. He can say that again. A few more defences will be embarrassed this season if Elano can keep up this level of performance.

There were mistakes from both sides to begin with, with Richard Dunne gifting Martins an early opening and Emile Mpenza almost taking advantage of Given dithering over a back pass, before a long ball hoisted forward from halfway was turned into a goal for Newcastle by clinical finishing from Martins. Micah Richards and Vedran Corluka were caught ball-watching as Martins darted goalside of them, his instant control and awareness of Joe Hart’s poor positioning making it easy to lift a shot over the goalkeeper.

Hart was preferred to Kasper Schmeichel after playing against Norwich in midweek, though he does not look to offer a great deal more security. One miscontrol resulted in the ball rolling right along his goal line and almost into the net. “I was a little worried about corners, crosses and Mark Viduka,” Eriksson said, explaining the change. He clearly had not factored in overhit back passes from Javier Garrido.

City survived and were back on terms before the interval, when a superb Elano pass to send Stephen Ireland down the right wing brought a perfectly judged low cross to the far post where Martin Petrov applied the finish. Ireland could have had another when Elano released him again four minutes from half time, though he shot against Given’s chest.

Two minutes into the second half City went in front, Petrov taking advantage of Newcastle hesitancy on halfway to hold off Steven Taylor on a rampaging run down the left before he crossed for Mpenza to score with a stooping header.

“That was where we committed defensive suicide,” said a glum Sam Allardyce, his dissatisfaction with his back line not even tempered by news that Michael Owen has had his operation and could be back in action soon. “We didn’t contain them after going in front. City did the right thing and we didn’t. We are missing quite a few players at the moment, and the ones we had on the pitch were a little short of experience of playing with each other.” That seemed a slightly feeble excuse to offer at City, where the players were only introduced to each other a month ago and where Eriksson is promising the football can only get better once everyone learns to speak English.

Elano has been operating at less than full fitness as well, so goodness knows how effective he will be when he fully adapts to the Premier League. His free-kick from 25 yards was a showstopper, right across and over Given and into the far corner.

City’s elegant passing was being met with chants of ‘Ole’. It probably won’t last, but despite the Newcastle fans’ optimistic taunt, it might be a while before City start to miss Joey Barton.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007 THE RESULTS

September 30: Everton 2 (Lescott 7, Pienaar 58) bt Middlesbrough 0. Half-time: 1-0.

September 29: Birmingham 0 lost to Manchester United 1 (Ronaldo 51). Half-time: 0-0; Chelsea 0 drew with Fulham 0; Derby 1 (Miller 19) drew with Bolton 1 (Anelka 32). Half-time: 1-1; Manchester City 3 (Petrov 38, Mpenza 47, Elano 87) bt Newcastle 1 (Martins 29). Half-time: 1-1; Portsmouth 7 (Mwaruwari 7, 37 & 70, Hreidarsson 55, Kranjcar 75, Davis 81, Muntari pen-90) bt Reading 4 (Hunt 45, Kitson 48, Long 79, Shorey 90). Half-time: 2-1; Sunderland 1 (Leadbitter 90) lost to Blackburn 2 (Bentley 53, Santa Cruz 55). Half-time: 0-0; West Ham 0 lost to Arsenal 1 (Van Persie 13). Half-time: 0-1; Wigan 0 lost to Liverpool 1 (Benayoun 75). Half-time: 0-0.