Manchester City exhibited determination to fight back against Newcastle United to gain victory and remain unbeaten this season. The result leaves The Magpies in the relegation zone with just one point from four games.
This was yet another dominant performance from Pep Guardiola’s side, who predictably controlled possession and thus proceedings; leaving the away team as little more than bystanders on occasions. City’s performance was a tactical masterclass in patiently rotating play to break down Rafa Benitez deep-lying approach. With 20 minutes gone City had already managed 33 passes in the final third while Newcastle could muster just three.
Despite this, Rafael Benitez side engineered their chance well when the opportunity presented itself and unlike the hosts weren’t guilty of letting chances slip. However, it was evident that Benitez side was out of their depth and the choice to remain with five defenders, as deployed against Chelsea confirmed this.
Newcastle were the masters of their downfall early on, and many travelling supporters would have feared an onslaught was imminent.
Jamall Lascelles did well to stop Sergio Aguero initially, but after regaining possession played a loose pass in front of his own area. Raheem Sterling needed no invitation to collect the ball. Once Sterling had the ball under control, he drove inside and curled the shot past Martin Dubravka within 10 minutes.
After a frantic spell, Newcastle then replied against the run of play. The goal came through Kenedy’s excellent control to Salomon Rondon; the Venezuelan then engineered a precise angled low cross to DeAndre Yedlin who slotted home from close range.
Equalising did little to settle The Magpies though, and they were quickly pinned back within their half once more. On multiple occasions, the host created space neatly but lacked any composure when it came to the finishing touch. Neither Aguero or Gabriel Jesus appeared at their clinical best throughout the first half but displayed glimmers of the brilliance that fired The Sky Blues to last seasons title.
Seven minutes after the break, Sterling once again drove inwards with purpose until his route to goal was blocked, he made the intelligent decision to pass. The ball was bounced off Aguero, to Kyle Walker who has an abundance of space 30 yards out and doesn’t hesitate to release a fierce low drive across goal. The resulting strike had no chance of being stopped by an outstretched Dubravka giving the English defender his first City goal.
Once their lead was restored, Manchester City continued to probe around the final third but were unable to pierce a resilient Magpie’s defence. Although Benitez side attempted to pressurise the hosts late on, this only created more gaps when Guardiola’s side bypassed the press.
Saturday’s fixture wasn’t quite as simple as a routine win for Manchester City, but Newcastle lacked the confidence and ambition to maintain equal standing and paid the price for it. The result leaves Guardiola unbeaten throughout September in his last eight years as a manager, totalling 42 games without defeat.
Manchester City spurn chances but find an alternative source
Plenty of opportunities created by the Champions, however only two were taken, even then both were uncharacteristically solo efforts. Sterling pounced on poor distribution to cut in and finish, while Walker’s long-range effort took advantage of how deep Newcastle set up. An abundance of neatly worked moves were fabricated, but City lacked the clinical edge that defined their attack last term. Guardiola acknowledged this by substituting Riyad Mharez, with the Algerian still appearing to need time to adapt to his manager’s style of play.
Fortunately, Kyle Walker rescued his side and made sure they linger just behind the frontrunners of the Premier League.
Elsewhere Aguero and Jesus had little influence on proceedings, in spite of their side’s dominance of possession. This could be due to Newcastle’s defensive formation but neither regularly deceived their marker.
Uncertainty around Newcastle epitomises their play
Aside from the goal, the vertical style of play used by Benitez on this occasion often appeared rushed; and failed in its attempt to unsettle City, just as it had done at Chelsea previously. When they did break individuals on the ball lacked backing from teammates and were quickly isolated.
Benitez’s contract situation and fractious relationship with owner Mike Ashley is beginning to manifest itself onto the pitch, and it’s essential for the clubs progression that a direction is re-established. If uncertainty continues to surround the club, it will only serve to fuel the fear of relegation, which can cripple teams due to the increased pressure preventing them from playing to their full potential.
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling
Sterling began proceedings by setting an example with regards to intensity that his teammates then matched. The Englishman was at his direct best with the ball at his feet, continually attempting to penetrate the opposition defence and shoot when given the space.
Guardiola has acquired a wealth of depth in wide areas, and today Sterling was a cut above his opposite winger Mahrez, displaying what the Algerian will have to achieve to maintain a place in the Premier Leagues most competitive squad.