Imperious City make it 18-in-a-row in one-goal hammering
Newcastle Utd 0 Manchester City 1
This is getting embarrassing for the self-styled most competitive league in the world as Manchester City extended their lead to 15 points, their goal difference to plus 49, and their supremacy to yet another level.
They utterly dominated Newcastle, who were set up to defend but then, in rope-a-dope fashion, held on and tried to claim an improbable point in the final 10 minutes. But resistance was ultimately futile.
Do not be fooled by the narrow margin of victory. City, despite not being at their scintillating best, struck the goal-frame three times and were vastly superior in the face of Newcastle's ultra-negative tactics, which could well be the spoiling approach Pep Guardiola's elegant side face for the rest of this campaign. City recorded an 18th Premier League victory in a row, meaning only Guardiola's Bayern Munich, with 19 wins in 2013-'14, have a longer winning streak in Europe's five biggest leagues.
City could equal that away to Crystal Palace on New Year's Eve. More records tumbled here. The biggest ever lead previous to this at the turn of the year was the 14-point advantage Manchester United gained by December 31, 1993.
That, too, has been beaten. In fact, City are now 40 points ahead of 15th-placed Newcastle - how the home side would love to reach 40 points for the whole of this season - as they lost their fifth home match in a row.
Rafael Benitez made a raft of changes - five in all, clearly targeting the weekend encounter at home to Brighton and Hove Albion - from the desperately-needed victory away to West Ham United, but his side were soon sending out distress signals. As was City captain Vincent Kompany, who was substituted, injured yet again, after 11 minutes. He punched the dug-out roof in frustration as he trudged off.
Guardiola reacted by bringing on a striker, as it was basically attack versus defence, with Gabriel Jesus introduced. They played in a 4-2-4 formation. Before that, Sergio Aguero should have scored as he attempted to guide Fernandinho's cross past Rob Elliot from close range, but only found the outside of a post, before Kevin De Bruyne blazed over from 18 yards.
Newcastle lined up, effectively, in a 9-1 formation, with Jonjo Shelvey shooting from the kick-off - maybe he wanted to make sure his side registered an effort on target? - before settling into their blanket defence which was exposed once more, from an inswinging De Bruyne free-kick. It was met by Aguero with a clever angled header, only for Elliot to make a superb instinctive save, flicking it one-handed over the crossbar.
Newcastle had defended well, but this was taking the mode of "parking the bus" to a new level as City hogged close to 90 per cent possession. Elliot was once more alert to block from Jesus after a sharp turn and pass from Aguero before De Bruyne shot over again. Aguero then swivelled and shot with the ball again clipping a post.
It was only a matter of time. And the goal came. Raheem Sterling started and ended the move as he played the ball inside to De Bruyne and darted into the area, where he was picked out with a lovely wedged pass. Sterling's finish was an improvised volley as he fell, with the ball kissing off the near post to beat Elliot. It was his 13th league goal of the season and, already, it felt game over. How would Newcastle respond? Or was it just damage limitation?
They did threaten, with the ball running through to Rolando Aarons, as Kyle Walker slipped. He chipped it goalwards over Ederson but Nicolas Otamendi, under pressure from Joselu, headed over from under his own crossbar.
The crowd were stirred by that and, maybe, the prospect of a challenge being mounted, but that was almost ended when City broke quickly, only for Mohamed Diame to block Aguero's low shot.
At the start of the second half, Sterling tricked his way between two defenders and curled in a right-footed cross that skimmed off Aguero's boot as the striker, at full stretch, tried to turn it home. Ilkay Gundogan then stole possession from Diame and attempted to bend his shot around Elliot, who pushed it away, before De Bruyne was sent through by Jesus, turning quickly. He side-footed wastefully wide.
De Bruyne went closer when picked out by Danilo and, with time and space, hit a powerful drive that beat Elliot, only to cannon back off a post.
Aguero converted the rebound but was flagged offside.
After Newcastle ventured forward, City broke with Ederson picking out Aguero, whose cross was intercepted by Jamaal Lascelles - only for the ball to flash past his own post. Still it remained just 1-0. Would City blow it?
There was a rising sense that Newcastle might push on as Benitez ran through his substitutions, although Dwight Gayle was booked for diving in search of a penalty.
Would City pay the price for not taking their chances? Guardiola countered by bringing on a central defender - Eliaquim Mangala - with Fernandinho having filled in there up until this point. Finally Newcastle had a chance, with Gayle reaching Christian Atsu's cross only to head inches wide. That would have been a remarkable turnaround. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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