Rafa Benitez handed his former side Liverpool the perfect opportunity to go seven points clear at the top of the table after Newcastle United stopped Manchester City from gaining points on Jurgen Klopp’s men. A Salomon Rondon volley inspired a second half comeback which saw the Magpies earn an important 2-1 victory.
“It was a great effort,” exclaimed Rafa Benitez, “We all fought really hard for each other and thankfully got the result.” It was ecstasy for Newcastle, but in the opposite dugout, a depleted Pep Guardiola looked well and truly beaten. “It wasn’t our best performance, we didn’t have the rhythm to impose our game and we were punished for it.”
The night didn’t start the way it finished however, as the Manchester City end exploded in celebration just twenty-four seconds after kick off when Sergio Aguero volleyed the ball into an open net. The Argentinian registered the quickest goal of the season so far after David Silva’s brave header not only found Manchester City’s all-time top scorer, but in turn saw Dubravka flailing out of his net to leave the goal open for an easy finish. With Newcastle failing to beat Manchester City in their last twenty-two fixtures, it was looking to be a long night for the Magpies.
“Ashley out” echoed around St James’ Park in the eleventh minute in protest of Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley being in charge of the club for eleven years. With Mike Ashley not willing to sell the club for below a certain asking price it is looking unlikely that Newcastle United will be under new ownership anytime soon.
Aguero was denied his second of the game after referee Paul Tiernery pulled back Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick. The referee had told De Bruyne to hold the free kick until he blew his whistle; however, De Bruyne saw Aguero’s run and decided to take it anyway. De Bruyne’s vision saw the Belgian playmaker pick up a yellow card instead of an assist. “It doesn’t matter” stated Guardiola “the referee told Kevin to wait, he’s within his rights to disallow the goal.”
Despite having 77% possession, a dreary City side walked into the tunnel at halftime the more disappointed of the two teams. It was clear that Pep Guardiola would have to change something to ensure the champions retained all three points.
City started the second half strongly after Raheem Sterling’s penetrating pass delicately found David Silva. The Spaniard had ample space in the box and the shot was hit with menace; however, it was straight at Dubravka who managed to palm the ball away from danger. An early chance for City which perhaps should have made the match 2-0.
Pep Guardiola would rue the missed opportunity, especially in the sixty-fifth minute when Salomon Rondon’s volley bounced over Ederson to equalise the score-line. St James’ erupted as the Venezuelan striker ran off in celebration. The assist came from Issac Hayden whose headed effort found the Newcastle number nine. Rondon performed impeccably the whole match and was rewarded with the Man of the Match award. The former West Brom striker pressed City’s back line the entire match despite being an isolated striker, a workmanships display from Salomon Rondon.
Newcastle’s dream of gaining points against the Champions soon began to look like reality. With Manchester City just not looking like their usual unbeatable self it seemed as if luck may finally be going Newcastle’s way.
Manchester City are known for playing out from the back, its part of Pep Guardiola’s philosophy; however, this time it backfired. Fernandinho tripped over Newcastle local boy Sean Longstaff after failing to pivot in the box. Newcastle’s patient pressing had finally paid off. After Ederson had finished “receiving treatment” Matt Ritchie was finally allowed to take the penalty. The twenty-nine year old placed it hard and low to the right and, despite Ederson diving the right way, saw the ball bulge into the back of the net. The English winger celebrated his first goal of the season by kicking the corner flag and engulfing himself into ecstatic Newcastle fans. “Hopefully this can be the turning point this season,” Ritchie said “it’s a fantastic result for the boys.”
Guardiola’s last roll of the dice was to bring on Ilkay Gundogan in the eighty-sixth minute, whose first touch of the ball was a free kick straight into the wall. City’s last chance of the game was wasted.
As the full time whistle blew, jeers and celebrations were heard throughout Newcastle and Merseyside, a crucial three points in Newcastle’s bid for survival and a huge opportunity for Liverpool to go seven points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table.
Can Newcastle survive? Does this end Man City’s title hopes? Let us know in the comments below!