Manchester City cantered to a win that ended Newcastle United’s unbeaten four-game run since the restart of the Premier League. As is so often the case, Pep Guardiola’s side were far classier, far more accomplished than opponents who barely – if ever – threatened to score themselves.
The rout took City to 86 goals. “It is good to score five again,” said Guardiola. “And one point [more] to qualify for the Champions League.”
His response to City’s loss at Southampton – a ninth of the campaign – was to make five changes, as in came John Stones, who made a first league start in seven months. Steve Bruce’s XI showed six different players from the draw with West Ham last time out that had made Newcastle safe.
Kevin De Bruyne swung in a first corner that had Stones interested but Martin Dubravka, the visiting goalkeeper, collected the ball.
The next time City attacked they scored. João Cancelo came infield before the ball was moved on to Rodri, Phil Foden and David Silva, who stroked a cross over from the left wing. Gabriel Jesus finished neatly.
City were in control. Next Foden glided past two opponents and saw a shot go wide. Silva then overhit a pass that Cancelo could not keep in play, a moment of sloppiness that visibly displeased Guardiola.
Better was about to occur. City squeezed Newcastle on the left, Silva fed Foden and his ball released De Bruyne. A pull-back found Mahrez and he doubled the margin.
The drinks break allowed Bruce to inform his players to wake up – fast – if they hoped to stop a rout. But it was City – via Mahrez – who threatened next, though the forward allowed a through ball to slip under his feet.
Matt Ritchie was able to float a free-kick to an unchallenged Federico Fernández in a rare attack for Newcastle but City soon reasserted their grip.
They ended the half with Rodri, Silva, De Bruyne, Foden and Mahrez moving the ball around their opponents. Foden held head in hands after missing from close range but as the second half commenced it was Newcastle who required inspiration.
Guardiola had swapped Ilkay Gündogan for Rodri and Kyle Walker for Cancelo but City were again in keep-ball mode. It was Walker who fashioned a sand-wedge chip into De Bruyne, who played a pass from which Foden surely should have scored from close range, but he again missed badly.
City cruised in no more than third gear, toying with Newcastle. Blue shirts continually recycled the ball, and when the visitors managed to move into City’s half, it was a collector’s item.
What occurred next was akin to Keystone Kops defending. Jesus swapped passes with Foden but now Ritchie intervened, stabbed at the ball, this hit Fernández’s hand and it spiralled past Dubravka, clipped the right post, and it was 3-0.
In what was hardly better news for Newcastle, Guardiola replaced Jesus and Foden with Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling. The latter drew a foul from Joelinton and David Silva took the dead ball, arrowing it into the top corner for a 59th league goal of a glittering City career. “He played really good,” Guardiola said.
Bruce brought on Dwight Gayle, Javier Manquillo and Matty Longstaff for Joelinton, Valentino Lazaro and Jonjo Shelvey but, as with so many against Guardiola’s side, his team were in a damage-limitation exercise.
Guardiola gave Tommy Doyle the final 15 minutes, the 18-year-old midfielder’s league bow. City ended with a Sterling strike in added time confirming a fine night for them, a miserable one for Newcastle. “Painful,” said Bruce.
Guardiola was asked about reports in Spain claiming that Eric García is wanted by his former club, Barcelona, and that the centre-back wants a return. “He has one year left and we’re going to try and convince him to stay for many years,” said the manager.
“He knows, his agent knows, and his family knows we want him.”