Manchester City bounced back vigorously from their Champions League nightmare against Real Madrid, beating Newcastle 5-0 to sit three points clear of Liverpool in the title race
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When the moment of sealing the title comes, Pep Guardiola will not celebrate with more enthusiasm, with more joy, with more satisfaction than here.
It wasn’t so much the win that brought a smile back to Pep’s face – after all, this was an easy win against a Newcastle side who failed to pose for group selfies after a really bland performance. And in the last three games, Guardiola knows far more stringent tests are ahead.
But it was the crowning goal that made him shine, a goal that was the flowing, beautiful definition of everything Pep preaches. He probably could have left the job a happy man after Raheem Sterling pulled off the most glorious move of all in stoppage time.
This kind of goal, dreamed up by the footballing minds of Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, is like a trophy for Guardiola. It’s the kind of goal Guardiola would give to an open bus parade. And of course, that could have a significant impact as City put foot pump in their goal difference column.
But whatever that number is, City shouldn’t blow up their title defense from here. Assuming Liverpool stay clean – and that’s a decent assumption – seven points from games at Wolves and West Ham and a home game against Aston Villa shouldn’t be a problem for a squad of City’s class and depth.
After Sterling returned the home side to the top of the table, this was less of a difficult challenge in a tense title fight and more of an invigorating walk in the Madrid hangover. Of the current contract issues in the Premier League, one that has slipped under the radar is Sterling’s.
Not an automatic choice in marquee games, he remains a shoo-in starter for England and will want to keep it that way. So perhaps finances won’t be the primary consideration when Sterling decides whether or not to extend a contract that expires next summer.
He will understand that no attacking player, save perhaps the great-again Kevin de Bruyne, can count on a selection under Guardiola, but Sterling rarely lets his manager down when he gets out of line. And that was the case again as Sterling calmed a few nerves by bravely heading in Joao Cancelo’s skillful assist.
Sterling’s aerial conversion contrasted with a miss from Chris Wood which could have given Newcastle an early lead. But after City’s opener it was routine for the champions, even if the nature of their second shot was a bit random, Ilkay Gundogan’s shot awkwardly spat out by Martin Dubravka and hammered home by Aymeric Laporte.
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There was nothing accidental in Rodri’s hammer-headed header from a De Bruyne corner after half-time or in Foden’s sharp final reaction to an Oleksandr Zinchenko miss. And it certainly wasn’t lucky with the last one sporting a Foden heel, Grealish support that couldn’t have been more stylish and a sterling finish that was almost despicable.
It was against a Newcastle side that made the moves, it probably won’t have a huge impact on the overall scheme of things but Guardiola couldn’t contain his ecstasy. Because titles or not, meltdowns in Madrid or not, that’s exactly why he’s playing the game.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/pep-guardiola-mancity-newcastle-liverpool-26908004 Pep Guardiola revels in his Premier League bread and butter after Madrid nightmare - Andy Dunn