Manchester City beat Newcastle to catch Liverpool’s mistake in title race


Liverpool’s frustrating draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday gave City the opportunity to go three points clear at the top with just three games to play, and Pep Guardiola’s side weren’t wrong with a scintillating performance at the Etihad Stadium.

Raheem Sterling’s opener settled any lingering nerves after Wednesday’s semi-final collapse against Real Madrid, which saw City – seemingly heading for a second consecutive final – concede twice to death before Karim Benzema finished the response in extra time.

Goals from Spanish duo Aymeric Laporte and Rodri against Newcastle were followed by late strikes from Phil Foden and Sterling, adding even more shine to a near-perfect weekend for City, who will retain their Premier League crown with wins over the Wolves, West Ham and Aston Villa. no matter how hard Liverpool try.

Despite the ever-elusiveness of the Champions League, another league win would mark a fourth in five years for the Citizens and simultaneously end Liverpool’s pursuit of an unprecedented treble.

After a tumultuous week, it was a ‘perfect afternoon’ for Guardiola, whose faith in his side in response to the midweek loss has never been shaken.

“With what this team has done, do you have any doubts?” Guardiola told Sky Sports.

“We’ve been doing this every three days for five years. If some people doubted us, they don’t know this team.

“It’s one of the best groups I’ve ever coached in my life,” he added.

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An entertaining opener saw both teams squander excellent chances before Sterling nodded to Joao Cancelo’s cushioned header.

His 83rd league goal under Guardiola, the 27-year-old has now overtaken Sergio Agüero as the club’s top scorer in the league during the Spanish manager’s tenure.

There have been plenty of fine goals at the Etihad since Guardiola arrived in 2016 – City’s second was not one of them.

Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka fumbled Ilkay Gundogan’s bouncing strike past Ruben Dias, his subsequent save presenting the ball to Laporte, who swung home for his fourth league goal of the season.

City fans might have been forgiven for not settling for a two-goal advantage following Madrid’s collapse, but with the home side’s possession count approaching 70 per cent, even the most pessimistic had to relax after Rodri added the third.

The Spaniard evaded his marker to head home through De Bruyne’s corner for his third league goal in as many games. For a team renowned for their incredibly smooth passing movements, this marked the 20th set-piece goal of the Premier League season, according to BBC Sport.

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Callum Wilson’s wasted one-on-one miss worsened a disappointing day for the visitors, but Newcastle’s season has long been safe after initial relegation fears.

Spurred by the takeover of the Saudi-backed consortium in October, a spending spree in January helped the Tyneside club rise in the standings, with a place in the first half still possible.

Goals in the game-closing moments from Sterling and Foden meant City fans could – this time around – enjoy two late goals in a game.

“We showed the personality that we have after the defeat that we have it’s unbelievable [against Madrid]”Rodri told Sky Sports.

“But football is like that, we have to wake up because we have to stay focused on the Premier League… we are still in the fight. The personality we showed today was incredible.”

Arsenal close in on Champions League return

Elsewhere, an early brace from Eddie Nketiah secured a crucial 2-1 win for Arsenal over Leeds United in their hunt for a Champions League place, increasing Leeds’ relegation fears.

Despite playing with 10 men for over an hour after Luke Ayling’s red card in the first half, Diego Llorente’s header set up a nervy finish for fourth-placed Arsenal heading for the Thursday’s highly anticipated derby against Spurs with a four-point advantage over their North. London rivals.

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The Leeds defeat saw the Yorkshire club fall into the relegation zone, their misery compounded by Everton’s 2-1 victory at Leicester which lifted them from the bottom three.

West Ham joined Manchester City in bouncing back from European disappointment in midweek, routing already-relegated Norwich 4-0 to ease the pain of Thursday’s Europa League semi-final defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.

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