Pep Guardiola has said a few times that if his Manchester City side dropped points the Premier League title race would be “almost over”.
Yesterday was the night when Rafael Benitez’s team shouldered their way into the Premier League title race briefly and gloriously, ending a Manchester City winning streak of eight games in all competitions and tipping the balance in their manager’s former club’s favour.
Liverpool will play Leicester City at Anfield on Wednesday night when a victory will give them a seven-point lead at the top of the table with 14 games to play.
City have a couple of issues to address after their fourth defeat of the season but they can do nothing about their biggest problem: the fact that Liverpool just keep winning. There were some poor performances in the City team, the worst of them being Danilo, the Brazilian left-back who was targeted in the first half and later passed the ball back to his compatriot Fernandinho in the penalty area for the moment that decided the game. Guardiola would embark on a long explanation about his players failing to attack Newcastle’s holding midfielders, of which there were many, although individual performances will alarm him.
This was an opportunity to cut the Reds’ lead to just one point, an opportunity to pile even more pressure on a team that has got their fans dreaming once again.
Yet they could not capitalize on that early advantage, their moves breaking down thanks to sloppy passes or loose touches. Newcastle did not offer an awful lot going forward but their situation forced a bit of urgency and they made life hard for City by getting in their faces and reducing spaces.
They were still in the game at the hour mark and when City failed to clear their lines it was no surprise that Salomon Rondom made them pay. That need not have been the end of the world for City, who threw on Gabriel Jesus for the expected onslaught, but on another Newcastle, foray forward the hosts caught out Fernandinho, who feinted past one man inside his own box but did not expect the other, losing the ball and compounding his mistake by conceding a foul and a penalty.
Matt Ritchie slammed it home, and even with plenty of time left, it was game over. The 2-1 victory for Newcastle means a lot them but a big dent towards city’s tittle race.
It is surely too early to say that, but so far Liverpool have given no indication that they are going to slip up. They are winning the tight games and the open games, and the rest they seem to win comfortably.
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