Manchester City suffered disappointment in midweek, when they lost out on a place in the Champions League final to Real Madrid. The Magpies were collateral damage as the Citizens bounced back in staggering fashion by putting five past Martin Dubravka at the Etihad. Goals from Raheem Sterling, who scored twice, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, and Phil Foden ensured a proper City feast.
Merseyside or Manchester, where would the Premier League trophy end up? For a while, it hung in the balance until Tottenham Hotspur held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Anfield. Son Heung Min tapped in to give Spurs the lead before Luis Diaz, who is arguably the signing of the season, pulled the reds back, albeit through a deflected strike.
City returned home, licking the wounds of a chaotic Champions League exit. But the boys in blue gave their fans some consolation as they brushed off their European hangover with a scintillating display against Newcastle. Eddie Howe’s side were a threat on the break early on, and had a chance to open the scoring. However, Chris Wood did not do enough to trouble Ederson, and his tame header was comfortably saved by the Brazilian.
The attempt was the pick-me-up City needed, and they took control of the game. Aymeric Laporte headed over the bar from close range after Kevin De Bruyne whipped in an inviting corner before simmering nerves were eventually settled in the 20th minute. Joao Cancelo peeled off his marker at the back post and knocked a chipped cross from Ilkay Gundogan into the path of Raheem Sterling, who gratefully headed home from inside the six-yard box. The goal helped Raheem Sterling surpass Sergio Aguero as Manchester City’s highest goal scorer in the Pep Guardiola era.
There is no question that Newcastle are a different team nowadays, having recorded the most points of those outside the top two since splashing the cash at the turn of the year. When an equalizer from Wood was deemed offside, it only confirmed that City needed another goal to ensure victory.
After parrying wide a fierce effort from Cancelo, Martin Dubravka fumbled a volley from Gundogan to allow Laporte to poke home and extend the lead before the break.
There seemed no way back for Eddie Howe’s side at the start of the second half, but it would not hurt to try either way. Allan Saint-Maximin dragged his shot wide of the post before Rodri headed home a third goal from De Bruyne’s corner to settle the tie.
Rodri’s header was City’s 19th goal from set-pieces. For a team that does not boast the tallest players, that is quite a feat. They had settled the tie, so it was cruise control from then. The rest of the tie was one-sided, and they added a fourth late in the game when substitute Phil Foden diverted Oleksandr Zinchenko’s scuffed shot into the net. They did not stop there, as Sterling completed the demolition when he thrashed home the fifth goal.
City played like they were on a mission to improve their goal difference, and they did that superbly. Eddie Howe has now lost 100 games as manager, while today’s loss would be their 13th in a row at the Etihad. The Citizens now have one hand on their fourth League title under Guardiola and managed to improve their goal difference which is now superior to Liverpool.
Liverpool have been playing catch-up for much of the season. It now seems like the red machines may have just run out of fuel, and what could have been a quadruple winning season could now be a treble-winning season instead.