Manchester City beat Newcastle to go 15 points clear at the top
Raheem Sterling’s 31st-minute strike was all City had to show for dominant display
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring Manchester City’s goal against Newcastle United at St James’s Park on Wednesday night. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Newcastle United 0 Manchester City 1
Raheem Sterling fired Manchester City 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League table as they extended their winning run to 18 games at Newcastle.
Sterling’s 31st-minute strike was all the leaders had to show for a dominant display in front of a crowd of 52,311 at St James’ Park as the Magpies’ ultra-conservative approach frustrated them despite their wealth of possession.
But ultimately it was enough on a night when Rafael Benitez’s men slipped to a fifth successive home defeat for the first time since 1953, and it might have been worse had referee Andre Marriner taken a dimmer view of Jacob Murphy’s fist-half challenge on Ilkay Gundogan.
The Magpies mustered the first shot on target when Jonjo Shelvey, back from suspension, tried his luck straight from the kick-off, but found Ederson alert to the danger.
However, the home side’s game-plan was predictably cautious as they got 11 men – not only behind the ball – but within 35 yards of their own goal for much of the first half and challenged City to break them down, which they almost did when Sergio Aguero stabbed Fernandinho’s seventh-minute cross against the post.
Kevin de Bruyne thumped a left-foot shot over the angle of bar and post as the visitors pressed once again, and an early injury to skipper Vincent Kompany simply prompted Pep Guardiola to replace his central defender with striker Gabriel Jesus.
City were utterly dominant in possession, but they were rarely able to stretch the hosts decisively, although Rob Elliot had to claw away Aguero’s 17th-minute header and then come from his line to block Jesus’ effort at point-blank range.
The Argentinian sent a dipping effort just wide of Elliot’s far post on the half-hour, but the deadlock was broken seconds later when Sterling ran on to de Bruyne’s return pass and scuffed the ball past the keeper with the studs of his left boot.
Newcastle might have been back in it had defender Nicolas Otamendi not cleared Rolando Aaron’s chipped effort off the line 10 minutes before the break, but Paul Dummett had to be equally resilient at the other end five minutes later to keep out Aguero’s effort at the end of a lightning break.
There was no change in the pattern of the game after the restart with Sterling shooting across the face of goal after ghosting past DeAndre Yedlin and Murphy, and Elliot parried a Gundogan effort after he had robbed Mohamed Diame.
De Bruyne should have done better when he shot harmlessly wide after exchanging passes with Jesus, but the massed ranks of black and white continued to scrap for dear life.
Aguero fired home from close range, but from an offside position after de Bruyne had struck a post and defender Jamaal Lascelles headed just wide of his own goal with Elliot stranded as City went for the kill.
Sensing the game was not yet beyond them, Newcastle launched a late onslaught and came close to an equaliser when Dwight Gayle sent a diving header just wide from fellow substitute Christian Atsu’s cross. NEWCASTLE UNITED: Elliot, Mbemba (Merino 77), Lascelles, Dummett, Yedlin, Shelvey, Diamé, Manquillo, Murphy, Aarons (Atsu 71), Joselu (Gayle 62). Subs not used: Clark, Ritchie, Pérez, Darlow. MANCHESTER CITY: Ederson, Walker, Kompany (Jesus 11), Otamendi, Danilo, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gündogan, Bernardo Silva (Sané 83), Agüero (Mangala 77), Sterling. Subs not used: Bravo, Adarabioyo, Y Touré, Diaz. Referee: Andre Marriner. Attendance: 52,311.