Raheem Sterling

Manchester City last dropped points in the Premier League in August’s 1-1 draw with Everton

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said it is “difficult to play” against ultra-defensive teams after his side moved 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a win at Newcastle.

Raheem Sterling scored the only goal in a dominant display by the visitors to St James’ Park in which they clocked up 78% of possession and 21 shots to Newcastle’s six.

“We did absolutely everything but it is difficult to play when the other team doesn’t want to play,” said Guardiola.

“In the last minutes we played in their rhythm and then it was not easy because it is not over at 1-0 – we created enough chances to win 2-0, 3-0, 4-0.

“As a manager I have to adapt. We have played teams who high press, low press, attack us. Any manager and team can play how they want. And you have to find a way to beat them.”

England winger Sterling poked home from Kevin de Bruyne’s lobbed pass after Sergio Aguero had twice hit the woodwork in the opening half hour.

Rolando Aarons saw a shot cleared off the line by Nicolas Otamendi in a rare Newcastle raid forward before the break, but City should have been well clear after De Bruyne thumped the post and then side-footed wide in the second half.

The hosts showed more ambition late on and Christian Atsu teed up fellow substitute Dwight Gayle to head wide in the final five minutes.

  • Reaction from St James’ Park as leaders City march on

City were not to be denied an 18th successive league victory however as they extended an English top-flight record.

The Magpies’ fifth successive home defeat leaves them a point off the relegation zone.

One-way first half

Raheem Sterling celebrates Manchester City's opener

Raheem Sterling has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season

With the very first kick of the match, Jonjo Shelvey thumped a shot at goal which was easily gathered by Ederson. But for the next 30 minutes Newcastle did not get close to another.

Instead the hosts sat so deep they were practically subterranean with lone striker Joselu playing 15 yards inside his own half.

City, brimming with confidence and well used to such tactics, sniffed out space and carved out chances regardless.

Between being denied by the frame, Aguero brought a superb one-handed stop from Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot.

When Vincent Kompany pulled up injured, Pep Guardiola felt confident enough to replace the defender with striker Gabriel Jesus.

The home fans were reduced to cheering throw-ins as their side’s possession statistic stayed stubbornly south of 20%.

To hold out would have been one of the great rearguard actions. De Bruyne ensured it wasn’t to be. Allowed space and time 40 yards from goal, the Belgian scooped a sublime pass onto Sterling’s instep for his team-mate’s 13th Premier League goal of the season.

First half heat map from Newcastle v Manchester City

Manchester City – whose first-half attacking heat map is on the right – had 85% of possession before the break. Newcastle, on the left, rarely entered City’s half

‘A Championship side playing in the Premier League’

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Benitez pleased Newcastle stayed in the game

After surviving a raft of City chances, Newcastle gave the leaders some concerns in the final 15 minutes.

Manager Rafael Benitez brought on Gayle and Atsu, urged his side to press higher and generally threw caution to the wind. A home point would have been a heist of the highest order.

Benitez is the most streetwise of tacticians but the Spaniard is hamstrung by a squad that lacks the quality that comes with serious, sustained investment.

The prospect of relegation hangs over the takeover talks between owner Mike Ashley and British businesswoman Amanda Staveley that could be the key to a new era.

Club legend Alan Shearer, watching for BBC Radio 5 live, described his former team as “a Championship side playing in the Premier League”.

Encounters against all-conquering City are unlikely to decide Newcastle’s fate, but their next three league matches – against Brighton, Stoke and Swansea – will provide a better indication of which side of the relegation divide they will end up in May.

City rip up more records

Pep Guardiola

Guardiola won three successive German titles with Bayern Munich

Another win, another milestone for Manchester City.

This was their 11th consecutive away victory, matching the record for the English top flight set by Chelsea between April and December 2008.

Next on the horizon is one of their manager’s own.

Beating Crystal Palace away on Sunday would equal the 19 successive wins that Bayern Munich strung together in the 2013-14 season under Guardiola. No team in the English, Italian, German, Spanish or French top flights have ever managed more than that.

Man of the match – Kevin de Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne set up four chances including Sterling’s decisive goal

‘We have to bring someone in’ – what the managers said

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez: “We had some chances at the end, and we expected to have to defend and play counter-attack. We needed to stay compact and defend well to play like that.

“In the last 20 minutes we did what was expected, being on top of them and expecting to press high. I am really pleased with the team in terms of organisation, but we discussed we could be better on the ball in the first half.

“We have to bring someone in to help the team but still have a lot of confidence in the team.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: “Any manager can decide what he wants – I prefer to try to play but I respect a lot what opponents do and we have to try to discover how to attack against them.

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Newcastle didn’t want to play – Guardiola

“Always you have to expect this kind of situation – and it is not always easy to maintain that level.

“Raheem Sterling is scoring a lot and is playing good – so we are happy with that.”

Newcastle’s low five at home – the stats

  • Newcastle have lost five consecutive home league matches for the first time since October 1953.
  • Nicolas Otamendi completed 122 passes for Man City in this match – seven more than all the outfield players of Newcastle managed combined (115).
  • Rafael Benitez has now lost six of his past 10 home Premier League matches – he had lost six of his previous 110 before this run; 38% of Benitez’s total home Premier League defeats have come this season, six of 16.
  • Since his Premier League debut for Manchester City, Kevin de Bruyne has 36 assists – four more than any other player.
  • In all competitions this season, only Harry Kane (24) has scored more goals than Raheem Sterling (17) among English Premier League players.
  • The Magpies have collected 18 points from their 20 Premier League matches this season – just one more than they managed after 20 games in the 2015-16 season, when they were relegated.

What’s next?

Newcastle play Brighton at home at 15:00 GMT on Saturday, with Manchester City travelling to Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve at 12:00.

Live Text

Match ends, Newcastle United 0, Manchester City 1.

Second Half ends, Newcastle United 0, Manchester City 1.

Leroy Sané (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United).

Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Javier Manquillo (Newcastle United).

Attempt missed. Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jamaal Lascelles.

Attempt missed. Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Christian Atsu with a cross.

Offside, Manchester City. Nicolás Otamendi tries a through ball, but Gabriel Jesus is caught offside.

Foul by Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City).

Mikel Merino (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Gabriel Jesus.

Substitution, Manchester City. Leroy Sané replaces Bernardo Silva.

Offside, Newcastle United. Paul Dummett tries a through ball, but Christian Atsu is caught offside.

Attempt blocked. Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jonjo Shelvey.

Offside, Newcastle United. Jacob Murphy tries a through ball, but DeAndre Yedlin is caught offside.

Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Mohamed Diamé (Newcastle United).

Hand ball by Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

Substitution, Newcastle United. Mikel Merino replaces Chancel Mbemba.

Substitution, Manchester City. Eliaquim Mangala replaces Sergio Agüero.

Danilo (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United).

Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United) is shown the yellow card.

Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United) has gone down, but that’s a dive.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by DeAndre Yedlin.

Substitution, Newcastle United. Christian Atsu replaces Rolando Aarons.

Danilo (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Rolando Aarons (Newcastle United).

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Jamaal Lascelles.

Foul by Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

Jacob Murphy (Newcastle United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Offside, Manchester City. Kevin De Bruyne tries a through ball, but Sergio Agüero is caught offside.

Attempt blocked. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Danilo.

Offside, Manchester City. Danilo tries a through ball, but Gabriel Jesus is caught offside.

Substitution, Newcastle United. Dwight Gayle replaces Joselu.

Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Mohamed Diamé (Newcastle United).

Hand ball by Joselu (Newcastle United).

Attempt missed. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Gabriel Jesus.

News Reporter

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