Manchester City secure Christmas top spot with four goal demolition of Newcastle at St James’ Park

  • Defensive error allows Rúben Dias to open scoring in 5th minute
  • João Cancelo drive puts visitors two-up before half-time
  • Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling complete job as Man City secure Christmas top spot

Manchester City recorded their eight consecutive Premier League victory after being gifted their opening goals at St James’ Park against relegation-haunted Newcastle. 

Ruben Dias opened the scoring after an error from Ciaran Clark, with Joao Cancelo then scoring before the interval. Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling added further goals as Pep Guardiola’s team won at a canter and were able to rest players seeing out victory.  

Newcastle’s cause was not helped by their best attacker, Allan Saint-Maximin, only being fit for half the match after a calf issue in midweek, while Jonjo Shelvey missed out altogether with a muscle problem. How they need them back to their best to offer hope of climbing out of the relegation zone. 

Guardiola needed to pass a fitness test of his own before the game, after a lateral-flow proved inconclusive. Only after a negative PCR was he allowed to travel and unleash his attackers on Howe’s depleted defence. 

To underline Guardiola’s strength in depth, he could take Jack Grealish and Phil Foden out of his team and look just as potent, albeit being given a helping hand by Newcastle’s defending, gifting them the advantage.

Howe was in his technical area yelling “ball….ball!” to his players, urging them to press City’s blur of movement. But he was soon silenced by his players finding calamitous new ways of conceding.  

As Cancelo bounced the ball into the six-yard area Newcastle were in total control of the situation, only for Ciaran Clark to leave the ball for his goalkeeper to collect. Martin Dubravka failed to get the memo and it allowed Dias to head in his second of the season. If at the other end, the Portuguese centre-back would have undoubtedly cleared to safety. 

The defending was little better for the second goal, which rendered the contest all-but over. Cancelo, who will dubiously pick up an “assist”, for the first goal, and doubled the lead by finding the top corner from the edge of the area. 

He took advantage of weak defending from Joe Willock, with Cancelo gliding past the former Arsenal midfielder. Isaac Hayden slipped at a crucial moment but it will not have pleased Howe that three Newcastle players were close to Cancelo as he struck. None of them were close to him. 

It furthered Cancelo’s case to be player-of-the-year this season. He has now been directly involved in 10 goals including his assists, the first time a defender has reached double figures in a Guardiola team since David Alaba for Bayern Munich in 2013-14. 

City fans sang the name of Sheikh Mansour and teased the hosts about getting relegated despite their wealth. Howe’s players did not throw in the towel and could point to Ryan Fraser getting taken out by Ederson off the ball as a moment that could have given them a path back. 

VAR bizarrely did not look at the foul, with Newcastle assistant Jason Tindall taking the matter up with Martin Atkinson at half-time as they walked to the tunnel. At 2-1 there would have been hope, instead City threatened to rack up a big score like the 7-0 against Leeds United in midweek.  

They added to the punishment in the second half with a sweeping move that Mahrez finished off with a volley after Oleksandr Zinchenko’s cross. The flag had gone up for offside but VAR, finally called into action, corrected the decision. 

Sterling tapped in during the latter stages after Gabriel Jesus’ work down the left flank. By this stage many home fans had headed for the exits. 

Newcastle United vs Manchester City, as it happened:

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