Man City juggernaut starts to accelerate after brief skid

Man City 3 - Newcastle 1: When it comes to Manchester City, the rest of the Premier League has quite the conundrum to contend with at the moment.

Man City juggernaut starts to accelerate after brief skid

On the one hand, if nobody else beats Pep Guardiola’s side in the next three weeks or so then you might as well send the Premier League trophy and the engraver to east Manchester now and get it over and done with.

On the other hand, if somebody does have the sheer effrontery — the shameless audacity — to defeat the best team in the country in the coming weeks then City will then simply redouble their efforts and win the Premier League title even faster.

That sounds counter-intuitive but City defy logic for many reasons. Mostly though, they entertain. They attack, they score goals, they enthrall and they enchant. The winning bit that comes at the end of all that is merely the icing on the cake, the inevitable end product borne from a desperate need to do well, especially after a reverse.

City’s victory over Newcastle United on Saturday was a case in point. The depth of their desire to show the Liverpool loss was an anomaly, the eagerness of their players to hurry and harry, their hunger to get this title won, and won as fast as possible, was as terrifying for the rest of the Premier League as it was impressive for the neutral.

The message from City, and, by extension, Guardiola, was crystal clear and twofold. Firstly, the juggernaut stalled at Anfield but it did not crash. Secondly, do not make Manchester City angry - you would not like them when they get angry.

“We have 42 points to play for,” Guardiola said, keen to emphasise how relentless his quest for the title still is. “It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like today, like it was in Liverpool, it is important to show the team is already there, it is still there.

“The players reacted really well with huge personality. We created chances, we scored goals and we conceded few chances and we avoided two bad results in a row. I don’t know what is going to happen [at the end of the season] but I don’t have to be convinced of the incredible players we have.

“The way we fight and the way we try to play when they defend with ten or 11 players in the box is so good.”

The bare bones are that this was the seventh Premier League hat-trick of Sergio Aguero’s storied City career but look beyond his goals and one understands why City are the team they are.

Leroy Sane was a plague all afternoon, Kevin De Bruyne mischievous and clinical and Raheem Sterling as lethal as he has looked all season, particularly recently.

In this contest, following 34 minutes of sustained mayhem in which Rafa Benitez’s side showed notable solidity and character in equal measure, De Bruyne crossed from the left for Aguero to get the faintest of flicks. Finally, City had the lead, yet what felt like an inevitable rout did not materialise.

Newcastle played with impressive heart and discipline but fending off City is no easy gig, especially a side wounded by the superb job Jurgen Klopp did on them the week before and a City side keen to show Alexis Sanchez what he was missing out on.

A penalty won by the effervescent Sterling after the break was dispatched coolly by Aguero but then, from nowhere, Newcastle decided to play.

Jacob Murphy benefitted from some lax defending after 67 minutes to clip past Ederson and for a brief while the comeback was on.

Not for long. A mazy dribble by Sane took him 40 yards up the pitch, his pass found Aguero to complete a ‘perfect’ hat-trick of left foot shot, right foot shot and a header.

“Who has the record for scoring the most goals in the Champions League? Me,” Benitez said afterwards, keen to defend his side’s miserly approach. “When we can attack, we attack. But when you have to defend against the best team in the country, you have to defend.”

MAN CITY (4-1-4-1):

Ederson 6; Walker 6, Stones 7, Otamendi 6, Zinchenko 6; Fernandinho 6; De Bruyne 8, D Silva 6, Sterling 7 (B Silva 86, 5), Sane 8; Aguero 9 (Diaz 87min, 5).

NEWCASTLE (5-4-1):

Darlow 7; Manquillo 4 (Yedlin 66, 5), Hayden 6, Lascelles 6, Clark 6, Dummett 6; Murphy 7, Shelvey 6, Diame 6, Atsu 5 (Perez 64 mins, 4); Joselu 5 (Gayle, 76 mins, 5).

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