So it’s over to you, Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp insisted he wouldn’t make a special effort to watch his side’s main challengers in action 24 hours before his Premier League leaders had a chance to take their latest step towards ending a 29-year title drought, but there’s a fair bet the German did his best to settle down in front of this most improbable of results, or at least the final 25 minutes of what was a huge dent to City’s title ambitions.
Pep Guardiola’s side handed the advantage back to their rivals with a display lacking in any of the traits of Champions on a quite astonishing night on Tyneside.
Despite that fact, they looked likely to keep the pressure on the pace-setters as Sergio Aguero got them off to an ideal start in the Spaniard’s 100th league game in charge by scoring the fastest goal of the season — 24 seconds.
But Newcastle staged an unlikely comeback to ease their relegation fears thanks to Salomon Rondon’s 66th minute equaliser, the first goal City had conceded for more than 10 hours, before Matt Ritchie struck the winner from the penalty spot with 10 minutes remaining after Fernandinho’s foul on youngster Sean Longstaff.
It means the Merseyside club, who could have been only a point ahead of their main rivals on their return to action, can extend their lead at the top to seven points with victory over Leicester at Anfield tonight. Such a scenario looked unlikely when Aguero continued his amazing scoring record against the Tyneside club with his 15th goal in 13 games against Rafa Benitez’s side, more than any player has scored against an opponent for a single club in the competition.
Manager Benitez made no apologies for setting out to ‘park the bus’ against free-scoring opponents, even at home, but the Spaniard’s plans to frustrate Guardiola’ side were left in tatters when the visitors took the lead with their first attack.
Newcastle failed to deal with Raheem Sterling’s centre from the right, and although David Silva slipped as he met the cross at the far post, the midfielder did enough to redirect the ball into the path of the lurking Aguero, who found the net for the third successive game with an unflustered close-range finish past goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. Protests from the hosts that Silva had inadvertently fouled Dubrakva as he fell to ground were ignored by Paul Tierney, the referee who swiftly came to Newcastle’s rescue.
The Argentina international was denied a second inside the opening 20 minutes when he deftly glanced home Kevin De Bruyne quickly-taken free-kick, only for play to be brought back as the midfielder was cautioned for curling in the set piece before Tierney had signalled play could recommence.
The Belgian was fortunate not to earn a second yellow card on the hour when clumsily fouling Ritchie as City’s evening began to unravel. Silva, who posed a constant threat, saw a close-range header cleared off the line by Fabian Schar as City pushed for a decisive second goal, which should have arrived when Sterling failed to make sufficient connection to a Leroy Sane cross with the goal at his mercy shortly after the re-start.
Rondon stuck to his largely thankless task as Newcastle’s lone forward, and was rewarded for his efforts with the leveller midway through the second period as City failed to deal with Ritchie’s cross, Isaac Hayden heading the ball back into the box to allow Rondon to strike with a firm volley past a stranded Ederson.
Worse was to follow for a City side that had won its previous seven games as Newcastle sealed a first league win against the reigning Premier League Champions since 2005, with the usually reliable Fernandinho at fault as the Brazilian fouled Longstaff after being dispossessed in the area by the marauding Newcastle midfielder.
Ritchie kept his composure after lengthy treatment for an injury to Ederson to find the net despite the Brazilian getting a hand to the Scotland international’s spot kick to seal a memorable night for the hosts, who had earlier clinched a club record £20m deal to sign the Paraguay international forward Miguel Almiron from MLS side Atlanta United.
Dubravka 7; Yedlin 7, Schar 7, Lascelles 7, Lejeune 7, Ritchie 7; Atsu 6 (Kenedy 87, 6), Hayden 5, Longstaff 7, Perez 5 (Manquillo 90, 6); Rondon 8.
Ederson 6; Walker 7, Danilo 4 (Gundogan 83, 6), Stones 7, Laporte 7; Fernandinho 7; Silva 8, De Bruyne 7 (B Silva 65, 6); Sterling 7, Sane 8 (Jesus 73, 6), Aguero 8.
Paul Tierney 7.