LONDON: Manchester City recovered in style from their devastating Champions League exit to Real in Madrid by taking a decisive step towards an eighth league title and fourth in five seasons under Pep Guardiola.
An early goal from launched a 5-0 victory in an ‘Arab derby’ between Abu Dhabi-owned City and Saudi Arabia-controlled Newcastle. Victory not only lifted City three points clear of Liverpool but saw them overtake on goal difference. City expanded their record to plus-68 compared with the Reds’ plus-64.
Jurgen Klopp may have due cause to rue a weekend in which Liverpool slipped up, perhaps fatally, on being held at home by Tottenham. Three games remain for both clubs and even Klopp has said he expects City to win away to Wolves and West Ham and at home to Aston Villa.
Victory was City’s consolation for the European semi-final failure and enhanced a party atmosphere in the 10th anniversary week of Sergio Aguero’s famous title-winning goal against QPR on May 13, 2012.
Manager Pep Guardiola said: “The team could not have given any more. I liked everything. Perfect afternoon for me. Some people had doubts about this team but only because they don’t know the quality of this group. It’s not about one afternoon or one night but so many seasons.
“The margin between us and Liverpool is so tight and goal difference can happen. It was important we win. I have said many times we feel so incredibly close to our fans and hopefully we can arrive at the Aston Villa game on the final day of the season for them with the destiny of the Premier League in our hands.
“Now there are nine points to play for and we have another final on Wednesday [against Wolves].”
Newcastle created early half-chances for Dan Burn and Chris Wood before City took control in the 19th minute. Jack Grealish, Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo set up Sterling to head his 11th of the league campaign. Another 19 minutes and City were two goals clear. Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka dropped a fierce shot from Gundogan and Laporte jabbed home after a scramble.
Rodri punished poor Newcastle defending on the hour by heading No3 from a Kevin de Bruyne corner. It was City’s 20th goal from a set piece and the Spaniard’s third in three successive league matches. Substitute Phil Foden and Sterling again wrapped it up in the last minutes.
At the other end . . .
Everton climbed out of the relegation places by winning 2:1 at Leicester on goals from Vitaliy Mykolenko and Mason Holgate. The second-half brilliance of England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford helped secure a third win in five games.
Manager Frank Lampard’s men moved up to 16th, one point above Burnley and Leeds. Everton have also played one game fewer than their relegation rivals. Leicester are without a win in their last five league games.
Jesse Marsh and Leeds are in serious trouble.
A 2-1 defeat at Arsenal pushed down into the relegation zone for the first time since October. Their legacy of the Marcelo Bielsa reign is a potentially fatal goal difference of minus-35. A blunder by keeper Ilian Meslier gifted an opening goal to Eddie Nketiah who then scored a second before Leeds captain Luke Ayling, in his 500th career game, was sent off for a foul on Gabriel Martinelli.
Marsh said: “That bad start digs a big hole for ourselves. It made a difficult task 100 times more difficult.” Arsenal’s victory lifted the Gunners closer to a Champions League return.