Newcastle 2-1 Manchester City: Rafa Benitez’s men stun Pep Guardiola’s side as Salomon Rondon and Matt Ritchie seal comeback to dent City’s title hopes
If Ritchie scored, and Newcastle held on, January 29, 2019, could become the day Liverpool’s first Premier League title felt like a reality. If he scored and Manchester City lost, it would mean they had blinked first in this stand-off, and that a home win over Leicester on Wednesday night would leave Liverpool seven points clear. Nobody had given Newcastle much hope against City – and certainly not when they went 1-0 down inside 24 seconds.
Yet here they were, looking at a truly remarkable comeback. Fernandinho had been caught in possession and referee Paul Tierney had quite rightly pointed to the spot, as the panicked City man sent Sean Longstaff tumbling.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
NEWCASTLE (5-4-1): Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie; Perez (Manquillo 90), Hayden, Longstaff, Atsu (Kenedy 87); Rondon
SUBS NOT USED: Woodman, Clark, Murphy, Fernandez, Roberts
BOOKINGS: Perez, Schar
GOALS: Rondon 66, Ritchie 80 pen
Manager: Rafa Benitez
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Danilo (Gundogan 83); De Bruyne (Silva 65), Fernandinho, D Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane (Jesus 73)
SUBS NOT USED: Muric, Mahrez, Otamendi, Foden
BOOKINGS: De Bruyne, Sterling, Laporte
GOALS: Aguero 1
Manager: Pep Guardiola
REFEREE: Paul Tierney
Then Ederson had delayed procedures with his injury. A real injury, a psychological ploy? Who knew. Whatever, it did not work. Ritchie held his nerve and slipped the ball under Ederson, to his right. City had stumbled when it was least expected. This was supposed to be the match in which they shifted the pressure to Liverpool.
Played first, won, and closed the gap to a single point. Over to you, Jurgen. Instead, it was City who had choked. Even given the best start possible, they failed to give themselves the necessary cushion to feel safe. Comfortable, yes. They didn’t look like losing here for much of the game. Yet a single goal is never enough to relax; and when Newcastle applied the pressure, City were found wanting.
From Pep Guardiola’s point if view, Newcastle’s equaliser was an utter shambles. A header clear went as far as Isaac Hayden, who sent it back from whence it came with a header of his own. City reacted to it dismally.
Players scrambled to reposition, but without the necessary urgency, others appealed fruitlessly for offside. Amid the confusion, Salomon Rondon stayed calm. As the ball dropped, he struck it with his right foot, powering it into the ground and on a cold night with a hard surface, sending it over goalkeeper Ederson, with one mighty bounce.
It was no less than Newcastle deserved for a spiky reaction to an early setback, against a side whose recent form is intimidating. True, Newcastle goalkeeper Martuin Dubravka had made two impressive interventions in the second-half – first from Raheem Sterling, then to keep out a shot by David Silva – but even for the long periods in which his team led, this was not an impressive display from City.