Football

Manchester City's title challenge gaining momentum

Guardiola's men need to build on good run against second-placed Everton next

Pep Guardiola is optimistic that Manchester City are on course to challenge Liverpool again for the English Premier League title after a routine 2-0 win over Newcastle United yesterday morning (Singapore time).

At a rain and windswept the Etihad Stadium as Storm Bella swept into Manchester, it was plain sailing for the hosts as goals either side of half-time from Ilkay Guendogan and Ferran Torres extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 games.

City's lack of goals has been their undoing this season. But, despite again not hitting the free-flowing heights of previous years under Guardiola, an impressive defensive record is moving them back into contention.

An eighth clean sheet in 10 games never looked threatened against a Newcastle side who started with five at the back, with top scorer Callum Wilson left on the bench.

"There are weird results for everyone. This season is about being calm in the good and bad moments," said Guardiola. "I have the feeling we are getting better."

The Spaniard's options had been limited before kick-off by Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus testing positive for Covid-19 along with two members of the City staff.

The loss of Jesus and Walker is likely to be more keenly felt in the coming week as City travel to second-placed Everton tomorrow morning and Chelsea this weekend in two real tests of their ability to reel in Liverpool at the top of the table.

"We played at the tempo we have to play. We are a team that needs to make a lot of passes, not run so much and attack in the right moments. Today, our positional game was perfect," added Guardiola. "Unfortunately, we could not score more goals but it is a good result."

City drew first blood when Guendogan was picked out by Raheem Sterling for a tap-in.

Ten minutes into the second half, Joao Cancelo's low cross was turned into the path of Torres, who applied a simple finish.

That made it just the third time in 12 league games that City had scored more than once.

There should have been more in the final half-hour as conditions worsened, but Sterling, Bernardo Silva and substitute Sergio Aguero all missed opportunities from close range. - AFP

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