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Jacob Steinberg

After five seconds, Jonjo Shelvey tried to score from near the halfway line. Ederson saved the Newcastle United midfielder’s ambitious effort with ease, however, and so it began, with Manchester City’s goalkeeper having to wait another 14 minutes before touching the ball again. One of his team-mates had passed it back to him, presumably just to make sure that the Brazilian had not nipped to the away dressing room to check the sound system.

The home fans had a different view, sensing that a minor victory had been achieved, urging their rattled players to keep pressing and running and hassling the Premier League’s dominant force. City, however, simply kept playing their enchanting football throughout their 1-0 victory at St James’s Park, pushing the home side back so much that at times Newcastle were in danger of retreating into the back rows of the Gallowgate end. It spoke volumes that Pep Guardiola’s response to seeing Vincent Kompany pull up with a calf injury in the 11th minute was to replace the centre-back with another attacker.

Gabriel Jesus came on for Kompany, who looked distraught Jonathan Drouin Youth jersey after sustaining the latest in a long line of muscle injuries, and City’s threat showed no sign of diminishing. The only surprise was that they needed 31 minutes to Jason Verrett Womens Jersey find a way through, not that there was any doubt that Guardiola’s team would extend their advantage over Manchester United to a staggering 15 points and earn their 18th consecutive victory once Kevin de Bruyne had created Raheem Sterling’s goal with another magnificent assist.
After United’s 2-2 draw with Burnley on Boxing Day, José Mourinho found himself in the unfortunate position of needing a favour from one of his old enemies. Yet Rafael Benítez was under no illusions. Many of the greatest moments of Benítez’s career have stemmed from his ability to suffocate glamorous opponents, but Newcastle’s manager knew who he was facing. “You can prepare the best tactics in the world,” Benítez said before kick-off. “And you can still lose.”
One theory was that this was a free hit for Newcastle after Kasey Redfern Jersey they defeated West Ham United to win for the first time in 10 games last weekend. But they finished the evening a point Dallas Thomas Jersey above the bottom three and Benítez, who made five changes here, did not seem interested in allowing his players to have a few swings early on. Instead they were cautious, conceding territory in the hope that City would struggle to find space and enjoy nothing more than sterile possession.
Yet Guardiola’s team are growing accustomed to dealing with those stifling tactics. With Ilkay Gundogan setting a pleasing tempo in midfield, City were cool enough to stay patient and trust in their talent. Only generous finishing was letting them down. Sergio Agüero ought to have had a hat-trick but the striker hit the woodwork twice and saw Rob Elliot make a stunning save from his sharp header. He also had a goal disallowed for offside with 25 minutes to go.
In the absence of David Silva, who was missing because of personal reasons, it was tempting to wonder if City would lack a spark. Not for long, though. Bernardo Silva, a £43m arrival from Monaco last summer, slotted daintily into midfield, while it helped that City were able to call upon one of the most penetrative and imaginative passers around.
What a pass it was from De Bruyne to release Sterling after half an hour of comically one-sided action. Sterling has 17 goals for the season now, many of them coming at crucial times, and the way that he rolled his studs over the ball to squeeze a difficult chance past Elliot was another demonstration of his increasing maturity. What really took the breath away, though, was De Bruyne’s vision, how quickly he spied the opening and worked out the angles, how easy it was for him to flight the ball towards his intended target.
Newcastle’s early caution was understandable in that context, even though they occasionally troubled City after letting go of their fear and introducing Christian Atsu and Dwight Gayle. Nicolás Otamendi had to clear a Rolando Aarons chip off the line after Kyle Walker’s slip, Gayle headed wide and it must have been satisfying for Benítez when Guardiola replaced Agüero with Eliaquim Mangala near the end.
Ultimately, however, Newcastle had two shots on target and one of them was Shelvey’s early sighter. A special team took another step on their journey towards greatness and it is impossible to see anyone stopping them.

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