Manchester City Title Challenge Gaining Momentum As Newcastle Are Blown Absent

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Pep Guardiola is optimistic that Manchester City are heading in the right direction to challenge Liverpool again for the Premier League title after climbing up to fifth and inside five points of the leaders with a routine 2-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday. At a rain and windswept Etihad Stadium as Storm Bella swept into Manchester, it used to be plain sailing for the hosts as goals either side of half-time from Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 games.

City’s lack of goals has unusually been their undoing so far this season but despite again not hitting the free-flowing heights of preceding 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 missing in mean or threat, with top scorer Callum Wilson left on the bench.

“There are bizarre results for everyone. This season is approximately being calm in the good and naughty moments,” said Guardiola. “I have the feeling we are getting better.”

Guardiola’s options had been limited prior to kick-off by Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus testing positive for coronavirus in conjunction with two members of the City staff.

On the other hand, the loss of Jesus and Walker is likely to be more keenly felt in the coming week as City go back and forth to second-placed Everton on Monday and Chelsea next weekend in two real tests of their ability to reel in Liverpool at the top of the table.

“We played at the tempo we need to play. We are a team that should make numerous passes, not run such a lot and attack in the correct moments. Today our positional game used to be perfect,” added Guardiola.

“Unfortunately we could not score more goals but this is a good result and three more points. We shouldn’t have much time to consider it because in 45, 46 hours we are back.”

City threw absent two points in their final home game in a 1-1 draw with West Brom after Gundogan opened the scoring.

But there used to be no repeat this time after the German midfielder used to be picked out by Raheem Sterling for a tap-in.

Even Kevin De Bruyne has suffered from a lack of confidence in front of goal in recent months as City’s routine thrashings of sides in the lower reaches of the table have dried up.

The Belgian is yet to score from open play this season and paid for his hesitation as he looked for a teammate to square the ball to when clean through on Karl Darlow as the Newcastle ‘keeper kept his side in the game before half-time.

City’s pressure in the end told for the all-important second goal 10 minutes into the second one half as Joao Cancelo’s low cross used to be turned into the path of Torres by Federico Fernandez and the Spaniard applied the simple finish.

That made it just the third time in 12 league games that City had scored more than once and there will have to have been far more in the last half-hour as conditions worsened.

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Sterling, Bernardo Silva and substitute Sergio Aguero all missed glorious opportunities from near range to give the scoreline a fairer reflection.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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