28 Dec 2017

City go 15 points clear at top of EPL

12:19 pm on 28 December 2017

Raheem Sterling fired Manchester City 15 points clear at the top of the English Premier League table with a 1-0 victory at St James Park.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling in EPL action.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling in EPL action. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Sterling's 31st-minute strike was all the leaders had to show for in a dominant display in front of an away crowd of 52,311, as the Magpies' ultra-conservative approach frustrated them despite their wealth of possession.

Ultimately it was enough on a night when Rafael Benitez's men slipped to a fifth successive home defeat for the first time since 1953, and it might have been worse had referee Andre Marriner taken a dimmer view of Jacob Murphy's first- half challenge on Ilkay Gundogan.

The home side's game-plan was predictably cautious as they got 11 men not only behind the ball, but within 35 yards of their own goal for much of the first half and challenged City to break them down.

Kevin de Bruyne thumped a left-foot shot over the angle of bar and post as the visitors pressed once again, and an early injury to skipper Vincent Kompany simply prompted Pep Guardiola to replace his central defender with striker Gabriel Jesus.

For all City were utterly dominant in possession, they were rarely able to stretch the hosts decisively, although Rob Elliot had clawed away Aguero's 17th- minute header and then came off his line to block Jesus' effort at point-blank range.

The deadlock was broken when Sterling ran on to De Bruyne's return pass and scuffed the ball past the 'keeper with the studs of his left boot.

There was no change in the pattern of the game after the restart with Sterling shooting across the face of goal after ghosting past DeAndre Yedlin and Murphy, and Elliot pushing a Gundogan effort after he had robbed Mohamed Diame.

Newcastle launched a late onslaught and came came close to an equaliser when Dwight Gayle sent a diving header just wide from fellow substitute Christian Atsu's cross.

Sterling told Sky Sports afterwards: "It was a great team performance today.

"I thought they (Newcastle) soaked up the pressure really well and counter- attacked a few times. We put pressure on ourselves at times and didn't make it easy.

"But we dug in and that shows the team spirit, we stayed together and calm and got the win."

Team-mate Bernardo Silva added: "We knew it would be a tough game.

"It's not easy to play against 11 players behind the ball, but I think we handled it and could have had many more goals.

"When you win 18 games in a row you have to expect teams to do whatever they can to try and stop you.

"The last 10 minutes were very tough, keeping the advantage for another three points. We're so happy."