MANCHESTER , United Kingdom, Dec 27 – Manchester City closed to within five points of Premier League leaders Liverpool as goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres saw off Newcastle 2-0 at a rain and windswept Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
City’s lack of goals has unusually been their undoing so far this season but despite again not hitting the free-flowing heights of previous years under Pep Guardiola, they are edging back into title contention thanks to a six-game unbeaten run to move up to fifth.
Guardiola’s options had been limited prior to kick-off by Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus testing positive for coronavirus along with two members of the City staff.
However, they still had far too much for a Newcastle side lacking in intent or any threat, with top scorer Callum Wilson left on the bench, as the hosts registered an eighth clean sheet in their last 10 games.
City threw away two points in their last home game in a 1-1 draw with West Brom after Gundogan opened the scoring.
But there was no repeat this time after the German midfielder was 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 finally told for the all-important second goal 10 minutes into the second half as Joao Cancelo’s low cross was 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 should have been far more in the final half-hour as Storm Bella swept through the empty Etihad.
Sterling somehow failed to turn home another inviting Cancelo cross before Bernardo Silva struck the outside of the post.
With City in action again in just 48 hours away to second-placed Everton, Guardiola surprisingly did not take the chance to rest the likes of De Bruyne and Sterling in the closing stages.
Sergio Aguero was given a run-out as the Argentine aims to get up to match fitness and he should have added a third when he fired too close to Darlow from another fine Cancelo cross.