Manchester City secured their place at the top of the Premier League table before Christmas, breaking a long-standing Liverpool record.
Manchester City will be top of the Premier League at Christmas after a 4-0 win over Newcastle, with goals from Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Riyad Mahrez, and Raheem Sterling.
Perhaps more crucially, the Blues used Liverpool’s superior goal difference to eliminate one of their primary opponents’ advantages as another epic title fight heats up.
City rode their luck in the first half but controlled the second half to set a new English record of 34 wins in a calendar year, breaking Bob Paisley’s famous Liverpool team’s record of 34 wins in 1982.
In the Premier League in 2021, City scored 106 goals, the most in the top level in a single calendar year. Arsenal, who scored 112 goals in a calendar year in 1963, was the last team in the Premier League to do so.
The early goal by Ruben Dias, an early Christmas present from the Newcastle defense, did not trigger the expected route, and it took goals from Joao Cancelo, Riyad Mahrez, and Raheem Sterling to seal the victory.
The Blues also escaped a clear penalty shout in the first half when Ederson clumsily collided with Matt Ritchie, but the Blues’ greater quality in the final third won out in the end.
“We’re richer than you!” shouted Newcastle fans, and although that may be true in terms of their owners’ financial accounts, there is still a long way to go before that wealth translates onto the pitch.
Despite some serious opposition, City’s greater quality ultimately prevailed.
Liverpool had a nine-goal advantage over Chelsea at the start of the week, a factor that could be crucial if the title fight is as tight as it appears to be.
That gap was closed after blasting seven past Leeds and adding four more at St James’ Park.
The team selection itself was intriguing, with no major concerns aside from Ferran Torres’ predicted absence and Kyle Walker’s unexpected absence, despite the manager’s claim that Torres was the only difficulty.
Despite this, Guardiola exercised the squad muscle by resting Phil Foden, who has been plagued by ankle problems.
The Blues were not as smooth and lethal as they were against Leeds in midweek, but Newcastle may claim credit for that with a tenacious determination to lie down and die.
Newcastle showed a lot of character, but City led at halftime owing to two hefty doses of luck and a high-quality moment from Joao Cancelo.
The home fans must have been worried that the Blues’ early goal — from the odd source of Ruben Dias — would open the floodgates, especially since it came as a result of a crushingly terrible defensive error.
Cancelo chased down a lost cause at the far post, and despite doing a fantastic job of hooking a volleyed cross back across goal, it was straight at Ciaran Clark.
By stooping beneath the ball, he disobeyed every golden defensive rule in the book, assuming that keeper Martin Dubravka would claim it.
Dubravka was taken aback, and Dias, who was still forward after a corner, saw his chance and headed in uncontested from close range.
Rodri, who is a far better holding midfielder on the front foot than he is when asked to defend, was unsettled by the home side’s energetic comeback, with Joelinton and Joe Willock racing from deep to upset him.
He and Bernardo Silva were both punished for cynical fouls, and it was far from over when Kevin De Bruyne was dispossessed in the box and given a questionable foul call.
With Kyle Walker still not fully fit and out of the squad, Cancelo appeared to have delivered a fatal blow when he went inside from right-back to get on the ball.
With the obvious pass to Rodri, Cancelo swerved past one challenge, surged though the heart of the defense, and then checked back onto his right foot before blasting his shot past the beaten Dubravka.
Cancelo has been directly involved in 10 goals for Manchester City in all competitions this season (3 goals, 7 assists), already surpassing his total from the previous season (8 – 3 goals, 5 assists).
The Toons, though, refused to be broken and attempted to claw their way back into the game. They were also denied a clear path when Ederson experienced one of the blood rushes to the brain that used to follow his extended periods of inactivity, but which he seemed to have ironed out of his game.
As the ball drifted towards the corner flag, Cancelo had the situation under control, but he rushed off his line and collided with Matt Ritchie.
Ref The VAR backed Martin Atkinson in dismissing the loud penalty appeals. The only explanation was that the ball was heading far away from Ritchie, who would never get there, and he was looking for contact. It was, however, difficult to argue that it was not a foul.
Newcastle still believed they had a chance to win the game, and City needed another goal to be certain. When Bernardo headed Cancelo’s deep ball back across and Gabriel Jesus slammed a header from close range that Dubravka superbly turned over, they were denied a goal.
Newcastle’s problem was that the harder they pressed City to create a foothold, the more De Bruyne and Bernardo ran from deep exposed them.
The third goal came as a result of a VAR check following an erroneous offside call.
Aleks Zinchenko advanced and curved in a wonderful ball for Mahrez, who volleyed it past Dubravka with his accurate left foot before the keeper could react.
The linesman raised his flag, but VAR Craig Pawson overruled the official, and the Blues were on their way to victory.
They were able to rest Dias, Mahrez, and Rodri — who was on the verge of receiving a second yellow card — and still score a fourth goal.
Jesus had been a thorn in the side as a central striker, but when he was moved to the left flank, he annihilated Jacob Murphy and squared the ball for Raheem Sterling to knock in for a 4-0 lead.
Eddie Howe, the manager of Newcastle United, has lost all 11 Premier League games against Manchester City, the worst 100 percent losing record of any manager in the competition’s history.
Newcastle has only 10 points in the Premier League this season, and 11 of the past 13 teams with 10 or fewer points after 18 games have been relegated.
Newcastle have now conceded 79 Premier League goals in 2021, tied with Ipswich Town for the most by a side in the championship in a calendar year.