Manchester City – Newcastle: Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres scored early in each half to key Manchester City’s easy 2-0 win over shorthanded Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Man City moves five points back of leaders Liverpool, while Newcastle begins a terrible run of fixtures with minus-2 in the goal differential column and 12th place on 18 points.
Newcastle without most of its key pieces due to injury and COVID-19, but City was also missing Gabriel Jesus due to the latter.
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Three things we learned
1. Rinse, repeat, for steady Man City: Pep Guardiola’s men just don’t allow many goals and limiting Newcastle wasn’t a major challenge (especially given point No. 2). They passed the ball with ease in attack and found spaces between the crowded Magpies. Both goals were point-blank, albeit with slightly differing degrees of difficulty, and City will feel this match was forgettable in a completely acceptable way.
But City has failed to show up a couple of times this season and this would’ve been an easy one for sleepwalking, the day after a major holiday and days after a decisive League Cup quarterfinal win (with a trip to Everton looming). That did not happen at all, as Kevin De Bruyne pulled the strings as usual, Raheem Sterling set up Gundogan’s opener, and Joao Cancelo picked Miguel Almiron’s pocket en route to Torres’ goal.
2. All as it seems for the visitors: Newcastle hasn’t won at Man City for the better part of 20 years and was without three players you’d expect to have pivotal roles in any upset bid: Jonjo Shelvey, Allan Saint-Maximin, and Jamaal Lascelles. So it was no surprise that Steve Bruce opted for a defensive unit and kept star forward Callum Wilson on the bench with home matches against — relatively speaking — less defensively-stout Liverpool and Leicester City in the coming days. The effort was fine after a moribund midweek cup exit at Brentford and the result was as expected.
3. Rodri worth monitoring: City’s unheralded holding midfielder was trading blows with Newcastle’s unit all day and had picked up a yellow card. So it was no surprise that Guardiola took no chances with Rodri when he appeared to have a slight limp (and with Fernandinho available off the bench). Still, keep an eye on the injury updates because Rodri doesn’t leave games. He’s gone 90 minutes in every PL outing this season except the 5-0 beatdown of Burnley, when he was withdrawn at halftime with a 3-0 advantage in the pocket. A Rodri absence would cramp City’s style in a big way.
Man of the Match: Joao Cancelo
The Portuguese right back registered three key passes, was tenacious in 50-50 balls, and led the team in touches (largely due to Rodri departing early, but still).