And that, dear friends, is your lot. It’s been a great night for Newcastle United in their battle to avoid the drop, but a grim one for Manchester City as they strive to retain their title. They’ll be hoping Leicester City do them a favour at Anfield tomorrow night. Thanks for reading our MBM; nighty night and sweet dreams!
Pep talks to BT Sport! “We were not at our best. We started with a goal, but the rest of the game, we did not have the rhythm that we need to impose our game. We were slow, we did not commit, we couldn’t find our players, we didn’t believe we could find them. Nothing. We had our chances. But I congratulate Newcastle for the victory.” He’s then asked about the controversial De Bruyne / Aguero free kick incident in the first half. And he needs to be reminded of it by someone off-screen. He doesn’t seem of a mind to complain about it. “Yeah, maybe, there are episodes and actions which can change the game. Of course. But in general our game was not in the rhythm we need. In many details our game was not there. It is now difficult [in the title race] because we now need to win a lot of games. The advantage is not huge, so we have to continue.”
While we wait to hear from Pep, let’s take a late-night dip into the mailbag. “Rafael Benitez is the best manager in the EPL,” suggests Terence. “He has minimal resources (quality players) yet he beat Manchester City. Imagine if Mike Ashley had given him money to purchase players, Newcastle would be challenging for the league.” Meanwhile here’s emotion’s Hubert O’Hearn, from an email headed Yes! “I can barely see this screen for my tears of joy. I’m one of those people who have two clubs that they love. For Liverpool’s old gaffer to lead Newcastle to a famous win. I don’t think I’ve loved football so much since Istanbul. Hugs to Rafa!”
Rafa – whose decision to rest Salomon Rondon for the FA Cup at the weekend has been vindicated, at least in the context of this match – speaks! “It was a great effort from everyone, and to win against a team as good as Manchester City … they can pass, they can run behind, they are dangerous at set pieces. They are so good, so when you get three points against them, it means the players did really well. You could see until the 95th minute, everybody was running, trying, fighting for each other. To keep pushing until the end, you have to be really proud of your players. Salomon Rondon is a key player for us; he was very good today. Hopefully we can finalise [the Miguel Almirón deal] tomorrow. I am confident the team can do well to stay up. These players, they care.”
Matt Ritchie speaks! “Especially after our home form of late, that’s a fantastic result. The main thing was belief. I’m not sure too many people believed we could win the game, but certainly in the dressing room we did. To go a goal down so early, we showed fantastic spirit, and the second half … what a performance! It was a kick in the teeth to concede so early, but it was great spirit from the lads. To get in at half-time 1-0 allowed us to regroup, and then Ronnie [Rondon] scored a great goal. And obviously the penalty. To hang on at the end, we defended really well, and all of what the manager asked, we did. I was going to place the penalty, but it went on so long I decided to smash it. Luckily enough it went in. The place has been low but we have belief in the group that we could have a good season. We beat Manchester United at home last season, and that was a turning point, so hopefully this will be similar.” He then presents the man-of-the-match award to the thoroughly excellent Salomon Rondon, whose smile is wider than the Tyne.
You have to say Newcastle deserved their victory. City dominated, of course, and can legitimately feel irritation at the chalking off of a goal from a quickly taken Kevin De Bruyne free kick. For the want of a referee with a lighter touch, City would have been two up and surely on their way to three points. But they were strangely listless in the second half, as Newcastle held firm, battled hard, and eventually applied enough pressure for them to buckle. It didn’t take too much, which might explain why Pep walked off looking very disheartened indeed.
Pep warmly congratulates Rafa before disappearing down the tunnel. Rafa allows a small smile of satisfaction to play across his face. St James’ Park celebrates ecstatically; it’s a crucial three points in Newcastle’s battle against relegation. They catapult all the way up to 14th place: on 24 points, they’re now five clear of the relegation places, with Burnley, Crystal Palace and Southampton now beneath them. City meanwhile remain four points behind leaders Liverpool, on 56 having played one game more. A huge result at both ends of the table!
FULL TIME: Newcastle United 2-1 Manchester City
And there it is! You’d have got a good price on this result after 24 seconds. Rafa Benitez has done his old team Liverpool a solid favour here! But it’s not all about the title race, and Newcastle’s magnificent second-half performance has given them a huge boost in their quest for survival!
90 min +6: The corner’s lumped into the mixer … and Stones heads it harmlessly over. As Dubravka takes his sweet time to tee up the goal kick, the crowd bay for the final whistle.
90 min +5: City press Newcastle back. But Newcastle hold their shape. City are playing it slowly and patiently, despite it all. Then suddenly Aguero bursts down the right and wins a corner. One last chance for City!
90 min +4: Hayden has the chance to release Rondon down the right, but his pass is short and allows Laporte to intercept.
90 min +3: Dubravka collects an aimless long ball and the clock continues to tick in his team’s favour.
90 min +2: Laporte has been booked for complaining at the award of a Newcastle throw. City are losing their heads a bit. But there’s still time to grab a precious point if they calm down.
90 min: Sterling dribbles down the left and wafts a soft cross into Dubravka’s arms. The keeper gathers and makes a big deal of flopping to the floor, needlessly, in the time-honoured time-management style. There will be five added minutes.
89 min: A rare passage of play in the City half. Not what the champions require in their desperation.
88 min: Laporte hesitates under a long ball down the right, Perez nearly nicking it off him and zipping clear. But the defender does very well to recover and hoick clear of danger.
87 min: Hold on, no free kick for that Yedlin tackle on Laporte?! It’s just a throw-in. Ah well, it makes little difference. It would have been practically a corner, and City win one in short order anyway. From that, Dubravka flaps, and Aguero very nearly fashions enough space to shoot at the far post. But he can’t prod home, and once again, amid a melee, the flag goes up for offside.
86 min: Yedlin puts an old-fashioned reducer on Laporte. Before any free kick can be taken, Atsu makes way for Kenedy.
84 min: No. Gundogan batters it witlessly into the Newcastle wall. Bernardo Silva tries to keep the pressure on, hooking back into the penalty area down the inside left, but a lot of City players are caught offside.
83 min: Before the free kick can be taken, Gundogan comes on for Danilo. And Gundogan will take the free kick! This could be some first touch!
82 min: On the touchline, Pep swings moodily from a bottle of water. Meanwhile the locals are bouncing. But for how long? David Silva nips down the inside-left channel and is cheekily clipped by Schar, just to the left of the D. A free kick in a very dangerous position!
GOAL! Newcastle United 2-1 Manchester City (Ritchie 80 pen)
But he can’t stop it! Ritchie doesn’t take a particularly good penalty, sending it just to the right, within reach of the keeper. But Ederson can’t quite get down quickly enough, and though he gets something on it, the power of the kick takes the ball under the keeper and into the bottom right!
79 min: Ederson stalls, pointing towards his groin. He’ll get some treatment before Ritchie can take the penalty! Ritchie is made to wait for what seems like an eternity. Is Ederson coming off? Yes! Hold on, no! He’ll face the penalty after all.
Penalty to Newcastle United!
78 min: Danilo, out on the left, passes to Fernandino in the City box. Fernandinho thinks he’s got an age to clear, and turns back to face his keeper. But Longstaff is right behind him, nicks the ball away, and is then bundled over by the City man from behind! Penalty all day long.
76 min: Rondon and Hayden combine crisply down the right. Hayden reaches the byline and whips hard and low into the six-yard box. Ederson does very well to claim. A palpable tension has now descended on St James’.
75 min: With the box packed, the free kick’s pulled back to Danilo, who shoots low and hard from the edge of the area. His shot can’t get through the thicket of players, though, and after some pinball several City players are caught offside.
74 min: Jesus is almost immediately fouled by Ritchie out on the City right. A free kick near the corner flag, a very dangerous position. In the dugouts, Rafa screams at his defenders with great feeling.
73 min: City are desperate for the goal that’ll keep the pressure on Liverpool at the top of the table. With this in mind, Jesus replaces Sane.
72 min: So to reiterate: it was Perez, not Schar, who got booked earlier. Best to make that clear because he’s in the book now, the result of scything through David Silva.
71 min: Aguero chases Silva’s pass down the inside-left channel but slips as he tries to move up through the gears. He screams in frustration.
69 min: Rondon, working hard at both ends, heads Sane’s corner clear of danger. The atmosphere at St James’ Park is bubbling now.
68 min: City have responded as you’d imagine, pressing Newcastle back into their final third. Danilo whacks a cross into the mixer from the left, but Lascelles hooks clear from a packed box. Then Danilo comes again, and wins a corner off Yedlin. From which …
GOAL! Newcastle United 1-1 Manchester City (Rondon 66)
Ritchie crosses from the left. It’s not much of a ball in, and it’s headed clear by Fernandinho. But Hayden returns it immediately, and it drops to Rondon on the penalty spot. The big striker hooks brilliantly into the top left, Ederson flat footed, and Newcastle are level!
65 min: Perhaps wisely, City hook De Bruyne before he can get into more bother. Bernardo Silva comes on in his wake.
63 min: And now it’s the already booked Perez’s turn to escape further censure, as he first fouls De Bruyne, then whacks the ball away in disgust. The referee once again makes do with a word. Each player gets another chance.
61 min: De Bruyne comes in late on Ritchie, chasing a Fernandinho pass he’s never going to get. He clatters into his man, having already been booked. He could easily be walking – it was a garden variety foul, but you’ve seen folk booked for those. However the referee is perhaps mindful that the first yellow was a bit harsh, so gives him the benefit of the doubt.
60 min: Walker very nearly tears clear down the right but there’s too much energy in the pass he’s chasing, and that’s a goal kick.
58 min: City continue to probe and press. A sharp pass from De Bruyne on the right finds Silva in the City area. Silva bashes a shot goalwards, and Dubravka does extremely well to parry. The ball breaks to Sane, to the left, but he can’t get a shot away. Where’s their second goal? It’s been coming a long time.
56 min: Ah hold on, scrub that. The yellow’s for Perez, who kicked the ball away after Schar committed the foul. Not a particularly obvious delivery of the card. Throw in the whistle business in the first half, and this referee needs to work on his theatrical flourishes.
54 min: Schar is booked for a clip on Silva’s ankle. Clumsy rather than vicious.
53 min: City have come out with a view of putting this game quickly to bed. De Bruyne scoops a pass down the middle. It’ll surely release Sterling! But Dubravka races from his area to improvise a spectacular clearing header.
52 min: Rondon tries to bustle his way through a couple of challenges down the inside-left channel. Not quite, but Newcastle’s number nine is putting in a shift tonight.
50 min: Yedlin, deep on the right, launches a long diagonal pass down the middle of the park. For a second, it looks as though Atsu might latch onto it and race clear on goal, but the bounce isn’t his friend and Ederson is able to step in and see off the danger.
49 min: Silva slips Sane into space down the left. Sane flashes a stunning ball through the six-yard box. Dubravka is out of position and out of the game, but Sterling can’t connect, coming in at the far post. That was very close.
47 min: Sterling suddenly bursts down the right and whips a glorious cross into the area. Aguero was uncharacteristically on the back foot, and Lascelles is able to flick a header clear under no pressure.
46 min: City hog the ball in the opening exchanges of the second period. No super-fast goal this time, though. The home fans are nevertheless pretty subdued right now. A training-session feel right now.
And we’re off again! City get the ball rolling for the second half; there have been no changes at the break.
Half-time reading. And some better news for beleaguered Toon fans …
HALF TIME: Newcastle United 0-1 Manchester City
There’s just time for a scramble in the City area, instigated by Ritchie’s poor cross from the left. Atsu can’t control the ball from a shot, and there goes the half-time whistle. Newcastle will be relatively happy with 44 minutes and 36 seconds of that; just a shame about the first 24 seconds. Having said that, City haven’t brought their A-game tonight, and could feasibly be three goals to the good. It’s perfectly poised for the second half!
44 min: Space for Danilo down the left. He dinks a cross into the mixer. Dubravka flaps under pressure from Sane. Schar heads straight to Silva, who stoops and tries to guide a header into the unguarded net. But his effort is blocked by Schar, the Newcastle defender continuing his heroics. So close to a second goal that would surely have settled this match before the break!
42 min: City have played 320 passes so far to Newcastle’s 77. That’s pretty much as expected; the champions are in full control, despite being far from their very best.
41 min: Perez looks to have fully recovered. He goes tearing down the right, after a long pass that would have caught the out-of-position Ederson out. But thankfully for City, Laporte is on hand to step in between Perez and his keeper, intercept and calmly play away from danger.
39 min: Longstaff is robbed on the halfway line by De Bruyne, who feeds Aguero down the right and gets the ball back on the overlap. De Bruyne looks to cross for Aguero, who is free having peeled off into the box. But yet again Lascelles is on point, and his sliding tackle puts an end to City’s move.
38 min: City ping it around the back with Perez down injured in the midfield. They think about launching an attack, but slow the game down to walking pace, allowing Perez to recover and get back up. A lovely sporting moment.
36 min: Sterling dribbles into the Newcastle box down the inside-right channel. He nearly fashions space for a shot, but again Lascelles is Newcastle’s hero, sliding in to block for a corner that’s wasted.
35 min: A lull. The crowd give it plenty about Mike Ashley.
34 min: Sterling is booked for a grab at Longstaff’s shoulder, as the young man looks to break into some space in the middle of the park.
33 min: Sane turns on the jets, and for a second it looks as though he’s going to sprint clear down the inside-left channel. But Lascelles sticks to him like glue, and does just enough to bundle him off the ball as the pair enter the Newcastle box, allowing Dubravka to gather.