Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres scored the goals that lifted Manchester City back into the title race – but the body language of Pep Guardiola tells you all you need to know about the Blues.
The City boss was a study in frustration on the touchline as his team struggled and strained to shake off the malaise that has been troubling them for most of the season.
Guardiola spent most of the game either throwing up his hands in frustration or shaking his head in disbelief.
The win lifted City up to fifth in the table.
But on this evidence they are miles away from the standards they set lifting the Premier League in back-to-back seasons.
Guardiola may have found a cure for the defensive weaknesses that undermined his team last season.
But the thrills and spills are missing. For long periods, City were as flat as Christmas Day’s left-over booze.
The sight of the plodding Rodrigo playing a stream of misplaced passes in midfield feels typical of a side that is now functional rather than fearsome.
Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling were peripheral figures.
Gundogan, arguably the home side’s best performer, struck from close-range in the 14th minute from Sterling’s cross.
It was the German’s fourth goal of the season.
Newcastle will take some comfort that the damage was minimal.
The Etihad has become the Toon’s graveyard – they are still to win a Premier League game there.
And at the end of a week when the pressure was cranked up another notch on Steve Bruce following a Carabao Cup humiliation at Brentford, he might have feared the worst.
Callum Wilson started the game on the bench.
For the home side, Phil Foden was once again named as a substitute and was joined on the bench by Sergio Aguero.
Newcastle started the game on the front foot.
But Torres would have been left with a tap in from City’s first attack had Sterling not sent his cross too close to Federico Fernandez.
When the home side threatened again they were ahead.
A patient build up designed to open a gap in Newcastle’s massed ranks ended with Joao Cancello’s pass putting Raheem Sterling in behind Matt Ritchie.
The City winger took an age to pick out a team-mate – but when he did his cut back was perfect for Gundogan to ram home from eight yards.
It was the German midfielder’s fourth goal of the season.
It needed a full-stretch save from Karl Darlow to prevent City scoring again after Kevin De Bruyne’s cross almost caught the Magpies keeper out.
Darlow saved again, making a routine stop to thwart Torres when the Spaniard should have passed to Sterling.
De Bruyne then squandered a great chance, firing a shot that smacked of a player lacking belief straight at Darlow after being sent clear by Torres.
Newcastle had been nowhere as an attacking force.
But they gave City a scare when Joelinton flicked on Miguel Almiron’s cross five minutes before half-time and Fabian Schar was inches away from providing a finishing touch at the far post.
John Stones opened the second half by trying to find Torres with a downward header from De Bruyne’s free-kick when it seemed he would have been better served going for goal.
Torres did increase City’s lead in the 55th minute.
Cancelo was too strong for Almiron down the right and when his cross was nudged only partially clear by Fernandez, the Spaniard made no mistake from six yards.
It was Torres’ seventh goal of the season.
City looked better when Fernandinho replaced Rodrigo and Newcastle tired.
Silva fired against the post after Sterling had miskicked from six yards.
And then Darlow raced from his goal to head the ball bravely away from Sterling.
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