PEP GUARDIOLA must have delivered a healthy dose of psychological Alka-Seltzer to his players because there wasn’t a hint of a Champions League hangover here.
Manchester City’s epic semi-final choke against Real Madrid on Wednesday was comprehensively flushed out of the system as they seized complete control of the title race by stuffing Newcastle.
A Raheem Sterling brace and goals from Aymeric Laporte, Rodri and Phil Foden sent City three points clear of Liverpool at the Premier League summit, needing seven points from fixtures against Wolves, West Ham and Aston Villa to ensure a fourth title in five seasons.
Tottenham’s draw at Anfield on Saturday night allowed City some breathing space and now they also have a superior goal difference to Jurgen Klopp’s men, which could yet prove decisive if Guardiola’s side lose a game.
Newcastle may be even richer than City these days but the Geordie Arabia revolution is at too early a stage for Eddie Howe’s team to compete with a City side in full flow just yet.
What was once a meeting of two loveable bunches of under-achievers is now a joust between the two wealthiest clubs in England, pumped with Middle East cash and asterisked with human-rights concerns.
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It probably won’t be too many years until this fixture ends up as a title decider but for now, City are in a different class.
A suspected injury to Ruben Dias, with fellow centre-half John Stones already out, was the only blemish on a very decent day for Guardiola.
The Etihad was in uncommonly good voice before kick-off, as if determined to rouse their troops after the bitter disappointment in the Bernabeu, where City tossed away a two-goal lead in the dying minutes and were beaten by an injury-time penalty.
Early on, this one was a story of shoddy finishing at both ends.
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Chris Wood directed a close-range free header straight at Ederson, while Laporte and Joao Cancelo were both wildly off-target with volleyed efforts from Kevin De Bruyne centres.
But on 19 minutes, City were in front. The influential Ilkay Gundogan floated a sweet pass to the far post, where Cancelo headed back across goal for Sterling to nod in.
Newcastle thought they had levelled swiftly but a Wood effort from a corner was disallowed for an offside against Bruno Guimaraes.
Sterling then carved out a chance for Cancelo – is this bloke actually a full-back? – to drill in an angled effort, Martin Dubravka making a smart stop at his near post.
Guimaraes was lucky to avoid a red card for a reckless challenge on Jack Grealish which suggested VAR Jarred Gillett, from a land Down Under, was officiating by Aussie Rules.
Zinchenko flashed one across goal, with Gabriel Jesus unable to apply the finishing touch and it felt as if City’s finishing might see them punished as the Toon threatened on the break.
Still, seven minutes before the break, Guardiola’s men doubled their advantage with an assist from Dubravka.
From a corner, Gundogan’s long-range volley was spilled by the Slovak, and while he blocked a Dias effort, Laporte reacted quickly to lash it over the line.
Dias was withdrawn at half-time, Fernandinho his replacement at centre-half, rather than the more obvious Nathan Ake.
Still, it really wouldn’t have mattered if your Auntie Mabel was at the heart of City’s defence, so little attacking were Newcastle doing.
And just after the hour, it was 3-0, when Rodri made an intelligent dart to the near post to glance a header home from De Bruyne’s corner.
It looked as if it should come under the category ‘well-worked training-ground routine’, suggesting that City’s specialist set-piece coach Carlos Vicens will be missed when he leaves the club at the end of the season.
Oleksandr Zinchenko leathered one from 18 yards, with Dubravka pushing over the bar – and Ederson made an alert stop after Toon sub Callum Wilson was sent clear late on.
But in the 90th minute, Grealish cut back for Zinchenko who drilled in a pass which sub Foden met with a first-time finish.
And in injury-time, a gorgeous goal fashioned by City's three English forward as Foden's delightful back-heeled pass found Grealish teed up for Sterling to thump home.
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