Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he is “so satisfied with the commitment of the players” after the Premier League champions maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a battling victory over winless Newcastle.
Full-back Kyle Walker was the match-winner with his first goal for the club, picking the ball up 30 yards out and drilling a low finish into the far corner of the net.
City had seen title rivals Liverpool and Chelsea win earlier on Saturday and had to work hard for three points to keep pace at the top end of the table.
“To start with 10 points from 12 is a good start for us,” Guardiola told BBC Sport. “Step by step we will get our best condition.
“After the international break, the season starts with the Champions League, Carabao Cup, the kids go back to school and there will be order in our lives.”
Guardiola’s side were forcing the issue against a Newcastle side set up to defend at Etihad Stadium and took the lead within the opening 10 minutes through Raheem Sterling’s curled effort.
But the home side missed clear-cut chances and were punished when striker Salomon Rondon set up DeAndre Yedlin to stroke home the equaliser before half-time.
It proved to be Newcastle’s only shot on target in the match, however, and Rafael Benitez’s beleaguered side have now collected just one point from their first four games.
City keep pace with early leaders
City strolled to the title last season with a record number of points, victories and goals but early indications suggest they will have to battle much harder to claim back-to-back triumphs.
No team has managed to achieve the feat since rivals Manchester United won three in a row between 2007 and 2009, with leaders Liverpool and second-placed Chelsea two points ahead in the table and boasting 100% records after four games.
City drew against Wolves last time out and, having been pegged back against the Magpies, it looked as if they might drop further points, but England international Walker’s rasping drive in the second half was the difference.
“Today we adapted the system differently which allowed me to get forward a bit more which was enjoyable,” said Walker.
“It’s important to get three points and bounce back after a disappointing result against Wolves.”
The hosts had signalled their intent from the off as club record signing Riyad Mahrez dragged a shot wide, before Sterling opened the scoring with a brilliant strike on seven minutes.
Striker Sergio Aguero narrowly failed to add to his 14 goals against Newcastle, coming close with an effort that went just wide.
Guardiola added: “We dropped to points against Wolves but the performance was quite good and we created chances. I am not disappointed in the way we played. If you don’t win a game then it is important to win the next one.”
Little to smile about for Newcastle
Newcastle’s wretched form against City now stretches to 22 top-flight meetings without victory. They have lost their past 10 away from home against these opponents.
The north-east side were knocked out of the Carabao Cup in midweek by Championship side Nottingham Forest and already occupy one of the relegation spots in the Premier League.
With talk of unrest between manager Benitez and owner Mike Ashley – one report saying the two do not speak directly – and a training-ground row between captain Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie, it looks like being a difficult season for Newcastle.
Benitez was criticised for his unadventurous approach in the loss to Chelsea in their previous league game, where they had just 19% possession, and they fared only slightly better with 21% against City.
And as in the defeat at Stamford Bridge, they failed to hold out after equalising, with summer signing Rondon cutting an isolated figure for much of the game.
Defeat could have been much worse had it not been for goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who stopped well from Gabriel Jesus and made an excellent double save to deny Fernandinho and David Silva.
Benitez told BBC Sport: “I am really pleased with the effort, mentality and team spirit. We were in the game for a while. We gave the ball away or the first and the second was a great goal.
“It is the same situation for us, we have to improve on the ball and we would have more chances against these teams.
“I am pleased to see the support of the fans and the way players were working. That is the main thing to have everyone together.
“We cannot be watching the table, it is too early. The main thing is the performance. We are not too far away, as soon as you start with a couple of victories you can go up.”
Man of the match – David Silva (Manchester City)
The teams are back in action after the international break. Manchester City host Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday, 15 September (kick-off 15:00 BST), while Newcastle play Arsenal at the same time.
Mendy’s magic – the stats
- Manchester City have won each of their past 10 Premier League home games against Newcastle, their joint-longest run of home wins against a single opponent in the top-flight (also 10 v Wolves between 1900 and 1937).
- Newcastle have registered just one win in their past 10 away Premier League games (D3 L6).
- Manchester City hit the 750 mark for home Premier League goals in this game (160 at Maine Road and 590 at the Etihad).
- Since the start of last season, only Mohamed Salah (45) and Harry Kane (35) have had a hand in more Premier League goals than Sterling (31 – 20 goals, 11 assists).
- Benjamin Mendy is the third City player to assist as many as four goals in their first four games to a Premier League season, after Samir Nasri in 2011-12 and Silva in 2015-16.
- Yedlin is the first American player to score in the Premier League since Geoff Cameron for Stoke v Aston Villa in March 2014.
- Walker scored his first goal for City in all competitions in his 52nd appearance for the club.
- Aguero has been directly involved in 17 goals in 12 Premier League appearances against Newcastle (14 goals, 3 assists), more than against any other side.