Manchester City was placed under the microscope as never before after the Champions League misery against Real Madrid but no-one can argue with their manner of their response. Manchester City are just seven points away from the title. Pep Guardiola’s side held the chance to contest the final of the competition that has agonisingly eluded them in their hands until they somehow conjured devastating defeat from what seemed like assured victory in the Bernabeu.
And to put the suffering into even sharper relief Liverpool, stalking them every inch of the way in City’s battle to retain their Premier League crown, turned their own adversity into triumph to come through their Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.
The list of questions aimed at City in the aftermath of that last-gasp collapse focused on character, Guardiola’s game management and the powers of recovery to maintain the excellence of their Premier League season with
Liverpool on their shoulder.
Would Manchester City’s body language betray the anguish of that damaging defeat? Had Manchester City been broken by the trauma experienced inside the hothouse of the Bernabeu? Had their defeat with victory in sight inflicted any psychological scars?
City and Guardiola could not have delivered a more convincing response as Newcastle United were forensically picked apart, the 5-0 winning margin not only giving them a three-point advantage at the top of the table after Liverpool’s draw with Tottenham at Anfield but also giving them a goal difference that is now four better than Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Every aspect of City’s display was going to be examined in minute detail for signs of a hangover from Madrid but after some early nerves, and the survival of a chance hopelessly squandered by Newcastle United striker Chris Wood, this was a case of normal service resumed.
City were helped by Liverpool’s failure to beat an impressive Spurs on Saturday night. The window of opportunity had been opened slightly to add extra incentive in what was a tense and somewhat subdued atmosphere inside Etihad Stadium at kick-off.
Once City settled down all the questions were answered. And once Raheem Sterling headed in from Joao Cancelo’s assist in the 19th minute it was all over.