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PERP GUARDIOLA wouldn’t comment on whether Manchester City are out of the Premier League title race following a 2-2 draw with Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
City failed to sufficiently close the gap on leaders Liverpool after they were pegged back twice. Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne had put them ahead, but it didn’t take long for Jetro Willems and Jonjo Shelvey to reply each time.
Guardiola was pleased with the way his players performed, and wouldn’t rule out a third successive title just yet.
“We played at a good level, in all terms. In defending, set-pieces, everything,” he said.
“I’m here to give you my opinion. It is not like last year [a 2-1 defeat in January] when we scored in the first minute and then forgot to attack. We played well.”
“We arrived at the box plenty of times, we just couldn’t score. It is not a good idea to think about the Premier League [title race] and how many points we need.
“Now is not the time, we’ve just got to keep winning games.”
City grabbed the lead on 22 minutes. Sterling was perhaps a little fortunate with the way it fell, but the England man slotted home expertly after a beautiful touch by David Silva in the build-up.
Newcastle didn’t lie down and were soon level; Miguel Almiron’s first assist in a black-and-white shirt laid the ball on a plate for Willems, who marauded forward from fullback to fire into the bottom right corner.
The second half didn’t bring the immediate wave of pressure expected from City. They were uncharacteristically passive in possession, and a wayward De Bruyne strike from distance was all they could muster in the early stages.
At the other end, Almiron continued to probe and his link-up with Joelinton was improving as the game went on. But City threatened again through some intricate play between Sterling and Mahrez in the area.
As the game wore on, a second goal didn’t feel far away for the visitors. They carved Newcastle open twice, but substitute Phil Foden misjudged a free header before Silva scuffed an effort from close range.
That goal came with eight minutes remaining when De Bruyne unleashed a stunning half-volley from the edge of the area, which nestled in the net after crashing against the underside of the bar.
But again the home side fought back, this time through Shelvey. A clever free-kick, taken by Christian Atsu, found Newcastle’s captain on the edge of the box and he found the net with a curling effort.
Sterling could, and should, have won it in the last minute when he met a De Bruyne cross, but Martin Dubravka denied him from point-blank range.
Steve Bruce praised his players for their fighting spirit after coming from behind twice to snatch a point.
“The biggest thing you need to do against Manchester City is defend well and you need your goalkeeper to make a few saves. Fortunately he did that,” he said.
“When De Bruyne hits that wonder goal, you’re thinking it is typical, that is the quality they’ve got. But that is the biggest thing for me that we’ve come back from behind twice.”
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