Newcastle: Manchester City handed Liverpool the initiative in the title race with an unscheduled defeat at St James’ Park where Rafa Benitez’s players came from behind to record an important victory in their bid to remain in the Premier League.
A Salomon Rondon goal and a Matt Ritchie penalty not only cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s opener — scored after 24 seconds — but left City four points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side. That gap will stretch to seven if Liverpool beat Leicester at Anfield on Wednesday.
Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t — we had just won eight games in a row and scored 30 goals without reply but sometimes things don’t go your way.
“Seven points is a lot of points,” Guardiola conceded after the defeat which meant they can no longer match last season’s record tally of 100. “Liverpool’s advantage is not huge but it’s there — we have to win a lot of games now. But if we want to keep going up as a club we have to accept the challenge. We are in January and we are behind the leaders but there are a lot of trophies and points to play for.
If that was a challenge to his squad there was also sympathy. “I know how my players are feeling right now and I am close to them and by them,” City’s manager said. “Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t — we had just won eight games in a row and scored 30 goals without reply but sometimes things don’t go your way.
“I love these players, they are an incredible group of guys, they gave me all the prestige I have in England.
“Our game was slow, we didn’t commit. It was not our best night. We lost second balls, we were not aggressive enough, that’s why we could not win. We didn’t have the rhythm we needed to impose our game.
“We didn’t play our normal way but it happens sometimes. Players are human beings. It was not a good night but congratulations to Newcastle. They played good — and they have a very good manager.”
Benitez’s family home remains on the Wirral and he smiled broadly when reminded he had done his former club a favour. “The most important thing now is Newcastle,” said a manager close to making the Paraguay and Atlanta playmaker Miguel Almiron his club’s 20 million pounds record signing.
“My players have heart and they fight for each other,” Benitez said. “We’ve beaten one of the best sides in Europe and they will feel they can beat anyone now.”