MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City passed a huge test of its Premier League title credentials by beating Newcastle 2-0 on Saturday as a couple of big calls by Pep Guardiola paid off in a match between the wealthiest teams in English soccer.
Phil Foden was handed a start over Riyad Mahrez on the right wing and gave City the lead in the 15th minute when his driving run into the area ended with a shot that deflected past Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope.
City never looked comfortable against a powerful Newcastle team that was dangerous on the counterattack but got the crucial second goal three minutes after Guardiola took off Kevin De Bruyne, who endured a rare ineffectual performance.
De Bruyne’s replacement, Bernardo Silva, scored with one of his first touches, poking the ball past Pope from 15 meters in the 67th after collecting a flick from Erling Haaland.
By becoming just the second team — after Liverpool — to defeat Newcastle in the league this season, second-place City kept the pressure on leader Arsenal, which was playing later Saturday at home to Bournemouth. The teams came into the weekend separated by five points.
“Before the game it was ‘bye’ — now it is ‘hello,’” Guardiola said of the back-and-forth title race. “Lots of things are going to happen.”
It was another blow to Newcastle, which lost the English League Cup final to Manchester United last weekend and whose league form has dipped in recent weeks.
The northeast team has dropped out of the top four in its bid to qualify the Champions League and stayed four points behind fourth-place Tottenham, which has played one game more.
There was a political element to the match, with the teams owned by Abu Dhabi (City) and Saudi Arabia (Newcastle), respectively, making headlines off the field for the wrong reasons in recent times.
City is currently fighting more than 100 charges by the Premier League of alleged breaches of financial rules, an explosive development that emerged last month and leaves the champions at risk of severe punishment.
Newcastle, meanwhile, came under scrutiny this week after new questions were raised about the Saudi Arabian investment in the club. The Premier League has been urged to review a legally binding promise made by the club’s majority owners — Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund — in 2021 that it is separate from the country’s government.
Given their wealth, the two clubs are expected to be among the dominant forces in English soccer for years to come but City currently is a level above.
This win extended its unbeaten run over Newcastle to nine games, and it was City’s fourth victory in its last five matches in the league as Guardiola’s team looks to stay on the coattails of Arsenal.
Newcastle will rue three big chances when the score was 1-0. Sean Longstaff hesitated when through on goal and had a shot blocked by Nathan Ake, Callum Wilson mis-hit a shot from close range and Joelinton saw the ball go through his legs as he attempted to convert a cross from the right.
“Their threat is not a surprise — there is a reason why they were in the (League) Cup final and for a lot of minutes they were better than United,” Guardiola said of Newcastle.
“This team and this club in the next few years will be a threat for the title.”
Newcastle has still never won a league game at Etihad Stadium.