div class=”imgcaption”>IMAGE: Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo celebrates scoring their second goal against Newcastle United at St James’ Park, Newcastle on Sunday. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters
Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo scored one goal and made another as they overwhelmed struggling Newcastle United 4-0 on Sunday to ensure they will spend Christmas Day top of the Premier League, a position Liverpool occupied in the last three seasons.
The visitors were gifted the opening goal in the fifth minute when Cancelo acrobatically crossed for Ruben Dias to head into an empty net after a mix-up between Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and defender Ciaran Clarke.
Cancelo added a second in the 27th minute, cutting in from the right wing and capping off a solo run with a stunning strike to silence the home crowd.
Newcastle were denied what looked to be a clear penalty on the half-hour mark when City keeper Ederson clattered into Ryan Fraser, but neither referee Martin Atkinson nor the VAR decided to intervene.
“I am not too sure what happened with VAR and the referee, the goalkeeper wipes out Ryan and it is a stonewaller, a clear penalty,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said.
Things got worse for Newcastle as Mahrez turned home Kevin De Bruyne’s cross from the left with a deft volley in the 63rd minute to notch his 50th Premier League goal after a lengthy VAR review.
“I was quite sure I was onside as I saw the defender running with me so I didn’t think I was offside,” Mahrez said.
Newcastle had introduced Allan Saint-Maximin off the bench at halftime for Joe Willock but they only managed one effort on target over the 90 minutes – a close-range header from Callum Wilson that forced a superb one-handed save from Ederson.
Sterling’s industrious performance on the wing was rewarded in the 86th as Gabriel Jesus drove the ball across the goal and the England forward slammed it home to complete the rout.
Champions City top the table on 44 points, four ahead of second-placed Liverpool, who visit Tottenham Hotspur later on Sunday, and six clear of Chelsea in third after they were held to a 0-0 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Newcastle stayed second-bottom on 10 points and City manager Pep Guardiola thought they contributed to their own downfall.
“A good result, not a good performance. We were lucky but Newcastle did not defend well for the first goal and a brilliant action from Joao Cancelo for the second goal,” he told the BBC.
Wolves hold reluctant Chelsea to goalless draw
Chelsea’s title ambitions suffered a further blow after they were held to a goalless draw by Wolverhampton Wanderers at a misty Molineux Stadium on Sunday, a match the visitors had asked the Premier League to postpone before kick-off.
Chelsea trail leaders Manchester City by six points following another frustrating afternoon after their midweek draw against Everton, as they created few chances and rarely troubled Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa.
The home side came closest to breaking the deadlock when Daniel Podence had the ball in the back of the net, but the effort was correctly ruled out after striker Raul Jimenez strayed offside in the build-up.
Chelsea, who had only six players on the bench including two goalkeepers after seven COVID-19 infections depleted their squad, had asked the Premier League to postpone the game.
Manager Thomas Tuchel said Chelsea were “angry” at the decision to play, one he felt was “very hard to understand”.
“I don’t care about the point. I am pleased with the performance, especially in the second half. The first half was a bit of a struggle for us, we had to grow into the game,” Tuchel told Sky Sports.
“Some players had to adapt to new positions. We are not lucky enough in these moments to win games but I am happy with how we played.”
Wolves’ last seven Premier League matches have seen only four goals scored by either side and this was another war of attrition and game of few clear-cut chances.
The home side had the better of the first half before absorbing Chelsea pressure in the second that was largely without a cutting edge, perhaps understandable given the number of strikers the visitors were missing.
Christian Pulisic had the best opportunity for Chelsea when he was played into space inside the box, but with just Sa to beat the goalkeeper stood firm.
There was a hint of good fortune for the visitors in the first half when N’Golo Kante, restored to the starting line-up on his return to fitness, stopped a long ball with first his chest and then his outstretched arm.
It denied Podence a clear run on goal but the officials allowed play to continue.
Podence was again prominent when his cross found an unmarked Leander Dendoncker, who had a free header but could not steer his effort beyond Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy in Wolves’ last clear opportunity.
“Wolves don’t concede many chances or goals,” Tuchel said. “We could not expect to create an awful lot but we tried and never stopped trying.”