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Pep Guardiola refuses to lose focus as Manchester City close in on title after 5-0 win

Raheem Sterling scored twice as Pep Guardiola’s side bounced back from European heartache to beat Newcastle 5-0.

Raheem Sterling scored twice s Manchester City put five past Newcastle (Martin Rickett/PA)

By Andy Hampson, PA

Manchester City bounced back from their European heartbreak to move a step closer to retaining the Premier League title by thrashing Newcastle 5-0 on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola hailed a “perfect afternoon” as his side thrashed Newcastle to move three points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Raheem Sterling struck twice while Joao Cancelo, Rodri and Phil Foden were also on target at the Etihad Stadium as City powered three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table.

The performance and result were an emphatic response after City’s Champions League hopes were shattered by Real Madrid’s dramatic semi-final fightback at the Bernabeu in midweek.

“It was a perfect afternoon for me,“ said Gaurdiola.

“What this team have done, did you have any doubt? I didn’t doubt them.

“We have had five years doing this every three days, sometimes you can go out from a competition and some people doubt you because they still don’t know what you will do.

“This is one of the best groups I ever trained and I mean in my life.”

Raheem Sterling’s late goal completed the scoring for Manchester City (Martin Rickett/PA)

Many had wondered how Pep Guardiola would rouse his squad after that devastating loss but Liverpool’s failure to beat Tottenham on Saturday probably did his job for him.

With a chance to give themselves more breathing space, City looked vibrant from the outset.

Initially Newcastle met their fire with their own in a frantic opening and the visitors should have taken an early lead.

Chris Wood had a glorious opportunity as he was picked out unmarked by Alain Saint-Maximin but he headed tamely at Ederson.

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A goal then might have set nerves jangling but City responded well with Aymeric Laporte and Cancelo both going close.

The hosts then claimed the lead in the 19th minute after a fine piece of vision from Ilkay Gundogan.

The German, who brought a calming influence after a hectic start, clipped a fine ball across the box to pick out Cancelo at the far post. Cancelo showed great awareness himself to head back across goal and Sterling dived in to head home.

City had a moment of alarm soon after when Joelinton scrambled the ball into the net following a corner but it was disallowed for offside.

Rodri had a goal to celebrate as Manchester City hit Newcastle with a five star show (Martin Rickett/PA)

The champions upped the tempo with Gundogan firing wide and Oleksandr Zinchenko almost teeing up Gabriel Jesus.

The second goal came following a corner seven minutes before the break. Martin Dubravka failed to hold Gundogan’s volley from the edge of the area and, although the keeper reacted quickly to deny Ruben Dias on the rebound, he could not prevent Laporte tucking in.

With that City appeared to break the spirit of Newcastle and the home side took firm control of the game with a third just after the hour.

It came from a corner as Rodri found space at the near post to head home Kevin De Bruyne’s cross.

Phil Foden’s late goal added some gloss to the scoreline for the home side (Martin Rickett/PA)

The crowd celebrated what seemed a significant goal in the title race and City appeared hungry for more as Zinchenko forced a fine save from Dubravka.

With the job done, City eased off with their midweek trip to Wolves in mind.

There was little to alarm them until Newcastle belatedly showed some spark in the closing minutes.

Callum Wilson, returning from injury, came off the bench to test Ederson and Saint-Maximin also had a chance.

That only served to fire up City more and Foden made it 4-0 in the last minute before Sterling completed the rout in injury time.

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