Manchester City’s defence of their Premier League title suffered another blow after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Newcastle in a lacklustre performance at St James’ Park.
Despite going ahead twice, the champions allowed their opponents to peg them back, leaving them eight points behind Liverpool at the top of the league with the Reds still to play.
Raheem Sterling’s opener was cancelled out by Jetro Wilems in the first half before Kevin de Bruyne and Jonjo Shelvey traded screamers late on to deny Pep Guardiola’s side a desperately-needed win.
The shape of the game was established very early on with the Champions dominating possession while the home side were content to defend deep and play on the counter through their pacy forward line, in particular winger Allan Saint-Maximin.
Guardiola’s side struggled to create any meaningful chances however, and only came close to scoring through Fernandino’s header from a corner but the Brazilian’s effort missed the target.
A rare foray forward saw Newcastle almost take a shock lead through Shelvey’s free kick which had Ederson at full stretch before hitting the side netting.
An away goal felt inevitable and came on 21 minutes through Sterling.
David Silva found the narrowest of gaps in the busy Newcastle defence to drive into the penalty area, taking advantage of a fortunate bounce of the ball before back-heeling to the England man to slot the ball beyond Dubravka into the bottom corner, for his 19th goal for club and country this campaign.
Their lead didn’t last long as the home side somehow found their way back into the game just three minutes later. A well-worked move on the left hand side led to Miguel Almiron laying the ball off to Willems who stroked the ball home with almost a carbon copy finish to that of Sterling at the other end.
The goal was the on-loan Dutchman’s second of the season and remarkably, made him joint-top scorer in the team this season.
City continued to dominate with the ball but the home side stood firm, denied any attempt to penetrate their backline with series of blocks and interceptions.
The theme continued after the break with Guardiola and his team becoming increasingly frustrated.
On the rare occasion City managed to get in behind, Dubravka managed to deny both Gabriel Jesus’ one-on-one effort and the subsequent rebound from De Bruyne.
Substitute Bernardo Silva then dragged a gilt-edged chance wide of the post when he should have really hit the target.
As the game seemed to be heading towards a draw, De Bruyne stepped up with a sensational strike with just nine minutes on the clock to give City the lead once more.
After Benjamin Mendy's cross was headed away the Belgian calmly brought the ball down with his chest before unleashing a thunderbolt of a shot to crash in off the underside of the crossbar.
A goal that was as brilliant as it was important in context of the title race and one that De Bruyne would have thought was enough to secure the win.
However, after Javi Manquillo was brought down in a late Newcastle attack, Christian Atsu squared his free kick to Shelvey who unleashed a screamer of his own from the edge of the penalty area to level the scores once again.
In a frantic final few minutes, City almost found a winner but Sterling’s side-footed effort was too close to Dubravka who was able to clutch the ball at his chest.
The result means City lose more ground in the title race as a watching Liverpool would have been delighted to see one their former players in Shelvey perhaps help them inch a step closer to their first title since 1990.
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