Pep Guardiola has urged his Manchester City players to “accept the challenge” in front of them after suffering a shock 2-1 defeat against Newcastle United – a result that hands a monumental blow to the champions’ title hopes.
Matt Ritchie fired Newcastle to a first Premier League victory over Manchester City in 23 attempts, leaving Liverpool four points clear of their rivals with a game in hand against Leicester.
Ritchie’s 80th-minute penalty completed a remarkable turn-around as the Magpies, who had fallen behind to Sergio Aguero’s strike just 25 seconds into the game, produced the most unlikely of fightbacks.
After the defeat at St James’s Park, Guardiola said his men must now rise to the challenge in front of them.
“The next week will be tough with Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea,” he said. “If we want to go up as a club we have to accept that challenge.
“We are in January and we are behind the leaders but there are a lot of titles and points to play for.
“I know how my players are feeling right now and I am close to them and by them.
“Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t – we have just won eight games in a row and scored 30 goals without reply but sometimes things don’t go your way.”
Of City’s performance, Guardiola said: “Our game was slow, we didn’t commit. They shoot for the first time and it’s a goal, the second was a penalty. But congratulations to Newcastle.
“It was not our best night. We lost second balls, we were not aggressive enough, that’s why we could not win.”