Manchester City dealt bitter blow in title chase after throwing away early lead

Certainly nobody walking planet earth could have predicted this when Sergio Aguero scored after just 24 seconds.

Manchester City, beaten by second half goals from Salomon Rondon and Matt Ritchie’s penalty, look dead and buried.

The Premier League table – four points off Liverpool and a game ahead – makes grim reading this morning.

This is a dreadful result for City.

Newcastle will not care for that because this remarkable win was a throwback to the days when they played without fear.

To their credit, once they had recovered from Aguero’s ridiculous goal inside the opening minute, they deserved.

Rafa deserves the accolades as well because this is a remarkable victory against a club as powerful as City.

Pep’s players had been scoring for fun, smashing everybody to bits after that poor Christmas period.

They looked like they were due a few more here when Aguero scored in front of the Gallowgate straight from the kick-off.

Sergio Aguero put Manchester City into a 1-0 lead – with less than 60 seconds on the clock

After that this place had been a ticking timebomb.

Benitez, terrified of an absolute shooing at home to the champions, can claim another masterclass now.

They had fallen behind when Aguero scored the fastest goal in the Premier League this season when he turned in David Silva’s improvised header.

That kind of start would put any team at ease, but do not gift an opener like that to a team with Manchester City’s resources.

INTERACTIVE STATS – CLICK on the categories to find out how the teams fared 

It gave the Gallowgate the excuse the needed.

They went through the full repertoire, tucking into Ashley and this unpopular regime.

Benitez has an unimaginable job because it looks impossible to play football properly in an atmosphere as poisonous as this.

The manager, playing the Toon Army like a fiddle ever since he rocked up here, has their backing.

“Rafa’s black and white army … we hate Ashley” bounced off the terraces throughout a nervy first half.

They were behind by then, with Newcastle’s resistance lasting less than a minute.

Raheem Sterling engineered it from the right, turning easily inside to ping a ball into the danger area off his left boot.

David Silva’s caterpillar move set up the chance for Aguero to score when he managed to direct a header towards the City striker.

He turned it in as a matter of course, a routine finish for one of the world’s most respected forwards.

Poor old, Rafa.

He had been working on his system since Saturday’s shameful FA Cup defeat at St James’ Park against Watford.

Then boys in black and white allowed City to trample all over them inside their own stadium after just 24 seconds.

It gives the natives ammo, all the incentive they need to hammer Ashley and his cronies with some more bile.

Rafa is dodging the bullets, getting out of harm’s way while this Newcastle team flirt dangerously with relegation.

They conceded possession last night, predictably allowing City to pass for passing’s sake.

Pep’s players were well short of their devastating best, struggling to impose themselves with their usual game.

Salomon Rondon, pleading for some support from Christian Atsu and Ayoze Perez, struggled in the first half.

INTERACTIVE STATS – CLICK on the categories to find out how the teams fared 

Every time Newcastle pumped the ball forward, City’s defence peeled off him and cleaned up before Rondon could get a kick.

They had the odd chance in that opening 45, with Perez lashing wide from the right after City’s left-back Danilo was caught out of position.

Stones did well to block from Atsu on the edge of the area, deflecting his effort away for a corner.

The second half, when Newcastle showed a touch more ambition, belonged to Benitez.

He was screaming for Kevin de Bruyne to be shown a red card when he clattered into Matt Ritchie out on the left.

De Bruyne had been booked in the first half, penalised for taking a free-kick before referee Paul Tierney told him to take it.

City seemed rattled.

Newcastle sensed the uncertainty, playing on it as they worked out a way to force in the equaliser.

They got it after 65 minutes after Fernandinho tried to clear a Ritchie cross from the left.

Isaac Hayden sent it back into the area and Rondon’s shot into the ground looped over Ederson.

After that it turned into Newcastle’s night.

Fernandinho clumsily conceded the penalty, chopping Sean Longstaff when the ball ran away from his feet inside the area.

For a player of his quality, it was a silly mistake to make.

It took an age for Ritchie to step up, for the ref to finally give him the chance to score the winner.

When he did, he buried it.

This place came alive, with the Toon Army sensing one of the biggest wins of the season.

Pep knows the score, well aware of the affect a result like this will have on his players.

After this, he can expect a few obits.

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