ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Newcastle 2 Manchester City 2
LONDON • Manchester City's Premier League title hopes faltered once more, as the champions twice blew a lead to draw 2-2 at Newcastle yesterday.
Pep Guardiola's men were frustrated for long spells after Jetro Willems quickly cancelled out Raheem Sterling's first-half opener.
The visitors, however, seemed to have found the moment of magic they needed - thanks to Kevin de Bruyne's sensational strike eight minutes from time.
However, their defensive flaws were soon exposed once more as Jonjo Shelvey swept home a well-worked free kick six minutes later.
City have now dropped points in five of their 14 league games this season and they were without Sergio Aguero, who was ruled out for a couple of weeks owing to a thigh injury.
The Argentina striker has scored 11 goals in 13 top-flight appearances against Newcastle - more than any other side he has faced during his eight seasons in England - and City could have done with his predatory instincts after failing to make their 81 per cent possession count.
Success ratio of Newcastle's Jonjo Shelvey (11 goals from 17 attempts) from outside the box.
A lovely backheel from David Silva set Sterling up for his 15th goal of the season in the 22nd minute.
But the lead lasted just three minutes, as the Magpies produced their own moment of quality when Miguel Almiron teed up Willems to slot past goalkeeper Ederson.
When City lost on their visit to St James' Park in January, the title had seemed lost last term. But they went on a 14-game winning run and pipped Liverpool to the crown.
The sharpness and accuracy of passing that has characterised City's two title triumphs has, however, been lacking this term and it was evident again on Tyneside as they struggled to unlock Newcastle, who packed their defence.
De Bruyne, though, was the one constant threat and he looked to have won the game when he chested down a looping clearance before smashing the ball in off the underside of the bar.
Newcastle had barely mustered a shot on target in the second half, but after Fernandinho conceded a needless foul and was lucky to avoid seeing a second yellow card, Christian Atsu picked out Shelvey unmarked on the edge of the box to fire home.
City still had one more chance to take all three points in stoppage time when de Bruyne picked out Sterling, but his shot lacked the power to beat goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and they went home disappointed.
Afterwards, former Liverpool midfielder Shelvey told BT Sport that he was expecting to be hailed on Merseyside, home of City's title rivals.
He said: "I know that I can do that (score from long range). I do it in training quite regularly.
"We thought we deserved a point. They keep the ball so well and move it about, but a point is probably a fair result in the end. I might be a hero in Liverpool right now."
Guardiola also accepted the draw, saying on City's Twitter account: "We have to accept it, work on strengths and learn from it. In good moments, be calm. In bad moments, live these kind of moments."