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Manchester City 2 Newcastle United 1: Rafa Benitez's tactics frustrate the Premier League champions

Ayoze Perez and Kyle Walker
Ayoze Perez and Kyle Walker

Newcastle United dropped into the relegation zone after a narrow defeat to Manchester City.

Goals from Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker gave the Premier League champions a hard-fought win over Rafa Benitez's side at the Etihad Stadium.

DeAndre Yedlin netted his first Premier League goal for Newcastle, who are now third-bottom with four games played.

READ MORE: Read Pep Guardiola's glowing tribute to Rafa Benitez – and Newcastle's 'loyal' fans

Benitez will take the positives from a committed and hard-working performance at the Etihad Stadium.

However, United, without a win in any competition so far this season, won't be able to address their league position until after the two-week international break.

Manager Benitez, praised by City manager Pep Guardiola before the game, again fielded a five-man defence.

Newcastle were in the bottom three at kick-off time following the afternoon's results.

And that didn't look like changing the moment Sterling put the home side ahead.

Captain Jamaal Lascelles, recalled to the starting XI after recovering from an ankle injury, made a poor clearance out of defence and gave the ball away to Benjamin Mendy. Sterling took the ball on the left, cut inside and tucked a shot into the far post with his right foot.

Game over? It seemed that way. Newcastle just couldn't get the ball off their hosts. City patiently prodded and probed away as Benitez, impatiently, shouted instructions to his team.

Still, City, for all their possession, couldn't add to their advantage. Riyad Mahrez wasn't an influence on the right, and Sergio Aguero – who had scored 14 goals against United in 12 games – hadn't had a sight of goal.

Then it happened. Ki Sung-yueng took possession in United's half in the 30th minute and played the ball forward to Kenedy. It went to Salomon Rondon on the left, and he rolled the ball across the face of goal to Yedlin.

Yedlin – who had raced, literally, the length of the pitch – finished with an emphatic shot. Just what had happened to City?

Newcastle saw the half out, but they were behind early in the second half.

A move down the left eventually led to the ball being swept out to Walker 30 yards from goal. The defender drilled a low shot between Martin Dubravka and the left-hand post.

Benitez reacted by replacing a limping Kenedy with Christian Atsu. This time, there was to be no way back for United, who spent the last half hour on the back foot.

Dubravka made a superb triple save in the 64th minute to deny Fernandinho once and David Silva twice. Guardiola's side kept coming back at Newcastle, who struggled to carry the ball out of their own half.

Aguero, for once, left the pitch having failed to score against United, who take on Arsenal at St James's Park on September 15.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Clark (Murphy, 80), Dummett; Perez, Diame, Ki, Kenedy (Atsu, 53); Rondon (Joselu 73). Subs not used: Darlow, Muto, Sterry, Longstaff.

MANCHESTER CITY: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy, Fernandinho, D Silva (Kompany, 89), Mahrez (Gundogan, 76), Sterling, Jesus (B Silva, 58), Aguero. Subs not used: Muric, Delph, Otamendi, Foden.

Goals: Sterling 7, Yedlin 30, Walker 52

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

Attendance: 53,946