Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said it is “difficult to play” against ultra-defensive teams after his side moved 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a win at Newcastle.
Raheem Sterling scored the only goal in a dominant display by the visitors to St James’ Park in which they clocked up 78% of possession and 21 shots to Newcastle’s six.
“We did absolutely everything but it is difficult to play when the other team doesn’t want to play,” said Guardiola.
“In the last minutes we played in their rhythm and then it was not easy because it is not over at 1-0 – we created enough chances to win 2-0, 3-0, 4-0.
“As a manager I have to adapt. We have played teams who high press, low press, attack us. Any manager and team can play how they want. And you have to find a way to beat them.”
England winger Sterling poked home from Kevin de Bruyne’s lobbed pass after Sergio Aguero had twice hit the woodwork in the opening half hour.
Rolando Aarons saw a shot cleared off the line by Nicolas Otamendi in a rare Newcastle raid forward before the break, but City should have been well clear after De Bruyne thumped the post and then side-footed wide in the second half.
The hosts showed more ambition late on and Christian Atsu teed up fellow substitute Dwight Gayle to head wide in the final five minutes.
City, brimming with confidence and well used to such tactics, sniffed out space and carved out chances regardless.
Between being denied by the frame, Aguero brought a superb one-handed stop from Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot.
When Vincent Kompany pulled up injured, Pep Guardiola felt confident enough to replace the defender with striker Gabriel Jesus.
The home fans were reduced to cheering throw-ins as their side’s possession statistic stayed stubbornly south of 20%.
To hold out would have been one of the great rearguard actions. De Bruyne ensured it wasn’t to be. Allowed space and time 40 yards from goal, the Belgian scooped a sublime pass onto Sterling’s instep for his team-mate’s 13th Premier League goal of the season.