Sergio Aguero’s 100th Premier League goal was not enough to earn Manchester City all three points at Newcastle United, who claimed a 1-1 draw that could prove vital in their battle to avoid relegation.
In-form striker Aguero scored five times in this season’s reverse fixture, and he put City in command in controversial fashion after just 15 minutes at St James’ Park on Tuesday.
The Argentinian was clearly offside when he glanced home Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick to break the deadlock, but Newcastle did not let their heads drop and deservedly equalised just after the half-hour mark through Vurnon Anita’s first goal in over two years.
City, who saw captain Vincent Kompany return to the starting XI after his month-long lay-off from a calf problem, shaded the second half, with Aguero and Jesus Navas both testing Karl Darlow before Georginio Wijnaldum forced Joe Hart into a late save to preserve the visitors’ point.
But the Champions League semi-finalists were below par and could not find a winner, meaning Arsenal can reclaim third spot in the table by beating West Brom on Thursday.
Newcastle, meanwhile, remain 19th and two points adrift of safety, but they will take heart from a spirited display ahead of Rafael Benitez’s return to Anfield to face former club Liverpool at the weekend.
After a bright start from the hosts, it was City who opened the scoring and, somewhat inevitably, it was Newcastle’s nemesis Aguero who got it, albeit with some help from the officials.
Kolarov whipped in an excellent set-piece from the left, and the offside Aguero got across the front post to nod beyond Darlow to make it 11 goals in nine Premier League appearances against the Magpies.
City were warned when Moussa Sissoko had a great opportunity to equalise, as he seized on a loose ball and surged past the returning Kompany before shooting weakly at Hart.
And Newcastle were level shortly after the half-hour mark when Sissoko switched play to makeshift right-back Anita, who cut inside and placed a left-footed shot in off Hart’s far post.
Referee Kevin Friend was unmoved when Aguero was brought down in the area by a clumsy challenge from Chancel Mbemba early in the second half, before Darlow got down well to tip Navas’ low effort wide.
Navas then teed up Aguero to fire straight at Darlow, before Manuel Pellegrini introduced Raheem Sterling – back after his groin injury – from the bench in an attempt to add some much-needed cutting edge to a lacklustre City attack.
City had won a dozen Premier League games in a row against Newcastle, but – perhaps with one eye on next week’s meeting with Real Madrid – could not rouse themselves to extend that run to 13, and had Hart to thank for their draw when he denied Wijnaldum late on.
Key Opta stats:
-Newcastle United have won none of the last 19 Barclays Premier League meetings against Manchester City (D3 L16).
-The Magpies have been beaten just once in their last seven league games at St James’ Park (W3 D3).
-Sergio Aguero has now scored 100 Premier League goals in just 147 apps; only Alan Shearer (124 apps) reached this milestone in fewer games.
-Aguero has scored more Premier League goals versus Newcastle than any other team (11).
-Sergio Aguero is the first South American to score 100 goals in Premier League history.
-Vurnon Anita scored his first Premier League goal since March 2014, ending a run of 53 games without one.