A powerful long-range strike from Kyle Walker gave champions Manchester City a 2-1 win over Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Walker’s 52nd minute strike, from over 25 yards out, was his first goal for City and came after Newcastle had fought back to go in level at the break.
City, who left out winger Leroy Sane with the German not even on the bench, looked still far from their best and struggled to break down a well-organised Newcastle defence.
After three wins and a draw from their opening four games, City are in third place, two points behind early leaders Liverpool and Chelsea who both have 100 percent records.
With Sane left out and Kevin de Bruyne injured, City featured two strikers in Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus with Sterling on the left and Riyad Mahrez on the right-flank.
City took the lead in the eighth minute through a wonderful strike from Raheem Sterling who cut in from the left and beat Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka with a diagonal shot into the far corner.
But there was a lack of fluency and not the familiar zip to City’s play and Rafa Benitez’s strategy of playing for the counter-attack soon paid off.
Full-back DeAndre Yedlin burst down the right flank to get on the end of a low cross from Solomon Rondon after a well-worked break from the Magpies.
After Walker’s strike, Newcastle had keeper Dubravka to thank for keeping them within a goal — he produced a brilliant triple save to foil Fernandinho and two efforts from David Silva.
Walker conceded City were not at their best and needed to get used to teams taking a defensive approach.
“When teams set up like Newcastle did you are going to get done on the counter, it is something we need to improve on,” he said.
“So we’ve got cobwebs to brush off from the summer and hopefully we can come good after the international break.”
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar