Manchester City set an early marker in the Premier League title chase with a 1-0 win over Newcastle at the Etihad on Saturday, thanks to a magnificent strike from Julian Alvarez.
Despite their efforts in lifting the UEFA Super Cup in midweek, the treble champions’ 17th successive home victory was well merited.
Newcastle’s 5-1 demolition of Aston Villa last weekend boosted hopes on Tyneside that they could be the best of the English rivals to City’s crown.
On this evidence, Pep Guardiola’s men will be hard to stop in their bid to become the first team in English history to win four successive Premier League titles.
Guardiola was enraged at the Premier League for scheduling the game just three days after his team was forced to go to penalties in Athens to overcome Sevilla.
The absences of Bernardo Silva and John Stones have also strained City’s roster early in the season, while Kevin De Bruyne will be sidelined for up to four months with a hamstring injury.
But hopes that the Magpies could challenge City for their first top-flight league title in 97 years were dashed by City’s domination, and fatigue crept in late.
The visitors were delighted to give up possession before the break, but City needed a bit of magic to get through.
Alvarez might be one of the beneficiaries of De Bruyne’s extended absence.
Despite playing second fiddle to Erling Haaland, the Argentine scored 17 goals in his rookie season in Manchester.
Guardiola may now be obliged to pair Alvarez with the Norwegian more frequently, and he demonstrated his abilities on 31 minutes with a spectacular goal into the top corner from Phil Foden’s ball.
Moments later, Haaland was less accurate, dragging a shot inches wide after being played in by another Foden through pass.
Newcastle’s increased offensive intent in the second half only served to give City greater space to exploit from behind.
However, Haaland’s unusual bad night in front of goal persisted.
In the absence of De Bruyne and Silva, Foden stepped up to be the creative spark in the City midfield.
The England international’s turn and pass found Haaland on his preferred left foot once more, only for last season’s Golden Boot winner to miss the target once more.
Haaland opted for sheer power with his next effort, but was stopped by Nick Pope’s knees, forcing City to wait for a second goal to end the game.
Rodri’s sloppy pass almost cost the European champions as it offered Callum Wilson with a huge opportunity.
However, 90-million-euro ($99 million) defender Josko Gvardiol held up Wilson on his home debut, and Harvey Barnes’ shot was well handled by Ederson.
Despite his team’s exhaustion, Guardiola refused to make a single substitution and encouraged a City fan to take his spot on the bench when pressed to do so.
But it was all smiles for the home side as City preserved their unblemished start to the Premier League season, sitting second behind Brighton at the top of the league.