Newcastle United 3 Manchester City 4
- Kevin Friend
A hat-trick from Ferran Torres handed Manchester City a narrow victory over Newcastle United in a seven-goal thriller at St. James’ Park on Friday night.
Emil Krafth’s header – his first goal for the club – gave the Magpies the lead against the Premier League champions, but a quickfire double from Joao Cancelo and Torres turned the game on its head.
Late in the first half, Joelinton was felled by Nathan Ake in the box, and after VAR intervened to award a penalty the Brazilian stepped up to blast home a leveller deep into added time.
But another penalty, this time from Newcastle’s Joe Willock, saw United lead again after the restart, before two further Torres strikes in the space of four minutes sealed his treble.
The scoring ended there on a night of relentless action on Tyneside, but it is a measure of the hosts’ improvement that they may feel unfortunate not to have taken at least a point against Pep Guardiola’s Champions League finalists.
A scrappy opening gave way to a flowing and engaging first period. Gabriel Jesus volleyed just wide and some typical intricacy from City led to Torres poking a chance wide at the front post, while Martin Dúbravka was kept busy by a Cancelo strike which he held easily.
United’s counter-attacking game took a while to show itself but when it did, the hosts’ first chance of the contest arrived. Allan Saint-Maximin scampered away down the right and squared for Joelinton, but Kyle Walker’s speed allowed him to make up the ground to intervene.
But from the resulting corner, and somewhat against the run of play, United struck first. It was a tempting corner from Jonjo Shelvey and a fine header from Krafth, who nodded it firmly beyond City’s 35-year-old debutant Scott Carson.
And just minutes later it could have been two as Shelvey tried his luck with a 25-yard free kick after Miguel Almirón had been upended by Ake. It cannoned back off the crossbar and away to safety, though, and then the game developed at breakneck speed.
Seven minutes before the break, Cancelo levelled the scores. It was more patient work from City down the left and the Portuguese full back’s low shot took a deflection off Jacob Murphy before nestling in the corner.
And then, from Ilkay Gundogan’s whipped free kick from the left, Torres produced a terrific second for his side just two minutes after their first. The Spaniard met the delivery with a stunning flick which looped its way beyond Dúbravka and looked to have sent the champions in leading at the break.
But they couldn’t hold the advantage. Newcastle burst forward and Ake caught Joelinton’s leg as he looked to turn in the box and, after a protracted VAR delay in which the foul and a possible offside in the build-up were reviewed, Kevin Friend awarded the penalty. The Brazilian stepped up and dispatched it brilliantly right into the corner, beating Carson comfortably, even though the former England stopper had dived the right way.
That leveller came almost seven minutes into added time following the VAR check, but when play resumed after the eventual break City came out fighting, as Gundogan whipped a free kick past the post.
Then Newcastle responded once more. It was another quick break which began with Dúbravka, who released Willock down the left. Miguel Almirón took up the chase as the Arsenal loanee continued his run and after receiving possession from the Paraguayan, Willock was tripped by Walker as he broke into the box. He stepped up to take the penalty himself but Carson parried the low effort, though he couldn’t prevent him slotting home the rebound to put Steve Bruce’s side ahead once more.
The action continued apace. Two minutes after Willock’s goal, Torres netted again. Jesus was the architect, crossing low from the right, and the former Valencia man was well-placed to stab home his second and level the scores.
Then, just two minutes after that on a breathless evening on Tyneside, City moved in front with the seventh goal of the contest. It was Torres again, his third, and an opportunistic finish, swept home after Cancelo’s curling strike from the edge of the box had struck the upright and fallen kindly into his path.
After such an entertaining 70 minutes, the game slowed down a little in the final quarter. Willock lashed one wide but it was as close as United got to another equaliser, as City controlled the remainder of the contest to take the hard-earned points – though it was some effort from Bruce’s Magpies.