Newcastle make Manchester City fight for it in seven goal thriller
Ferran Torres bags stunning hat-trick to remind Pep Guardiola of his quality
Manchester City’s Ferran Torres scores one of his three goals at St James’ Park. Photograph: Peter Powell/PA
Newcastle 3 Manchester City 4
Talk about a timely reminder. With the Champions League final in Porto fast approaching Ferran Torres jogged Pep Guardiola’s memory by scoring a fabulous hat-trick comprised of three different varieties of volley.
One was utterly outrageous and all three far too good for Martin Dubravka to save as a refreshed Manchester City side studded with second stringers ultimately outclassed Newcastle in the most bewitchingly entertaining of supposedly meaningless games.
Scott Carson made both his Manchester City debut and his first Premier League appearance for a decade. By almost uncanny coincidence, the goalkeeper’s last top tier engagement had also been at St James’ Park, for West Brom on May 22nd 2011, with the game finishing 3-3.
The City loanee keeper had not played a first team fixture of any description for anyone since March 2019 when he last turned for his parent club, Derby, and admitted he was “a bit tense.”
Happily Carson did not look it as he dealt comfortably with a tame early header from Federico Fernández and a similarly weak Joe Willock shot before standing idly by, shivering in the Tyneside evening chill as Newcastle were increasingly penned into their own half.
Both sides had celebrated earlier in the week when City were rubber stamped as Premier League Champions and their hosts received confirmation they had been spared from relegation for another season.
While Bruce told his players they had no reason to party, the alcohol flowed as Guardiola’s squad danced into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
City seemed fully recovered as, after receiving a guard of honour from Newcastle, they began by hogging possession, zipping the ball between themselves with Nathan Aké, Torres, Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gündogan all missing half chances.
Eventually City’s concentration wavered and, self destructively, they permitted Allan Saint-Maximin to escape on the counterattack and pick out Joelinton whose shot was blocked by Kyle Walker and deflected behind for a corner.
Jonjo Shelvey’s whipped in dead ball delivery was met by Emil Krafth who out-leapt Aké before directing a header beyond Carson, leaving the stunned looking debutant with no hope of making a save.
Krafth has, rightly, received considerable criticism this season but, albeit facilitated by shocking defending, his first goal Newcastle goal was an excellent header. It also seemed somehow appropriate, given that the Swede’s initial ball enabled Saint-Maximin’s initial break.
Another home break, from Miguel Almirón this time, was ended by Aké’s flooring challenge before Shelvey’s ensuing free-kick crashed back off the crossbar.
Although City galvanised themselves their equaliser appeared slightly fortunate in that João Cancelo’s low drive from the edge of the area appeared purely speculative until it took a capricious deflection off Jacob Murphy and whizzed past a wrong footed Dubravka.
A combination of Covid and the need to recalibrate his game to high paced Premier League intensity has made this a tough season for Torres but the 20-year-old staked his case for some sort of involvement in the Champions League final in Porto courtesy of a superlative defying goal.
Connecting with Gündogan’s free kick with back to goal and closely minded by Shelvey, Torres swivelled sharply and directed a volley executed with the outside of his left foot beyond Dubravka.
Half-time beckoned but the drama continued apace.When Aké sent Joelinton crashing the referee ruled out a penalty due to a perceived offside on Saint-Maximin’s part in the preamble. No matter a lengthy VAR review judged the Frenchman to have been onside after all and Joelinton thumped the belatedly awarded 12-yard kick beyond Carson.
Further penalty drama ensued early in the second half when Kyle Walker tripped Willock as he accelerated into the area. To Joelinton’s considerable chagrin, the Arsenal loanee demanded to take the kick and although Carson made a superb save the midfielder made no mistake with the rebound.
Torres ensured that home lead was not destined to last. His leveller arrived on the half-volley after the unmarked striker had met Jesus’s cross and his treble was completed on the full volley in the wake of Cancelo’s shot rebounding back off the base of a post.
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