The one thing Steve Bruce's Newcastle United were really missing against Manchester City
Newcastle United gave Manchester City a guard of honour – and then they gave them a game. And a crazy game at that.
The newly crowed champions, applauded on to the pitch by Steve Bruce’s players, won 4-3 at St James’s Park tonight.
This engaging game was crying out for a full house. Had there been had fans inside St James’s Park, then maybe the outcome might just have been different.
As it was, it was decided in a near-silent stadium by the brilliance of Ferran Torres, who scored a hat-trick.
The game had come after United head coach Steve Bruce, April’s Premier League Manager of the Month, had reiterated his determination to stay on at the club, which this week secured its top-flight status, against a background of supporter dissent.
However, even the harshest critics of Bruce, backed by Mike Ashley in March, will have found this game entertaining, despite the result.
Pity on-loan goalkeeper Scott Carson, who may have expected a quieter night on his debut for City, who were without Kevin De Bruyne. The 35-year-old’s previous Premier League appearance had come a decade ago for West Bromwich Albion at St James’s Park.
That game ended 3-3 – and history almost repeated itself.
City quickly got control of the ball. Pep Guardiola’s side patiently moved the ball around the pitch looking for openings. Newcastle players were strung out across the pitch to frustrate them, but City’s intricate passing found pockets of space in dangerous areas.
Time and again United punted the ball clear, and time and again, City came back at them.
Newcastle, however, held firm, and a quick break forward from Allan Saint-Maximin relieved the pressure. Saint-Maximin played in Joelinton, whose shot was blocked by Kyle Walker.
Jonjo Shelvey took the resulting corner, and Krafth scored his first United goal with a well-directed header across Carson from the back post.
Shelvey struck the crossbar with a 20-yard free-kick soon afterwards as Newcastle, playing on the counter-attack, started to assert themselves, but City got themselves level through a 39th-minute shot from Joao Cancelo which took a deflection off Jacob Murphy.
Three minutes later, they took the lead through a sublime flick from Torres, who had got ahead of Shelvey to get to a Ilkay Gundogan set-piece.
The half, however, still wasn’t over. Nathan Ake brought down Joelinton in the box, and referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot after a lengthy VAR check concluded that Saint-Maximin wasn’t offside in the build-up.
Joelinton confidently converted the penalty to take his Premier League goal tally for the season to four.
The goals kept on coming after the break. Joe Willock scored from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute after being brought down by Kyle Walker, but Torres wasn’t finish. The winger got City level with a strike from the edge of the six-yard box after Gabriel Jesus crossed from the right, and he completed his hat-trick two minutes later after Cancelo struck the woodwork.
Not so long ago Newcastle were struggling to score – and among the favourites to be relegated.
A lot has changed since United owner Ashley opted not to make a managerial change at United in late March.
And, certainly, it's been a long time since we’ve had a game like this at St James’s Park.