Manchester City and Newcastle United, two sides with very little to play for following the Magpies' survival and City's Premier League title win, played out an entertaining game under the lights of St. James Park as Ferran Torres hit a special first-half flick, Newcastle chose to go for the game and City's makeshift centre-backs continued to look vulnerable despite the Blues winning the contest 4-3.
Newcastle players and April manager of the month Steve Bruce gave the new Premier League champions a guard of honour pre-match as the Blues played their first game since becoming Champions on Tuesday night at Old Trafford.
After dominating the opening stages City, who had conceded the least goals from corners this season heading into the game, conceded from a Newcastle corner after Emil Krafth nodded in past Scott Carson, whose first action on his debut was to pick the ball out of the net. Newcastle's threat from set pieces was evident and that threat was on show again later in the half as Jonjo Shelvey rattled the bar with a free-kick from just outside the box.
Emil Krafth gave the hosts the lead, slamming in a header past Scott Carson.
City's rotational defence was noticeably troubled whenever the Magpies went forward, and it is to be understood given the pairing of Nathan Ake and Eric Garcia have only played together once before in this competition - a 5-2 home loss to Leicester in the Blues' first home game of 20/21. City continued to probe and retain a high amount of possession but without either Riyad Mahrez or Kevin De Bruyne, punishing Newcastle was appearing to be a problem.
Manchester City made a handful of changes from the loss vs Chelsea last weekend as Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan returned to the midfield, Eric Garcia and Kyle Walker came into the defence and Scott Carson was brought in for his City debut. Out dropped Ederson, Benjamin Mendy, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, and Sergio Aguero. Retaining their places were Nathan Ake, Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Ferran Torres, Gabriel Jesus, and Raheem Sterling.
Raheem Sterling started for the second consecutive game as the winger continues to try and state his case to be in contention for the Champions League final.
That problem evaporated on 39 minutes. Joao Cancelo picked up the ball just inside the left edge of the 18-yard box, controlled it, and then fired in an equaliser that took a cruel deflection on the way in. It was the second goal of the season for the right-back, who last scored in the win over West Brom at the start of the year. It was a tough break on Newcastle who had defended with such courage and grit, but it was the slice of luck the Champions needed on a night where they were struggling.
If the Blues needed a slice of luck for their equaliser, there was no luck needed for the second. Ilkay Gundogan whipped in a free-kick from the same area that Joao Cancelo scored the equaliser from. In incredible fashion Ferran Torres, in true Zlatan style, used the outside of the boot to loop his shot over a hopeless Dubravka to give City a lead on the night. Ferran Torres is a special talent and his third goal in four Premier League appearances says enough.
Swipe to see the story of Ferran's go-ahead goal in pictures!
City's lead lasted a little over ten minutes though, with Newcastle equalising five minutes into first-half stoppage time. After a lengthy VAR stoppage to first establish that Allan Saint-Maximin was onside, the referee then communicated to the officials that he had awarded a penalty before the offside flag went up. Nathan Ake swiped a trailing leg at Joelinton and the penalty was in no doubt. Joelinton, for the fourth time in a row, hit his penalty to the goalkeeper's right, but his emphatic finish was unstoppable for Scott Carson in the Manchester City goal.
On 61 minutes, Manchester City were caught cold again and this time by Joe Willock, who burst into the box and was cynically tripped by Kyle Walker, whose face of guilt after the award of the penalty said everything. Joe Willock won the penalty and was determined to take it. The midfielder's penalty was saved by Carson although the rebound was tapped in to make it his fifth goal in five consecutive games, making him the first Newcastle player to do so since Cisse.
City's away record was not to be taken easily though, as Gabriel Jesus brilliantly burst into the box and pulled back his cross for Ferran Torres to finish for his second of the game less than two minutes after Newcastle had taken the lead through Joe Willock. Two minutes after equalising to make it three-all, Ferran Torres completed a wonderful hat-trick with a volley from close range after Joao Cancelo's effort from outside the box hit the post. City's win is their twelfth in succession in the Premier League away from home, surpassing their own record of eleven, which was jointly held with Chelsea before this side broke the record outright. The Blues now have three days before their next match on the 18th of May, away to Brighton in front of fans for the first time this season.
Ferran Torres levelled the scores before moments later completing his hat-trick and firing City into a 4-3 lead on the night.
Player ratings: Carson (7), Walker (5), Garcia (6), Ake (5), Cancelo (8), Rodri (6), Gundogan (7), Bernardo (6), Torres (9), Jesus (7), Sterling (6)
Subs: Benjamin Mendy (6)
Man Of The Match: Ferran Torres
Ferran Torres hits inspiring treble!
Ferran Torres has been doubted by many this season for below-par performances but when he's 21, in a new country, and in and out the side, it's tough for him to gather any rhythm, even though he's performed at a consistently decent level in my eyes. His treble today showcased not only his potential but the quality he has already and the positional awareness he has in front of the goal. A lot has been made of him becoming a striker in the long term and with his exceptional movement and finishing ability, as showcased by his outrageous first goal, there's a case to be made.
Stat attack: Ferran Torres is the youngest player to score a league hat-trick for a Pep Guardiola team - with the previous youngest being Lionel Messi vs Tenerife in January 2010.
One to watch in 21/22. A special, special player with a bright future.