St James’ Park has changed immeasurably over time. Manchester City too, but football has this beautiful habit of nodding gently to the past. Mike Summerbee must have relived 1968 all over again when he sat here in the stands.
This was one of City’s darkest years, when they lost to Colin Bell in January, and there was something beautifully poetic about their first game as Premier League champions coming onto the scene where they took Bell’s one crown all those years ago.
A youthful Bell led the match that day, coincidentally with an overwhelming 4-3 win, and he joked later in life that every City fan he ever met claimed to have been in the Northeast for the final. Certainly thousands made the journey for what turned out to be a dramatic afternoon, entering the field full time.
Ferran Torres fired off a spectacular hat-trick as Manchester City celebrated the Premier League victory with a 4-3 win
The Spaniard was in great shape with a lovely backheel finish for his first when they conquered Newcastle at St James’ Park
The magpies really scared the champions as they went forward twice through Emile Krafth and Joe Willock (pictured)
MATCHES AND PLAYER RATINGS
NEWCASTLE (5-3-2): Dubravka 6; Murphy 6, Krafth 6, Fernandez 5 (Gayle 88min), Dummett 5, Ritchie 6 (S. Longstaff 84); Willock 7, Shelvey 6, Almiron 6.5; Saint-Maximin 7, Joelinton 7 (Lewis 84).
Subs Not Used: Gillespie, Clark, M Longstaff, Carroll, Hendrick, Manquillo.
Scorers: Krafth 25, Joelinton 45 + 6 (pen), Willock 62.
Booked: Ritchie, Shelvey.
Manager: Steve Bruce 6.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Carson 6; Walker 6, Garcia 5, Ake 5, Cancelo 7 (Mendy 74,6); Silva 6.5, Rodri 6, Gundogan 7; Torres 9, Jesus 7, Sterling 6.5.
Subs not used: Steffen, Dias, Stones, Laporte, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Foden, Palmer.
Scorers: Cancelo 39, Torres 42, 64, 66.
Booked: Rodri, Cancelo.
Manager: Pep Guardiola 6.
Referee: Kevin Friend 6.
There weren’t any, of course, but last night was a tribute to those famous old days. When Pep Guardiola talks about the club’s history and legacy, he means Summerbee – the sociable legend who attends every game – and he means Bell, the humble legend who could never truly contain his own fame; Kevin De Bruyne decades before Kevin De Bruyne.
The result was rather intangible, but romantic for City that it ended that way. Ferran Torres took off with a hat-trick, Newcastle surprisingly dangerous again in offensive areas, and if Pep Guardiola thought much of his supporting cast could force their way into the Champions League reckoning he might rethink. Especially those in defensive areas.
But this was no time to look for holes. It was an evening to think about the memories, to think about what the name Bell stands for at this club, because the symmetry and the meaning of it – old town and new town knitting together after a few months of trying for the club – surpasses any win at the end of a title race that they have already won and effectively won long ago.
“If you want to play against Chelsea in the Champions League final, you have to avoid mistakes and I’m pretty sure this is a good lesson,” Guardiola said. “Better to happen today!”
Torres’s goals provided another signpost to his future and he seems to be increasingly fit in the box rather than galloping wide in the position he was actually bought for. Only 20, he possesses instincts of a predator in the box and that was evident again. “He has this… intuition,” Guardiola said.
His first was a stunning flick, one that gave City a 2-1 lead just before half-time. Emil Krafth and Joao Cancelo had switched goals at both ends – the former through defensive disorganization, the latter through defensive setbacks – before Torres appeared in the middle of the podium.
The finish line to send home Ilkay Gundogan’s fizzed set piece oozed class, gathering enough power from a volleyed backheel to fly past Martin Dubravka. However, City looked extremely vulnerable from the rear and lacked pace in the central areas with Nathan Ake and the outgoing Eric Garcia.
City was in charge, as always, and its 82.3 percent ball possession is the second-highest ever recorded by Opta. City owns the record of course, and it was clearly set by a Guardiola team.
Still, Newcastle’s counterattack got faster and looked more brutal as the game got older. Torres had given City the lead a minute before half time, but went in at break level.
35-year-old Scott Carson made his City debut in goal in what was his first Premier League appearance in nearly 10 years
Despite a dominant City opening, Krafth headed Newcastle with a strong header, but the lead did not last long
Joao Cancelo leveled City moments later when his attack broke off a defender and past Martin Dubravka
Torres was on hand to put City in the front after beautifully helping Bernardo Silva’s cross with his rear wheel
Nathan Ake was judged to have knocked out Joelinton late in the first half, and the attacker pointedly shot home.
The Magpies would then go up front in the second half, as Willock initially saw his penalty saved by Carson
But Arsenal’s loaned midfielder would tap the rebound to put Newcastle in a surprising lead against City
A long ball was not dealt, Ake slipped into his own box and collided with Joelinton. After a long VAR review, Kevin gave Friend a penalty and Scott Carson had no chance because Joelinton rattled behind him.
Yes, you read that right: Scott Carson. His City debut, at the age of 35. And his first Premier League appearance in ten years. When Guardiola admitted afterwards that City may have been distracted by their success, Carson’s inclusion may have contributed too. But the blame for the three admitted was not at his door. Krafth came when he snuggled between Cancelo and Ake from a routine angle.
The third, which would put Steve Bruce’s side ahead just after the hour, was also a penalty kick. The impressive Joe Willock pulled a foul from Kyle Walker, but the fullback’s back leg was more due to Garcia not reading the flight of a ball across the channel. Willock took over, Carson saved but the Arsenal mercenary threw in the rebound for a fifth goal in five games.
Torres had none of that, however. Gabriel Jesus deliberately drove down the right and Torres waited, poaching City’s equalizer to make it 3-3. That came after 64 minutes and he won City – their 12th trot away from home – seconds later when the Spaniard came in after Cancelo hit a post. Bell would have been proud of the finish.
But City reacted like champions and Torres equalized with a smart finish for an acrobatic third (pictured)
It was an impressive performance from Torres, who perhaps rubber-stamped his credentials to take over as City’s next major goalscorer.
Relive all the action as it happened with Sportsmail below: