Ferran Torres hits hat-trick in madcap win for Manchester City at Newcastle
Talk about a timely reminder. With the Champions League final 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 were 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. Along the madcap way Guardiola’s newly crowned English champions set a Premier League record after registering their 12th consecutive away win.
A combination of Covid-related complications and the need to recalibrate his game to high paced Premier League intensity has sometimes made this a tough, if extremely promising, season for Torres. No matter; the 21-year-old Spain striker could not have picked a better moment to stake his compelling case for involvement against Chelsea in Porto later this month.
“Ferran’s so young and clinical,” said Guardiola. “He was bought as a winger but we think he’s a striker. He’s a good player.” City certainly needed him against deep sitting, deceptively fast breaking, opponents. “Newcastle have 10 players behind the ball,” added City’s manager. “But they are so, so, fast on the counterattack.”
After being rubber stamped as title winners on Tuesday night his players danced, hugged, drank – (mainly Catalan beer) – and ate pizza until dawn on Wednesday. If Newcastle, fresh from celebrating confirmation they have been spared from relegation for another season, hoped City would be still feeling a little woozy they were mistaken.
Guardiola’s team wasted no time in hogging possession, zipping passes between themselves and penning Bruce’s players in their own half. Scott Carson was initially left standing idly by, shivering in the Tyneside evening chill as he made his City debut and first Premier League appearance in a decade.
By almost uncanny coincidence Carson’s last top tier engagement had also been at St James’ Park, for West Brom on May 22 2011, with the game finishing 3-3. Overall, the Derby loanee’s handling and footwork impressed immensely here but it did not take him long to become reacquainted with picking the ball out of the back of the net.
When City’s concentration finally wavered they, self destructively, 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 the disappointing Nathan Aké before directing a header beyond the blameless Carson.
Krafth has, rightly, received considerable criticism this season but, albeit facilitated by poor defending, his first goal Newcastle goal was an excellent header. It also seemed somehow appropriate, given that the Swede’s ball initially cued up Saint-Maximin.
Steve Bruce’s side nearly scored again when Shelvey’s free kick crashed back off the crossbar but, instead, City equalised as João Cancelo’s low drive took a capricious deflection off Jacob Murphy and whizzed past a wrong footed Dubravka.
Perhaps anxious not to be upstaged, Torres began making his presence felt. Connecting with Gündogan’s free-kick with back to goal and closely minded by Shelvey, he swivelled sharply and flicked an outrageous volley executed with the outside of his left foot beyond Dubravka.
Aké offered Newcastle renewed hope by sending Joelinton crashing but the referee ruled out a penalty due to a perceived offside on Saint-Maximin’s part in the preamble. A lengthy VAR review ultimately disagreed, judging the Frenchman to have been onside after all and Joelinton thumped the belatedly awarded 12-yard kick beyond Carson.
Walker then acquired a touch of Aké’s haplessness, tripping Willock as he accelerated into the area. To Joelinton’s considerable chagrin, the Arsenal loanee demanded to take the penalty and although Carson made a superb save Willock converted the rebound.
Torres ensured this home lead would not last. His leveller arrived on the half-volley after the unmarked striker had met Jesus’s cross and a memorable treble was completed on the full volley once Cancelo’s shot rebounded back off the base of a post.
“An unbelievable game,” said Guardiola. “But just unfortunate fans couldn’t be in the stadium to see it.”