Manchester City celebrated becoming Premier League champions for the fifth time in nine years with a classic match, coming from behind twice to win 4-3 thanks largely to a wonderful hat-trick from Ferran Torres.
Joao Cancelo’s deflected strike gave City their first equaliser after Emil Krafth had headed home from a corner, but from then on Torres was the star of the show, despite the home side benefitting from penalties either side of half time.
Yes, one of them was ridiculous. It is fully expected by this point.
Oddly, Scott Carson also started the match in goal for City, with Pep Guardiola rewarding the keeper for his reportedly excellent efforts in motivating the regular team.
Despite being much changed City were easily dominated the early possession, but the in-form Toon were looking terrific on the counter, much as they had when blitzing Leicester last time out.
The opening goal came from one such counter, with a desperate Kyle Walker block to deny Joelinton only delaying the home side temporarily. Jonjo Shelvey whipped in the corner to the back post, and the somehow unmarked Krafth guided home with ease.
It could have been even better for the home side had Shelvey’s unstoppable freekick cannoned in off the bar rather than out, but City soon made them pay as Cancelo struck low from the edge of the box, with the ball taking a wicked deflection to leave Martin Dubravka helpless.
In the ascendency, it took only three minutes for the tie to turn around completely, as Ilkay Gundogan’s freekick was acrobatically backheeled over Dubravka by Torres, in what will surely be a goal of the season contender.
With only three minutes of the half remaining, City looked sure to go in at halftime ahead.
But wait. VAR.
Referee Kevin Friend gave the penalty at the time, but an incorrect offside held up the decision. VAR, correctly, deemed Allan Saint-Maximin onside, but then somehow adjudged the penalty decision as correct, for a ‘foul’ by Nathan Ake on Joelinton.
Again, it was scarcely believable.
Joelinton stretched his foot maybe 4 feet away from his other leg- almost doing the splits in the process- in order to stand on the ankle of Ake. The ball was in the other direction- Ake was around two metres away from it- and yet somehow the decision stood.
Joelinton buried it past the helpless Carson, and Newcastle were level at the break.
Half time: Newcastle 2-2 Manchester City
The second half saw a similar pattern, but with Newcastle’s counters becoming more common as the home side continued flooding their front four up the pitch.
Despite this, Carson was largely shielded from trouble before Kyle Walker misjudged the pace of Joe Willock and needlessly tripped the on-loan Arsenal man on the hour mark.
Willock, strangely, took it himself only for Carson to make an excellent save. Unfortunately for the veteran, the ball spun straight back to Willock to tap into the empty net and give Newcastle the lead once more.
Within 100 seconds, City were level. Within 300, they were ahead.
Gabriel Jesus was the creator for the first of these, as he took on the Newcastle defence before drilling into the six yard box for Torres to convert into the top corner.
Willock had barely finished celebrating on the TV replays.
Almost instantly Torres had his hat-trick, as Cancelo whipped a 25 yard strike against the base of the post, only for the Spaniard to deftly swivel and smash the ball into the roof of the unguarded net.
Guardiola had looked content to allow the basketball-esque match to occur until this point, but City noticeably went more secure from this point, denying Newcastle any further counters at the cost of failing to create any chances for themselves.
After a breathless first 66 minutes, the game petered out with endless City possession, and a record breaking 12th consecutive away league win.
Full time: Newcastle 3-4 Manchester City
Man of the Match: Ferran Torres
Not really a surprise, I admit. One of the finest Premier League hat-tricks that will ever be scored, with the only shame being there was no-one there to see it. A big year lies ahead for the former Valencia man, as he seeks to become more integral to the City winning machine.