Newcastle 3 Manchester City 4 – Entertaining and confusing in equal measure
United lost a barnstorming, if slightly bizarre, Friday night tussle, after the visitors edged a seven goal thriller, the final score reading Newcastle 3 Manchester City 4.
In what was hopefully the last pandemic-enforced behind closed doors game at SJP, the Mags managed to give sprinkles of hope to fans, but still ended up pointless.
With safety and the title secured for the two teams respectively, the handbrake was off, leading to a match that was both entertaining and confusing in equal measure.
After leading and trailing in the chaos, when Joe Willock tucked home a penalty rebound in the 62nd minute to put us 3-2 up, you would be forgiven for thinking we were going to pull off the result of the season.
Yet Newcastle failed at one of the key cornerstones of getting a result against Guardiola’s City. Don’t let them score twice in quick succession.
Within four minutes of Willock scoring, we were 3-4 down and Ferran Torres had his hat-trick.
It was easy to tell this would be a strange game, when Emil Krafth powered home a header to give us the lead, in the style of Dummett’s goal against Leicester last week.
A blocked Joelinton effort which led to the corner from which Krafth scored, seemed to be the first time we had actually made it out of our half.
Yet the goal seemed to spread some belief among those in black and white. Whilst City were predictably dominating possession, they hadn’t actually created that many chances. Gabriel Jesus managed to keep up his record of truly woeful performances at SJP.
It was very nearly two when Jonjo Shelvey smashed a free-kick off the Leazes end crossbar. United were dangerous on the attack and the blues backline looked uneasy.
Fresh from winning manager of the month, Steve Bruce must have thought he was about to equal another Rafa achievement and beat a title-winning Guardiola City team.
Two quick-fire goals from the visitors extinguished those thoughts. The first was extremely fortunate (a deflected potshot from Cancelo) the second was a worldy (a ridiculous flick from Torres)
However, with Saint-Maximin and Willock looking dangerous on the break, quite pleasingly, we refused to give up.
In the dying seconds of the half, Joelinton appeared to trip over his own feet in the box, but a lengthy VAR review confirmed there had been some contact with Nathan Ake.
Personally, I loathe VAR, and have been quite happy that for the most part of the past two seasons, since its introduction, it seems to have stayed out of our way, for both positive and negative decisions. Save for that Shelvey goal at Bramall Lane last season and that dodgy penalty that let us steal a point at Spurs.
Here the technology, for once, was welcome. Confusingly, Joelinton was on the penalty rather than Ritchie, who had previously scored a winning spot-kick against City.
Thankfully, our number 9 made a mockery of any fears, by smashing the ball past Scott Carson for 2-2.
When Kyle Walker decided to trip the once again brilliant Joe Willock, remarkably we had the chance to retake the lead, again from 12 yards.
Our penalty taker policy again seemed a little casual. Whoever was fouled seemed to just grab the ball and assume no one else would mind. This policy nearly blew up in our faces when Willock’s kick was saved by the veteran Carson. Mercifully he tucked away the rebound and for another brief moment it seemed on.
Considering some bookmakers had Newcastle priced at 10-1 before kick-off, we were certainly doing our best to upset the apple cart, and at the very least carrying on the tradition of giving Man City a real battle every time they come to the North-East.
Torres decided to spoil the party scoring perhaps only the second ‘normal’ goal of the game, then completed his hat-trick almost immediately to turn the tables once again.
That finally seemed to knock the stuffing out our lads.
For all that was good about the first 70 minutes of our performance, in the last 20 we failed to lay a glove on City. They kept the ball endlessly to wear us out and ensure they would not be losing the lead this time.
In boxing terms, we had gone for the kill too early, and were against the ropes barely surviving in the last two rounds.
There is a reason why most teams can’t normally go toe-to-toe with City and the last part of this game showed why.
Regardless of opponent, or how well we played, the end left a slightly disappointing taste, as we failed to create any chances of significance or even get the ball back.
There was no pressure on the Citizens box, save for one more effort from Willock where he blazed wide.
Bruce introduced Jamal Lewis and Sean Longstaff with six minutes to play, but arguably should have done it sooner, with everyone in black and white looking dead on their feet by this stage.
The newly crowned champions saw out the final minutes with ease and we were left to wonder what might have been.
Bruce can still claim this as one of the better displays of the season, and it was nice to see us give it a go, but in the end we had nothing to show for it.
This may (hopefully) have been the final fixture for us without any fans, but ironically the absence of supporters was probably more keenly felt in this game, than at any of the other 24 games at St James Park since the virus shut down football last March.
A raucous home crowd may have given us an extra few per cent, and more importantly, may have slightly unnerved the City players. Particularly those who hadn’t played a huge amount of football recently.
One of the things I love most about this club, and heading to the cathedral on the hill, is that for those 90 minutes all else is forgotten.
All the off-pitch upset, anger with ownership or management, is temporarily put side to give support to the lads, particularly when they are taking on the league’s top sides and need the help.
Can you imagine what the roar from the crowd would have been like, when Willock tapped in the rebound?
It may have made the difference and given us a famous victory against a side who have been invincible away from home in recent weeks and may be about to win a famous treble.
Throw in some greater ambition in the boardroom, and on the touchline, along with the return of supporters, and we might even manage to avoid a relegation battle next year.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 3 Man City 4 – Friday 14 May 8pm
Krafth 25, Joelinton 45+6 pen, Willock 62
Cancelo 39, Torres 42, 64, 66
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Man City 82% (81%) Newcastle 18% (19%)
Total shots were Man City 15 (8) Newcastle 11 (5)
Shots on target were Man City 6 (4) Newcastle 5 (2)
Corners were Man City 5 (3) Newcastle 4 (2)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Dubravka, Murphy, Fernandez (Gayle 88), Krafth, Dummett, Ritchie (Sean Longstaff 84), Shelvey, Willock, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton (Lewis 84)
Mark Gillespie, Ciaran Clark, Andy Carroll, Jeff Hendrick, Javier Manquillo, Matty Longstaff
(Hopes all but disappear of Newcastle United signing £20m Joe Willock this summer – Read HERE)
(Steve Bruce says he’ll ‘grow an even thicker skin’ as Newcastle United fans set to return – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 3 Manchester City 4 – Watch all 7 goals here in official match highlights – Watch HERE)
(Newcastle 3 Manchester City 4 – A shockingly excellent performance and an even better match! Read HERE)
(Newcastle 3 Manchester City 4 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Friday’s defeat – Read HERE)
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