Manchester City twice came from behind to win a Premier League classic against Newcastle in their first game since being confirmed as champions.
Ferran Torres scored a hat-trick for City and his superb backheeled finish was the highlight of a remarkable game that swung back and forth.
Pep Guardiola, who surprisingly selected Scott Carson in goal – almost a decade on from his last English top-flight game – saw his City side dominate early on but fall behind to Emil Krafth’s powerful header from Jonjo Shelvey’s corner.
Joao Cancelo equalised with a deflected effort into the bottom right corner and when Torres expertly turned home Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick 185 seconds later it looked as though the visitors could cut loose.
But Steve Bruce, who called upon his Newcastle side to go toe-to-toe with the champions, will have been delighted by their response.
Having been forced to soak up considerable pressure, they levelled when City defender Nathan Ake was deemed to have fouled Joelinton, allowing the Brazilian to score from the penalty spot.
A poorly judged tackle by City full-back Kyle Walker handed the Magpies a second penalty just after the hour mark, with Joe Willock following-up to score after Carson had saved his initial spot-kick.
However, man of the match Torres had the final word, guiding Gabriel Jesus’ cross into the top right corner and then becoming the youngest player to score a league hat-trick for a Guardiola team, when turning in a Cancelo shot that bounced back off the Newcastle post.
It rounded off a captivating encounter and brought up another milestone for Guardiola’s side, who set a new league record with their 12th consecutive victory away from home.
Newcastle step up in class
Bruce’s side delivered a wonderful performance in their win at Leicester a week ago, but playing against the newly crowned champions represented a sizable step up in class.
And if the complement of players at Guardiola’s disposal was not already a concern, their assignment was made more challenging by the absence of the injured Callum Wilson.
Newcastle have not won any of the nine matches in which their England forward has missed this season but the manner in which they pushed a City side who are 13 points clear at the top of the table offers plenty of encouragement.
Wilson’s understudy, Joelinton, who has underwhelmed since his club-record move in 2019, gave Ake and his defensive partner Eric Garcia plenty of problems.
And the supporting cast of Willock, Miguel Almiron and Saint-Maximin caused City problems down the flanks.
The on-loan Arsenal player surprised Raheem Sterling with this pace in the first half and his acceleration caught Walker out to give the Magpies their second penalty of the evening.
While City’s class eventually told, it was not before they had been put under severe pressure by a side that a few weeks previous were in the relegation conversation.
City’s roll continues
How every Premier League manager must wish to have the depth of talent that City boss Guardiola has in his ranks.
The sight of Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Ruben Dias sitting in the stand served as a reminder of that depth, with the champions also travelling north with Ederson, Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne.
In their absence, dogged opponents provided a reminder of just how demanding the Premier League can be but they more than merited their win.
With the EFL Cup and Premier League already secure City had the luxury of using their final three matches to prepare for their Champions League final against Chelsea on 29 May.
But while there was a touch of sentimentality around giving Carson his first taste of Premier League football since 22 May 2011, the way in which Guardiola urged his team to maintain their standards spoke volumes.
He looked far from happy at the way in which his side conceded at least two of the goals but also appeared delighted by the way that Torres came to the fore.
In a squad containing so much firepower, the 21-year-old has at times looked on the periphery since his move from Valencia – starting just 14 times.
And if this was a glimpse of the Spain winger at his best their will be a number of clubs concerned by what he is capable of, given an extended run.
‘Maybe Torres is a striker’ – what they said
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, speaking to BBC Sport: “Overall our attacking play was good on the counter-attack and we just weren’t quite good enough on the night.
“The biggest compliment I can pay them is that it’s difficult to set up against them. There are large periods where you don’t get a kick because they’re so good in possession.”
On whether Newcastle can keep Joe Willock: “We have to respect that Joe is Arsenal’s player but if it’s possible we’d love to keep him.”
On criticism this season: “If you’re going to do the job in the Premier League you come in for criticism, sometimes it’s unjust. I always said when we had our players fit we’d be alright. I’m a football manager and I’ve been doing it a long time but I’m prepared to work away at it and grow an even thicker skin.”
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, speaking to BBC Sport about Ferran Torres: “Incredible numbers and goals in his first season in the Premier League. He is so young and clinical. He is a guy brought as a winger but maybe we have to think as a striker. He is a good player.”
“We play against 10 players in the box, they defend so deep. They are so, so fast on the counter. A tough, tough opponent. Even with that we attacked good in the pockets but we conceded three goals in set pieces and we have to improve that.”
On Scott Carson: “We are incredibly happy for him. He is an important player for us. He is a real leader and today was an exceptional day to let him play.”
On breaking records and going on winning runs: “It is what we have done, four years together. When people say you don’t win the Champions League the team is a failure, or the players are a failure or the manager is a failure, football is consistent. The important is you win the Premier League. You have to celebrate, one day train and come here but the spirit was there. Once we were down, come back, 3-2 come back but just learn come back as soon as possible and arrive in the best condition as possible in the final.”
Possession Kings City
- Tonight was a 23rd consecutive unbeaten away match in all competitions for Manchester City (W21 D2), the longest ever unbeaten away run by a side in the top four tiers of English football, overtaking Notts County’s run of 22 in 2012.
- Newcastle United suffered a home top-flight defeat despite scoring three goals for the first time since losing 4-3 to Manchester United in March 1976, while Man City won an away league match despite conceding three for the first time since December 2012, when they won 4-3 at Norwich City.
- Manchester City forward Ferran Torres became the youngest ever player to score a hat-trick for a team managed by Pep Guardiola (21 years, 75 days), overtaking Gabriel Jesus who was 21 years and 218 days against Shakhtar Donetsk in November 2018.
- Manchester City goalkeeper Scott Carson made his first Premier League appearance since May 2011 for West Brom, a gap of nine years and 357 days. It is the sixth longest gap between appearances in Premier League history, and the longest ever for a goalkeeper.
- In his 146th Premier League appearance, Scott Carson became the first ever goalkeeper to make an appearance in the competition for six different clubs (Leeds, Liverpool, Charlton, Aston Villa, West Brom and Man City). The previous most was five clubs represented – Shay Given and David James.
- Newcastle’s Joe Willock became the youngest player to score in five consecutive Premier League appearances (21y 267d) since Jose Antonio Reyes in September 2004 (21y 10d) and the second youngest English player ever, after Michael Owen in 2001 (21y 247d).
- Newcastle defender Emil Krafth scored his first Premier League goal in his 31st appearance in the competition, while he is only the second Swedish player to score for the Magpies in the Premier League, after Andreas Andersson (four goals in 1998).
- Since 2003-04 (when Opta began recording possession data), Newcastle United tonight are the first team to score three goals despite having as little as 17.7% possession in a Premier League match.
- Manchester City had 82.3% possession in tonight’s match, the second highest on record since the 2003-04 season, behind only their 83% possession total against Swansea City in April 2018.
Newcastle host Sheffield United in their next Premier League match on Wednesday, 19 May (18:00 BST).
Manchester City travel to Brighton in their next top-flight game on Tuesday, 18 May (19:00 BST).