Premier League champions Manchester City began their latest reign with a thrilling 4-3 victory at Newcastle, with Ferran Torres’ hat-trick helping City to more history.
Pep Guardiola’s side walked out to a guard of honour at St James’ Park, having clinched the Premier League title on Tuesday evening after Manchester United’s defeat to Leicester gave them an unassailable lead.
It was a good thing they already had the trophy wrapped up too, otherwise, Friday’s game would have proved to be a nail-biting and nervous evening where the pendulum continuously swung between the two sides.
Newcastle – who are already assured of their own Premier League safety – took a shock lead when Emil Krafth nodded home his first top-flight goal, beating Man City debutant Scott Carson. But City replied with a quick double – Joao Cancelo and Torres’ superb first strike firing the champions in front.
But there was more VAR drama to come in the first half. In the second minute of injury time, Nathan Ake’s clumsy challenge saw Joelinton fouled in the area. Referee Kevin Friend initially turned down the penalty after Allan Saint-Maximin was adjudged to be offside in the build-up, but VAR ruled the Newcastle forward onside and the penalty was subsequently awarded. Joelinton then hammered home from the spot to level things up before the break.
The second half continued in the same topsy-turvy vein. Newcastle were awarded another spot-kick just after the hour as Kyle Walker fouled Joe Willock. It was the Arsenal loanee who stepped up for the second, seeing his penalty saved by Carson but slotting home the rebound, scoring in his fifth successive Premier League game.
But Torres completed his hat-trick soon after both smart finishes, much like his first – to seal a hard-earned three points for Man City.
It was their 12th successive away win in the Premier League – the most in the top four tiers of English league football – and beat the record held by Chelsea (2008) and themselves (2017).
The victory moves City onto 83 points at the top of the table, while a spirited Newcastle remain in 16th with both teams having two league games left to play.