They say a manager learns more about his players in the face of adversity than when the going is good. If that is true, Pep Guardiola was presented with a rare opportunity to really assess the makeup of his squad this week after the 4-3 defeat to Liverpool last Sunday, our first of the season in the Premier League. You must go back 31 matches, a sequence spanning 281 days, to witness our previous league defeat, which came at the hands of Chelsea back in April. City under Pep are difficult to get the better of. And if the reaction of the players against Newcastle is anything to go by, this is a squad with plenty of fight and determination. There was no hangover from the chastening defeat on Merseyside; no licking of wounds or feeling sorry for ourselves. Just grit and a desire to get back to winning ways, which we duly did as Sergio Aguero scored a perfect hat-trick to seal a fine 3-1 victory, a result that saw us reassert our 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League that had temporarily been cut to nine after Manchester United’s narrow victory at Burnley earlier in the day.
What happened? Raheem Sterling had the ball in the back of the net after 18 minutes, finishing off a wonderful, swift counter-attack involving Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and David Silva, only for the linesman’s flag to rule it out for offside. But Aguero opened the scoring 15 minutes later when his glanced header from De Bruyne’s pinpoint cross guided the ball past Karl Darlow in the Newcastle goal. It was Aguero’s 12th goal against Newcastle since his arrival in English football in 2011 and De Bruyne’s 10th assist of the season in the Premier League, more than any other player in the division. After a somewhat insipid start, City were suddenly surging through the gears. De Bruyne almost made it two moments later – but his left-footed strike from the edge of the area was pushed around the post by Darlow, who was gradually becoming busier – before Aguero skipped past three Newcastle defenders, only to see his shot blocked superbly by Paul Dummett. The second half saw City in the ascendency once more. Aguero looked certain to convert Kyle Walker’s fine low cross, only for Isaac Hayden to make a timely interception before the Argentine could apply the finish. City doubled their lead on the hour mark when Aguero scored from the penalty spot after Javier Manquillo had brought down Sterling. That, you sensed, would open the floodgates. But Newcastle halved the arrears four minutes later. Ciaran Clark’s fine first-time pass opened up the City defence and put Jacob Murphy clean through, and he produced a cool chip over the onrushing Ederson to make it 2-1. Aguero flashed an effort just wide moments later, before Darlow produced a quite brilliant save, somehow pushing Sterling’s close-range effort onto the post. Then it was the turn of Ederson to take centre stage as he denied Mo Diame with a brilliant stop as Newcastle sensed a famous draw. De Bruyne was inches away from making it 3-1 but his first-time shot from the edge of the area went just wide - but Aguero completed his hat-trick moments later after Sane's brilliant assist. They Germany ace danced past three inside the box before crossing beautifully for the Argentine to score from close range.
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero A fine hat-trick and tireless running saw him voted Man of the Match by the City MatchdayApp users.
Key Moment Aguero’s opener. City hadn’t clicked during the opening half an hour but Aguero’s goal settled us.
Up Next City travel to Bristol City in Tuesday for the second leg of our Carabao Cup semi-final, before a trip to Cardiff in the FA Cup five days later. Our next Premier League assignment is a home game against West Brom on Wednesday 31 January.
Man City (3): Ederson, Stones, Zinchenko, Otamendi, Walker, Silva, Fernandinho, De Bruyne Sterling (Bernardo 85’), Sané (Diaz 87’), Agüero