Agüero hits five as Manchester City demolish Newcastle

MANCHESTER, UK – Sergio Agüero scored five goals in 20 minutes as Manchester City moved back to the top of the table by running riot against Newcastle. A record scoring feat was all the more remarkable for being impossible to predict at half-time, when City were jeered off the field by their supporters.

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For poor old Newcastle, still searching for their first win and in front for much of the first half, this outcome was even more cruel than Chelsea’s late comeback last week. At least they salvaged a point from that match.

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Here, despite more than holding their own in a first half they shaded, they were blown away by a second-half explosion that came without warning. Four other players – Dimitar Berbatov, Andy Cole, Jermain Defoe and Alan Shearer – have scored five goals in Premier League matches and Agüero was quickest of the quintet by a distance. “We made mistakes and Agüero is a world-class finisher,” a disconsolate Steve McClaren said. “We showed some of our strengths but also some of our weaknesses. We have to toughen up, but City are probably going to win the league this year.”

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City could have gone ahead in the first few minutes when Tim Krul could not quite hold a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick at the foot of a post. An almighty goalline scramble ensued but somehow Newcastle survived. A couple of minutes later Kevin Mbabu got in the way of a close-range Agüero header and that was all the home side managed to create in the first half-hour, despite fielding their first-choice attacking quartet for the first time in the Premier League. Considering the amount of money involved in bringing in De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, City’s lack of penetration was a worry, particularly as Newcastle appeared capable of opening up their opponents with ease. Mbabu set up a chance for Aleksandar Mitrovic that Joe Hart had to be alert to foil, though the concern for City was that one decent ball into the area had left the Newcastle striker with only the goalkeeper to beat. That happened on a number of occasions in the first half.

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A couple of times City were reprieved by borderline offside decisions and Hart came to the rescue again by sticking out a leg when Mitrovic should have scored, so there was no question that Newcastle deserved the lead they took through exposing the uncertainty that afflicts this defence whenever Vincent Kompany is missing. First, Mbabu knocked the ball past Pablo Zabaleta on the left and confidently beat him for speed. Eliaquim Mangala managed to cut out the cross but only succeeded in setting up Georginio Wijnaldum to have another go and this time a better delivery allowed Mitrovic to beat Hart with a free header.

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The only good news for City was that Newcastle did not add to their lead in the period when they were on top. As half-time approached the home side gradually clawed their way back, with first Agüero and then Fernandinho sending shots narrowly wide.

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An equaliser finally arrived three minutes before the break, Fernandinho heading David Silva’s cross back across goal for Agüero to finish, yet there were still half-hearted boos as the players left the field. Not full-throated, angry dissent, just a low-level expression of disappointment. City are supposed to be better than this.

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Newcastle are winless at the bottom of the table yet they played the best football. It was no surprise when the ineffective Sterling was replaced by Jesús Navas for the second half, because it was exactly what some of the home fans had been demanding. It does not necessarily follow that the substitution changed the course of the game, for Navas was not immediately involved, and Newcastle contributed to their own downfall by dozily surrendering possession in their own half to invite Agüero to score a quick second. Nevertheless, a mere five minutes after the restart City were 3-1 in front and Newcastle were back on duty as cannon fodder. Silva, especially, seemed to come into his own once City had reorganised. “It was not a good day for Raheem,” Manuel Pellegrini said. “We needed a different way to try to penetrate, and David found more room in the second half.”

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While there was a touch of good fortune about Agüero’s second, a deflection off Yoan Gouffran making life difficult for Krul when the goalkeeper might otherwise have had the shot covered, there was nothing streaky about the rest. The Argentine’s third goal came eight minutes after the first when he latched on to De Bruyne’s through-ball and instinctively lifted a shot over Krul.

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On the hour the defence unwisely stood off the striker to allow a shot from the angle of the area with wholly predictable results before Agüero turned up on the end of a neat passing triangle involving Silva and De Bruyne to steer in a fifth.

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The Agüero-fest was only interrupted when De Bruyne scored City’s fourth, arguably the best of the afternoon, meeting a Navas cross from the right with a perfectly executed volley.

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There were more grumbles from the home fans when spoilsport Pellegrini withdrew City’s hero shortly after his fifth, though this time they were clearly intended in jest. Had he remained on the field against a dispirited Newcastle a Premier League record, if not double figures, might have been within reach. Wilfried Bony must have had decidedly mixed feelings about coming on as the follow-up act.

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“Kun is amazing, a player who can always make a difference,” Pellegrini said, before revealing Agüero had received treatment for a sore thigh during the interval. “It must have been a good treatment, yes?” – The Guardian

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