In a shocking afternoon of football, Newcastle scored late to pull of a shocking 2-2 draw with Manchester City.
Twice the Premier League Champions took the lead, and twice they were pegged back so quickly by a side that were booed off the pitch in their previous game. Steve Bruce masterminded a miracle point for the Magpies, but who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Steve Bruce
It can’t have been easy for Steve Bruce to come in and replace Rafa Benitez. He certainly doesn’t have the same colossal reputation that the Spaniard does, and fans were going to view him as someone owner Mike Ashley was happy to work with which is obviously not good. But Steve Bruce is a manager of surprising depth, and today he masterminded a huge victory for himself via a draw for his team.
Yes Newcastle relied on a storming goal from Jonjo Shelvey to equalise; but that wasn’t a touch of magic after a scrappy bit of play – this was a pre-planned set-piece routine where Christian Atsu moved the ball across after faking a normal inswinging free-kick. And Newcastle’s first goal was a simply delightful bit of team play that in all honesty looked like a City goal. Moreover these weren’t isolated strikes in a smash-and-grab, Newcastle competed across the 90 minutes and never looked like they were going to be blown away even if City did have more good chances. Hats off to Steve Bruce, he matched wits with Pep Guardiola today.
Loser: Gabriel Jesus
It’s got to be hard to be Gabriel Jesus. Obviously he’s an immensely talented young forward but he’s always finding himself stuck behind more experienced and better players for club and country. Whereas Roberto Firmino outdoes him in basically every way, one thing he always had over Sergio Aguero was that he played a tactical role much better. His presence benefited the team in an abstract way rather than Aguero’s more obviously goalscoring.
Except now Aguero has improved enough that City’s overall game no longer suffers with the Argentine leading the line. This has reduced Jesus to more of a back-up, and as a result on the rare occasion when he plays, he is under more pressure to perform and is often withdrawn if he doesn’t play well.
Except today against Newcastle there was no other option. With Sergio Aguero injured, Jesus was City’s main man from start to finish and absolutely failed to perform. Beyond an impressive attempt to set-up Riyad Mahrez with a backheel he was a total non-event against Newcastle, at least in a positive sense. He was put through wonderfully with about 25 minutes left and shot straight at Martin Dubravka. And as soon as City went ahead, he was withdrawn for Rodri.
Winner: Allan Saint-Maximin
There are people who only rate or value players if they produce “end product” in the form of goals and assists. Now obviously those are the clearest and most obvious ways to judge the quality of players – but it’s not the only way. Sometimes players can have great value and become beloved even without providing any end product.
Take Allan Saint-Maximin, for instance. Today against Manchester City he was absurdly dominant and fun to watch, yet he bagged no goals or assists. But honestly who could care? Watching someone single-handedly take on the entire City defence by themselves is a genuine treat. The thrill of seeing them bob and weave, torturing defenders and drawing errors out of them is amazing. It gives you cortisone spikes, reminding you why you fell in love with the game in the first place.
Who needs goals when you’ve got that?
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Winner: Jetro Willems
Jetro Willems was once one of the most promising left-backs in Dutch football, now he plays for Newcastle. That’s obviously not ideal but he’s played well for the Magpies and this season in particular he’s developing into a big game dynamo. Before today he had assists against Liverpool and Manchester United and a goal against Liverpool.
He’s now added to that with a stunning goal against Manchester City, making a superb run across the box and despite the ball being on his right-foot he arrowed it straight into the bottom corner. Ederson didn’t stand a chance and the timing of the goal, coming so soon after City had taken the lead, make it even more invaluable.
Loser: Pep Guardiola
Obviously injuries hampered his team selection options, and the fact that City didn’t sign a centre-back continues to be one of the strangest decisions of the summer, but Guardiola made all new mistakes against Newcastle.
The team he sent out should have been able to do the job, sure enough, but when it became clear that his men were not quite at the races – Guardiola failed to react sharply enough. Bringing David Silva off just when he was getting his second wind was odd, as was replacing Gabriel Jesus with Rodri after City took the lead (look at how Newcastle’s forwards helped the defence by always driving forward).
Moreover not turning to Joao Cancel when Kyle Walker was having no offensive impact (even as City were crying out for some out on the right) really hurt the Sky Blues.
The Reds are about to enter a ferocious December in which they will have to play something like a billion games. They would have been very concerned that City would be able to pick up points and close the gap to them (not just through games in-hand, but also through Liverpool’s fatigue perhaps causing them to drop points.
But here in the last days of November, Liverpool got an enormous boost as Newcastle incredibly took two points off City. This would not have been something the Reds would have budgeted for. But Jonjo Shelvey, once of Liverpool, smashed a stunner into the back of the net late on to make the score 2-2 (his first goal at St. James Park) and mean that should Liverpool win their game on Saturday the gap between the sides would be a massive 11 points.
Surely it’s their title now?