Haaland and Silva rescue draw for Manchester City in Newcastle thriller

Sport

For long periods of a thrilling, and sometimes tumultuous, 90 minutes on Tyneside, Manchester City seemed to be gasping for oxygen.

The visitors’ periods of distress and sheer puzzlement had nothing to do with any lack of fitness and everything to do with the skill and aggression of Allan Saint-Maximin and the rest of a Newcastle team who had evidently bought into Eddie Howe’s mantra that mountains are there for climbing.

With Saint-Maximin at his electrifying, unplayable best, Howe’s managerial run of 12 straight defeats against City finally ended as he and his improving players passed what he had described as “the ultimate test” of their recent progress.

Well before the end of a contest which served as a reminder that defensively, in particular, Pep Guardiola’s champions are mortal after all, Newcastle’s manager must have been mighty relieved he resisted a brief temptation to sell the sometimes high maintenance Saint-Maximin.

At 4.30pm both teams were still to concede their first league goals of the season, but by 4.35pm the ball nestled in the back of Nick Pope’s net. Bernardo Silva was allowed to direct an in-swinging right-wing cross in Ilkay Gündogan’s direction and, after drifting into the space between Kieran Trippier and Fabian Schär, Gündogan had sufficient time to control the ball before lashing it beyond Pope.

With the impressive Pope saving smartly from Kevin De Bruyne in the wake of Joe Willock’s forfeiture of midfield possession and the influential Bruno Guimarães required to watch his step after collecting a booking for clattering De Bruyne, Newcastle were, albeit briefly, up against it.

Creditably, such adversity seemed to imbue them with newfound attacking ferocity and, despite Pope’s legs once again coming to the rescue to deny Phil Foden, their counterattacking gave Guardiola’s defence cause for serious consternation. City’s spotless defensive record appeared under acute strain and, in the 28th minute, it was stained when Miguel Almirón used a thigh to nudge Saint-Maximin’s cross past Ederson. Although the equaliser was initially ruled out for offside, a VAR review overruled that decision.

The subsequent outpouring of joy from the majority of the 52,000 full house was informed partly by a sense of justice having been finally dispensed in the wake of Jack Grealish’s cruelly classless comments about the Paraguayan’s supposed inadequacies as City celebrated last spring’s title win.

The England midfielder’s words incensed Newcastle’s players and there was a suspicion that Grealish’s absence – officially due to injury – on Saturday might have been diplomatic. Watching remotely Grealish will have noted that, bar missing one sitter, Almirón played extremely well, combining superbly with Saint-Maximin.

It is safe to assume John Stones will never be tempted to issue the slightest criticism of the latter after this, and particularly not in the wake of being tortured by the French winger near the halfway line in the preamble to Newcastle’s second goal.

Callum Wilson proved the beneficiary of the subsequent through pass and, having taken one fabulous touch to dodge Rúben Dias, Howe’s centre-forward evaded Ederson’s reach with his second. Dispatched with the outside of his right foot, it was an imperious finish and, scored in front of the England manager, Gareth Southgate, added credence to the argument that, Harry Kane apart, there is no better English No 9.

Strikers rarely come more formidable than Norway’s Erling Haaland but the new focal point of Guardiola’s attack was subdued for long periods by Sven Botman and Fabian Schär. Indeed despite Haaland escaping their attentions by dropping deep when Pope was required to tip his shot onto a post, Newcastle had City on the ropes for quite some time. Guardiola was left literally scratching his head after Trippier sent an out-swinging free-kick arcing over the visiting wall and curving imperiously into the top corner up.

The moment had arrived for Haaland to remind everyone what all the fuss was about and, in volleying Rodri’s flick on from De Bruyne’s cross unerringly beyond Pope he did not disappoint.

With the power balance shifting imperceptibly and the game becoming more open than ever, Newcastle’s goalkeeper saved well again from Haaland before De Bruyne’s gorgeous, defence confounding reverse pass was stroked into the bottom corner by Silva. Ominously for Howe, De Bruyne’s growing impact was akin to brilliant sunshine emerging from a bank of cloud.

The sight of the Belgian illuminating a midfield in which Joelinton had earlier shone, precipitated Trippier catching De Bruyne on the knee with a rash, high tackle. Howe looked suitably relieved as Jarred Gillett’s initial straight red card turned yellow following a VAR review. Things continued in similarly kaleidoscopic, on occasion borderline chaotic, vein until the final whistle finally halted what will surely rank as a 21st-century classic.