Kevin De Bruyne marked his return to the Premier League in glorious style by coming off the bench to inspire a thrilling 3-2 win for Manchester City against Newcastle in a frantic battle at St James’ Park.
Pep Guardiola’s side deservedly moved ahead through a backheel finish by Bernardo Silva on 26 minutes only for home duo Alexander Isak (35′) and Anthony Gordon (37′) to stun the defending champions with two exquisite finishes before the break.
The match changed when De Bruyne – making his first league appearance since City’s first match of the season at Burnley due to a troublesome hamstring problem – replaced Silva on 70 minutes and scored the equaliser four minutes later with a delightful finish from outside the box from the Rodri pass.
And it was the elegant Belgian playmaker De Bruyne who ensured City moved second in the table two points behind leaders Liverpool when he played provider for fellow substitute Oscar Bobb to slip home the winning goal from close range via a composed control and finish with the home side out on their feet.
City move onto 43 points from 20 matches, while Eddie Howe’s Newcastle remain 10th on 29 points from 21 games in slumping to a sixth defeat in seven matches despite almost hanging on for a battling point against the UEFA Champions League holders.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: KEVIN DE BRUYNE (MANCHESTER CITY)
City coach Pep Guardiola told TNT Sports before the match he had considered but resisted the temptation to start De Bruyne in this match after five months out.
As it was, only 23 minutes were needed from the magical Belgian attacking midfielder to shove the three points back in his side’s direction with Newcastle desperately clinging to a 2-1 lead.
His equalising goal was a thing of beauty from outside the area on 74 minutes as he passed the ball into the net, but his assist for Bobb’s first Premier League goal and winner was just as crucial.
Pace, vision and power, De Bruyne has the lot. And if his hamstring issues are behind him, he will be like a new signing for Pep’s men in the second half of the campaign as they bid to defend their Premier League and UEFA Champions League trophies.
“I missed this, you know. It is what it is, I had a big injury and I needed the time,” said De Bruyne. “I enjoyed myself, and I worked hard. To come into this stadium, I think it was more willpower than sharpness or anything else.
I know I can put in a shift for 25 minutes. It was crazy. I know I’m not able to do that for 90 minutes at the moment. I can put in a shift for 30 minutes at the moment. I feel it in my lungs, especially with the cold. It can’t be any better than this, can it? It was great to score the goal.”
TALKING POINT: CITY PRODUCE CHAMPION PERFORMANCE UNDER PRESSURE
Sometimes in football, it is only about the three points, but Pep Guardiola will be thrilled about the whole evening’s entertainment. Not from just the winning of this contest, but the manner in which his team recovered.
It was a champion performance in every sense of the word from City as they dominated the ball in the second half against a vibrant home side and were also patient in possession before finding a ruthless edge to claim a merited three points.
City had lost only once in 72 Premier League games when taking the lead, but faced losing to Newcastle for only a second time in 33 league matches until the introduction of De Bruyne and Bobb changed the narrative.
But with goalkeeper Ederson injured and replaced by Stefan Ortega in the opening minutes, men like Rodri, Phil Foden and Kyle Walker also showed their mettle in a dominant second-half performance to show why City will take some stopping in the second half of the season.
Newcastle: Dubravka 8, Trippier 7, Schar 7, Botman 6, Burn 7, Longstaff 6, Guimaraes 7, Miley 7, Almiron 7, Isak 7, Gordon 7 Substitutes: Hall 7
Man City: Ederson 6, Walker 7, Dias 7, Ake 7, Gvardiol 7, Rodri 8, Kovacic 7, Bernardo 8, Foden 7, Doku 7, Alvarez 7 Substitutes: Ortega 7, De Bruyne 9, Bobb 7