Kevin De Bruyne inspired a Manchester City fightback on his first taste of Premier League action for five months to beat Newcastle 3-2 and close to within two points of the top of the Premier League on Saturday.
The Belgian came off the bench to score and set up Oscar Bobb’s stoppage time winner to announce his comeback from a long-term hamstring injury in style.
A cruel late twist for Newcastle saw Eddie Howe’s men succumb to a sixth defeat in their last seven Premier League games.
But a point would have been more than Newcastle deserved after being thoroughly outplayed but for two goals in two first-half minutes that threatened to frustrate the champions.
Victory takes City up to second in the table, two points behind Liverpool, and ominously poised to strike when they return from a two-week winter break, by which point Erling Haaland may be fit to join De Bruyne in terrorising opposition defences.
A frantic encounter got off to a disrupted start as City goalkeeper Ederson was injured in his attempt to stop Sean Longstaff putting the ball into the net.
The goal was ruled out as Alexander Isak was clearly offside in the build-up and City were furious the flag was not raised earlier to prevent any damage being done to the Brazilian.
Ederson briefly carried on and nearly presented Newcastle with the opener as he was caught in possession, but Bruno Guimaraes failed to get a proper connection on his shot.
Thereafter, City dominated for the opening half hour but lacked the poise of De Bruyne or presence of Haaland up front to turn their possession into a cutting edge.
The Norwegian was sitting out the ninth consecutive game with a foot injury that is set to keep him out for at least the rest of the month.
When City did break the deadlock, it took a moment of brilliance from Bernardo Silva.
The Portuguese backheeled Kyle Walker’s low cross into the far corner on 26 minutes.
Moments later only a brilliant save from Martin Dubravka turned another sweet strike from Silva onto the post.
However, the match was transformed in a stunning two minutes and 18 seconds.
Guimaraes cut open the City backline with one stunning pass that freed Isak, who cut inside Walker and curled brilliantly into the far corner.
Seconds later, the Swede’s strike was surpassed as Anthony Gordon followed a similar route by turning inside onto his right foot and firing into the far corner.
Isak could even have given the home side a 3-1 half-time lead as he then failed to beat substitute goalkeeper Stefan Ortega when through one-on-one.
City restored their control of the game at the start of the second period, but again lacked a punch in attack until De Bruyne made his return to Premier League action for the first time since the opening day of the season.
The Belgian made his comeback in a 5-0 rout of Huddersfield in the FA Cup last weekend and quickly showed what the European champions have been missing.
De Bruyne latched onto Rodri’s pass 16 minutes from time and drove forward before placing a low precise finish beyond Dubravka from outside the box.
Despite his lack of game time this season, De Bruyne has still produced more assists than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues since the start of last season.
And another wonderful pass over the top for Bobb created the winner.
The young Norwegian still had plenty to do, but showed quick feet to round Dubravka and tap into an unguarded net to spark wild scenes of celebration from City boss Pep Guardiola.
In contrast to City’s jubilation, another defeat for Newcastle may have realistically ended their hopes of a top-four finish as they slip to 10th, still 11 points adrift of the Champions League places.
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