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20 Jan 2018

Sergio Agüero puts Manchester City back on track against Newcastle with Hat-trick

Manchester City could reflect on a satisfying way to bounce back from their first defeat of the season at Anfield last weekend. At 2-1, they did briefly have a wobble against a Newcastle United side that probably shocked themselves to be still in the game. Yet normal service quickly resumed when Leroy Sané’s quick feet and slaloming run set up Sergio Agüero for the goal that soothed the crowd’s nerves and made sure the Premier League leaders kept their 12-point lead at the top.

That was Agüero’s hat-trick goal after opening the scoring in the first half as well as safely converting a penalty after one of Raheem Sterling’s slightly dubious falls. Agüero now has 22 goals for the season and, astonishingly, this was the 11th hat-trick of his City career. That is some collection of souvenir match-balls and a timely reminder, perhaps, of his own firepower on the back of City’s now aborted attempts to bring in Alexis Sánchez from Arsenal.

Newcastle can certainly vouch for Agüero’s ability bearing in mind the Argentinian has now scored 14 times in 12 league encounters against the team from Tyneside. Rafael Benítez’s side briefly had hope after Jacob Murphy’s breakaway goal midway through the second half but the real story of this match came in the form of the statistics that told us the shot-count was 21-6 in favour of the home side and 18-0 in terms of corners.

As a measure of how the game progressed, the number-crunchers who provide this kind of data showed City had had 82% of possession just before that moment when Agüero lifted his arms to signal that, yes, he had applied the faintest of touches to Kevin de Bruyne’s cross for the opening goal.

By the 38-minute mark Newcastle had managed a grand total of 33 passes or, to put it another way, three per player. Nobody should have been too surprised by Newcastle’s tactics, only three weeks after a similar backs-to-the wall operation against the same opponents at St James’s Park, but it was still something to see one team having so much of the ball and the other spending so long chasing it.

Not that Newcastle should necessarily be criticised for their lack of adventure when there was such an obvious imbalance of talent. Agüero scored five on their last visit to this stadium and on the solitary occasion the away team did break out from defence in the first half the ball ended up in their own net 15 seconds later.

An offside flag ruled out Raheem Sterling’s effort, after a brilliant counter-attack involving Fernandinho, De Bruyne and David Silva but Newcastle were reminded in those moments what can happen when Guardiola’s man are given space to exploit. After that it was probably no surprise that Newcastle went back to their ploys of conservatism, clogging up their own half and trying to restrict the space for their opponents.

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