MANCHESTER // Perhaps it was an act of clemency. There were 25 minutes remaining when the electronic scoreboard denoted a Manchester City change. On came No 14, Wilfried Bony. Off went No 10, Sergio Aguero. As the Argentine had scored five goals in the previous 25 minutes, perhaps it spared Newcastle United the ignominy of conceding 10 times to one player.
Even with Manuel Pellegrini affording Newcastle’s embarrassed defence some respite, it ranked among the division’s great scoring feats. Aguero became the fifth player ever to get five goals in a Premier League game after Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Jermain Defoe and Dimitar Berbatov.
He may have been slower than Robert Lewandowski, whose recent quintet for Bayern Munich against Wolfsburg took a mere nine minutes, but Aguero’s came from just nine touches. A 20-minute extravaganza represented a case of a drought becoming a flood without warning.
Before he was irrepressible, irresistible and incisive, Aguero had been uncharacteristically impotent. The Argentine had gone 465 minutes of top-flight football without scoring; indeed he only had a solitary goal in open play all season.
His record was transformed, along with City’s fortunes. After 40 minutes, they seemed set for a third consecutive league defeat and their worst run in seven years. Soon after the hour, Aguero had scored five goals of his own and Kevin de Bruyne one that was arguably still better.
Newcastle, who had been eyeing a first league win of the campaign, were vanquished.
Aguero’s was a perfect hat-trick — a header, a left-footed shot and a right-footed effort — that became a famous five. The most clinical finisher in the division showed the range in his repertoire; his third goal, a lovely, delicate dink over Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul, illustrated the confidence and the precision of a player suddenly operating at the peak of his powers.
It conjured thoughts that his last-minute penalty against Borussia Monchengladbach will spur him into the kind of extended scoring sequence in which he has specialised. He has six goals in two games now, and at a similar stage two years ago embarked on a run of 25 goals in 23 matches.
Perhaps it was portentous that this was the first domestic game Aguero began ahead of the expensively assembled creative contingent of David Silva, Raheem Sterling and De Bruyne. If the intention is that they will prove the finest supply line in England, two of the inventors came to Aguero’s assistance. The other did not. A subdued Sterling was substituted at half-time while Silva and De Bruyne recorded two assists apiece.
The Belgian’s inch-perfect cross for the striker’s fifth goal was probably the pick of the passes. De Bruyne was extraordinarily productive for Wolfsburg and it is a habit he has brought to City; his fourth goal for them, a lovely controlled volley, was a beauty.
Under other circumstances, De Bruyne might have made off with the individual accolades. As it was, a starring contribution was relegated to a subplot. That is what scorers can do; they deflect attention from deserving colleagues and defensive deficiencies alike.
If it ultimately mattered not, City were shambolic at the back for much of the first half. Aleksandar Mitrovic opened his Newcastle account to put them ahead. This seemed a historic occasion for a club that has never won a league game at the Etihad Stadium. So it was, but in a different respect. For the first time since the 19th century, they have failed to win any of their opening eight league games. Manager Steve McClaren’s last Premier League victory remains back in 2006. Newcastle are bottom, City top and Aguero peerless.
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