City win EPL title after epic fightback on final day

Published May 23, 2022
MANCHESTER: Manchester City’s Fernandinho lifts the Premier League trophy with team-mates after they beat Aston Villa in their match at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.—Reuters
MANCHESTER: Manchester City’s Fernandinho lifts the Premier League trophy with team-mates after they beat Aston Villa in their match at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.—Reuters

LONDON: Manchester City won the Premier League for the fourth time in five seasons after a pulsating title race reached a dramatic conclusion as the champions staged an incredible comeback from two goals down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola’s side were teetering on the brink of blowing the title after falling 2-0 behind midway through the second half at the Etihad Stadium.

But Ilkay Gundogan sparked an astonishing City revival as the German midfielder reduced the deficit before Rodri grabbed the equaliser.

Gundogan turned in City’s third goal in the space of five minutes in the 81st minute, triggering wild celebrations and rendering second placed Liverpool’s 3-1 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers irrelevant.

City finished with 93 points, one ahead of Liverpool as they ended their rivals hopes of winning an unprecedented quadruple.

NORWICH: Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min (C) celebrates with team-mates after scoring during the match against Norwich City at Carrow Road.—Reuters
NORWICH: Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min (C) celebrates with team-mates after scoring during the match against Norwich City at Carrow Road.—Reuters

Juergen Klopp’s side never went top of the ‘live table’ during the afternoon of drama but until City’s revival the destiny of the title was hanging tantalisingly in the balance.

On a breathtaking final day, Burnley were relegated as Leeds United beat the drop, while Tottenham Hotspur qualified for the Champions League at the expense of their north London rivals Arsenal.

It was City who hogged the spotlight on a day their fans, who spilled onto the pitch in delight, will never forget.

Guardiola’s men can rightly be called a dynasty after joining Manchester United as the only clubs in the Premier League era to have won four titles in five seasons, with Alex Fergu­son’s teams doing it on three separate occasions.

The eighth league title in City’s history is Guardiola’s ninth major trophy since arriving at the club in 2016.

“It was an unbelievable game,” Gundogan said. “It was about getting that goal and then the momentum was on our side. These are the days you look back to.”

Once again, City saved the best until last as they edged Liverpool out on the final day of the season for the second time after beating them to the finish line in 2019.

It was 10 years since Sergio Aguero’s famous last-second goal against Queens Park Rangers sealed City’s first title since 1968 and this jaw-dropping success was almost as unlikely.

Guardiola had called on City’s fans to be “loud, loud, loud” in their bid to retain the crown, but they were stunned into silence in the 37th minute.

Lucas Digne whipped in a cross from the left and Matty Cash got in front of Joao Cancelo to score with a bullet header.

BURNLEY: Burnley’s Nathan Collins looks dejected after losing the match against Newcastle United at Turf Moor.—Reuters
BURNLEY: Burnley’s Nathan Collins looks dejected after losing the match against Newcastle United at Turf Moor.—Reuters

Former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho doubled Villa’s lead with a cool finish in the 69th minute.

The shell-shocked Guardiola slum­ped into his seat, but City would not surrender and Gundogan headed them back into contention in the 76th minute.

Rodri’s low strike from the edge of the area two minutes later set up a nerve-jangling finale.

And in the 81st minute, Kevin de Bruyne’s low cross reached Gundogan at the far post and the substitute tapped home to send City into ecstasy.

Having already won the FA Cup and League Cup, Liverpool can still enjoy a memorable season of their own if they beat Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday.

Liverpool were rocked after just three minutes when Pedro Neto produced a close-range finish from Raul Jimenez’s cross.

Sadio Mane equalised with a clinical strike from just inside the area after sprinting onto Thiago Alcantara’s pass in the 24th minute.

Mohamed Salah poked Liverpool ahead with six minutes left but by then news of City’s extraordinary recovery had reached Anfield, which was in subdued mood by the time Andrew Robertson scored in stoppage-time.

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates their first goal during the match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield.—Reuters
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates their first goal during the match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield.—Reuters

SPURS TAKE FOURTH

Tottenham’s 5-0 rout of relegated Norwich City secured fourth place at Carrow Road.

Just a few weeks ago, Antonio Conte had insisted it would take a “miracle” for Tottenham to finish in the top four, but the Italian has masterminded a superb run that ends his club’s two-year absence from the Champions League.

Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min scored two each and Harry Kane also netted.

“I have to be honest, I think it is one of the most important achievements in my career,” Conte said.

Tottenham’s victory left north London rivals Arsenal in fifth place despite their 5-1 win against Everton.

Burnley’s six-season stay in the top tier ended with a 2-1 home defeat against Newcastle United, with Leeds staying up after a 2-1 win at Brentford.

Leeds started the day below Burnley on goal difference, but the Clarets were beaten by Callum Wilson’s brace, while Jesse Marsch’s team escaped thanks to Raphinha’s penalty and Jack Harrison’s last-gasp strike.

Manchester United will play in the Europa League after finishing in sixth position despite a 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in Ralf Rangnick’s final game in charge.

West Ham United will have to settle for Europa Conference League action after they failed to take advantage of United’s slip, losing 3-1 to Brighton and Hove Albion.—Agencies

Final standings

(Tabulated under played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points):

Manchester City 38 29 6 3 99 26 93

Liverpool 38 28 8 2 94 26 92

Chelsea 38 21 11 6 76 33 74

Tottenham 38 22 5 11 69 40 71

Arsenal 38 22 3 13 61 48 69

Manchester United 38 16 10 12 57 57 58

West Ham 38 16 8 14 60 51 56

Leicester 38 14 10 14 62 59 52

Brighton 38 12 15 11 42 44 51

Wolves 38 15 6 17 38 43 51

Newcastle 38 13 10 15 44 62 49

Crystal Palace 38 11 15 12 50 46 48

Brentford 38 13 7 18 48 56 46

Aston Villa 38 13 6 9 52 54 45

Southampton 38 9 13 16 43 67 40

Everton 38 11 6 21 43 66 39

Leeds 38 9 11 18 42 79 38

Burnley 38 7 14 17 34 53 35

Watford 38 6 5 27 34 77 23

Norwich 38 5 7 26 23 84 22

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2022

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