Never has a Premiership title been decided on goal difference, but every streak ends. Manchester City won their first title since 1968, ending a 44 year drought in one of the most dramatic ending days in English football history, as Sergio Aguero scored in the 94th minute to snatch the title from United and Alex Ferguson at the last possible moment.
There’s no reason to talk about tactics and actual footballing terms when drama was the key word of the day in the Premier League. United scored early, in the 20th minute, through Wayne Rooney. I don’t think there was anyone on the planet who thought they’d drop their lead. All eyes were on Manchester and the Etihad stadium. QPR had survival to play for, needing a draw to avoid relegation.
While City did stutter through the first 40 minutes, an unlikely player in Pablo Zabaleta came up with the goal, helped by a terrible Paddy Kenny stop, looping high above him and into the net. Championship goes to Manchester City at that point. Yaya Toure, the best player on the team this season, had to leave the pitch after the first half, carrying an injury half way through the first period. Nigel De Jong came on. Not an attacking move, but who thought about attacking when the title seemed secure?
QPR knew they needed goals. Bolton were up 2-1 at Stoke, which meant that things have turned around, and the London club was going down. Djibril Cisse made it a stunning 1-1 after a terrible Joleon Lescott clearance. Seven minutes of pressure resulted in Joey Barton losing his head. He fell to Carlos Tevez‘ provocation trap, using Tevez‘ face as a rest place for his elbow. After getting the red card, he decided to take out the second Argentinian, Aguero, with a knee to the back. Class act.
Game over? QPR went out for their second attack of the game and scored. Jamie Mackie, who else? (wink, wink). The tears were pouring down the City fans’ faces. The champagnes were cooled down in the North East, where United were cruising for a title. The Alex Ferguson effect worked again. City were caving under the pressure. Roberto Mancini threw in Balotelli and Edin Dzeko. He spent the rest of the match yelling from the sidelines.
Kenny should have been rewarded with a Manchester Unite contract after his performance. All the QPR players should have gotten free season tickets for the rest of their lives for their defending. Stoke made it 2-2, and QPR held on, allowed to lose. But there are things that can’t be explained, and eventually too much pressure can’t be absorbed and absorbed. The endless corners and crosses paid off.
First it was Edin Dzeko, a man who had a great start to the season but found himself pushed to the edge of the bench as it progressed; even further when Carlos Tevez made his return. Mario Balotelli didn’t score, but his confidence gave City a dimension they lacked in the minutes when everything seemed dark and tragic.
He set up the Aguero goal. With a pass and with a screen. Aguero just strolled, avoided a sliding tackle and put everything he had in the close range effort. A championship goal. A legendary goal if you’re a City fan, and for all the players on that team that never won a league title. For quite a few of the players, it was their first league title. Roberto Mancini was asked about the beginning of a dynasty. I don’t think anyone on the City team were able to think and speak about anything with their hearts still not calmed down after the incredible, epic ending.
City win the title; United, Arsenal and Tottenham to the Champions League. Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton are relegated. But Aguero‘s goal stood out. Because of the topsy turvy title race. Because it was the 94th minute. Because it was the change on the Manchester throne and perch. Because for those wearing blue or red, fans or players, it won’t be easily forgotten.