Man City pip Liverpool FC to Premier League title with thrilling 2012 tribute comeback – Stuart Brennan

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Ten years and nine days on, Manchester City won the Premier League title again, with a stunning 93:20 tribute act.

The Blues showed they have lost none of their sense of drama, and have not abandoned their excruciating capacity for putting their long-suffering supporters through the emotional wringer before three goals in five minutes – two of them from sub Ilkay Gundogan – turned the title race on its head.

With Liverpool also coming from behind to win, anything less than three points would not have sufficed and from being down among the dead men, just as they were in 2012, Pep Guardiola’s team showed incredible reserves of belief and courage to haul it back.

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That triumph made it four titles in five years for the Blues, taking them into the land of legend – in post-war English football, only Liverpool and Manchester United have achieved that level of consistency.

Of course, they did it the hard way, but that simply intensified the euphoria, as fans spilled onto the pitch after the final whistle in a joyous celebration.

Goals from Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho – the latter a member of the Liverpool team pipped by City in 2014 – looked to have set up Jurgen Klopp’s team for a dramatic last-day triumph.

With City two down, the Anfield lot only needed to win to grab the crown and keep themselves on course for an unprecedented Quadruple. They had been shocked by an early Neto goal but had fought back to lead themselves, only for City’s super subs to spark another astonishing revival.

In five mind-blowing minutes, Raheem Sterling crossed for Ilkay Gundogan to bring hope, Oleks Zinchenko teed up Rodri for a leveller and then Kevin De Bruyne – after one of his worst games of the season – drove into the box and delivered for Gundogan to pounce with the killer blow.



Guardiola had asked the City fans to play their part, and they rose to the challenge, thronging the streets to cheer the team bus all the way to the ground, and then raising the roof before kick-off, all four sides of the stadium singing their hearts out.

All it needed was a response from the players, but it simply did not happen for 70 minutes. In the first half there was no fizz in the final third, and the Blues resorted to Joao Cancelo trying speculative potshots from distance, the antithesis of Guardiola football – he had tried the more textbook slide-rule passes down the side of the Villa defense but found no runner.

The only joy came with Liverpool conceding an early goal to Wolves – news of Neto netting rippled around the Etihad and calmed a few nerves, although it had clearly come too early to be too significant.

The Blues could not afford to leave their fate in the hands of others, but they simply could not hit their groove. A De Bruyne counter-attack the length of the field was more promising but as he closed on goal, with options right and left, his feet slipped from under him.



MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 22: Rodrigo of Manchester City scores their second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at Etihad Stadium on May 22, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan / Getty Images)

The chance appeared to have gone but Gabriel Jesus retrieved the ball and slipped it to Phil Foden, whose right-footed shot was tipped round the post by stand-in keeper Robin Olsen.

Foden was a flitting menace in the first half, and when he forced a mistake from Calum Chambers, it sent Jesus bearing down on goal – he shot against his own standing foot and the ball bobbled harmlessly out for a goal kick. It was starting to look like one of those days, and that feeling deepened when Sadio Mane equalized at Anfield and then Villa struck to silence the home fans at the Etihad, eight minutes before the break.

City had some joy forcing Olsen to kick, the big keeper proving pretty useless, so Villa changed tack and Douglas Luiz – a. 12million signing from the Blues, where he never made a first-team appearance, dropped deep to pick up the ball. He drove out of defense, fed Jacob Ramsey, and suddenly the Blues were back-pedalling.

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Ramsey found Lucas Digne on the overlap and when John Stones – looking uncertain as a right-back after a return from injury – failed to stop the cross, Cash dashed across Cancelo to plant his header home.



City were out early for the second half, and Guardiola made a switch during the break, replacing Fernandinho with Oleks Zinchenko, shifting Cancelo to right back and Stones to the center.

Zinchenko set the early tempo with a mazy run into the box that almost teed up Mahrez, and then De Bruyne ballooned another chance over the bar.

Villa reminded everyone they were a threat for a killer second goal when Olsen smashed a clearance which Ollie Watkins chased down and, in a one-on-one with Ederson, bundled a great chance wide.

And that threat came good with a little over 20 minutes to go, when Watkins beat Rodri in the air and flicked on for Coutinho. He had a lot of work to do but carved inside and reversed his shot past Ederson to make it 2-0. The Villa fans were jubilant, the City fans were stunned and players in sky blue were standing around with hands on heads.

With De Bruyne mishitting passes, lifting shots over the bar and getting his angles all wrong from a 20-yard free kick that promised much, it started to become clear that it was down to Wolves to win City the title.

With 15 minutes left City finally found a way through, and it was the two subs who cracked it. Sterling stood up Digne and then beat him to the by-line with a burst of pace before delivering the perfect far-post cross for Gundogan to head home.

The belief was back. And Zinchenko, who was brilliant after his half-time introduction, engineered a second. Dancing round his full back, he showed the composure so many others had lacked, weighing up what was on offer and calmly stroking the ball to Rodri on the edge of the box – he passed it into the corner to send the ground wild.

The comeback was on – and this time the Blues did not leave it until the fourth minute of added time. In fact, the fans were still celebrating Rodri’s equalizer when the ball hit the net again.

De Bruyne had a poor game by his standard but when it mattered, he delivered. Driving hard into the box, he drilled the ball to the far post and Gundogan, who showed he is a sharp penalty box poacher last season, popped up to tap it in.

There was some tension to be lived through, as City tried to keep the ball in the corner and Villa briefly threatened at the other end, but they were not going to let this one slip.

The referee blew up, fans poured onto the pitch in an outpouring of joy and relief, and the Blues were champions again.

Guardiola became only the fourth manager in history to guide a team to four wins in five years, following Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson, Liverpool’s Bob Paisley and George Ramsay of Villa in the 1890s.

With this kind of resilience and spirit, it could be just the start.

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