Manchester, United Kingdom
Manchester City produced a simply stunning comeback to beat Aston Villa 3-2 to win the English Premier League on Sunday.
The host knew a victory on the final day of the season would guarantee the title and, despite losing 2-0, he scored three goals in five second-half minutes to send the Etihad Stadium into delirium.
Fans, many of whom had their heads in their hands for much of the game, ran onto the pitch full time to celebrate winning a title race like no other.
As the players raced towards the tunnel, City fans danced onto the pitch and even beat one of the goals as renditions of the club’s famous anthem, Blue Moon, filled the air.
As the season drew to a close, City manager Pep Guardiola said “the hardest serve in tennis is the one you have to serve to be champions”.
It was an analogy that couldn’t have been more apt on a rollercoaster afternoon in Manchester.
Goals from Matty Cash and former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho seemed to have stolen the title from City, but Guardiola has assembled a very special team.
While many teams may have withered under the pressure, City kept pushing and got their reward – with two goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri securing a fourth league title in five years.
It’s a feat made all the more impressive by the quality of Liverpool, who have fought tooth and nail with City throughout the season.
The victory comes ten years after Sergio Aguero opened the floodgates to a decade of success at Manchester City, scoring a last-minute goal on the final day of the season to lift his side’s league title.
And, minus a goal in the dying seconds, that title win was almost as spectacular, with fans witnessing the full spectrum of emotion.
Fans seemed confident their side were replicating such success before kick-off with chants of Liverpool’s defeat and City’s title win filling the air around the stadium
There was a party vibe to boot, with DJs encouraging supporters to sing the club’s signature anthems – Blue Moon and Oasis in particular – as they made their way to their seats.
But at the start of the match, the excitement turned to nerves as the home fans grew restless every time Aston Villa took advantage of a possession pass.
Anxiety temporarily eased as news of Liverpool’s backlog against Wolves reverberated on the pitch, but gained momentum as City, notably Gabriel Jesus, squandered a few early chances and Liverpool equalized.
That frustration turned to anger as Villa netted twice with plenty of bruises looking skyward for some sort of intervention.
The title that so many expected City to win was slipping away.
But it’s not like this City side went down without a fight and they took matters into their own hands.
Belief grew after Gundogan scored first and, in the blink of an eye, Rodri had leveled the scores. As fans continue to celebrate, Gundogan struck again to cap off one of the most chaotic spells in Premier League history.
There was an added element of drama to Sunday’s game, with City’s opponents having certain allegiances to their title rivals.
Villa manager Steven Gerrard is a Liverpool legend but failed to win the league title during his tenure at the club.
He came close, of course, but his infamous slip seven years ago contributed to his team throwing away the title that season.
Fast forward to now and the script was almost too perfect from Liverpool’s perspective.
Knowing he needed to get something out of the game to help his boyhood club leapfrog City, Gerrard stalked the Etihad touchlines like a double agent sent from Anfield.
He barked instructions at ex-Liverpool player Coutinho who was looking to probe City’s defense and deliver a gift to his former club.
Gerrard kicked every ball from the touchline as his players fought resolutely against the mounting pressure from City.
Eventually Villa’s defense buckled and the floodgates opened.