Man City wins Premier League title in dramatic fashion
Editor’s note: Due to a graduation ceremony I attended and Mother’s Day, I had to watch a recording of the Manchester City vs. QPR game late last night, which is why this story came out one day later.
Manchester City hadn’t won a Premier League title since 1968. It’s cross-town rivals, Manchester United, have won 12 titles in the past 20 years. This year’s title was between the two Manchester teams; they were tied at 86 points apiece, but City had an eight goal lead, which means with a win, City would hold the title. And yesterday, as the final games of the season were played, Manchester United hoped that City would falter as it had earlier in the season.
Man City, the team with the best home record, played Queens Park Rangers, the team with the worst away record, at the Etihad Stadium. Man City was the clear favorite; QPR was fighting to stay out of the bottom three to avoid relegation. If Man City won, they would win the title; if Man City tied with QPR and Manchester United lost or tied its game, Man City would win; but a loss would guarantee ManU another league title.
Man City held most of the possession for the first half. The team used its quick foot work and intricate passing to attack QPR around the box. QPR’s clear tactic was to play a defensive game. After nearly a whole half of wearing QPR down, Man City defender Pablo Zabaleta struck the ball at QPR goal keeper Patrick Kenny. It was an easy stop that should have been caught or pushed over the top of the goal, but instead Kenny popped the ball over his head and into his goal. Man City took a 1-0 lead into half time.
At the start of the second half, Man City was pounding QPR again, but a miscue by Man City defender left the ball in the path of QPR forward Djibril Cisse, who put the ball in past goalkeeper Joe Hart in the 48th minute. QPR was fighting to avoid relegation and putting up a fight. The game continued in dramatic fashion. In the 55th minute, QPR midfielder Joey Barton elbowed Carlos Tevez in the face after the two were fighting for position. The referee presented Barton with a red card, and in the scuffle following the card, Barton kneed Man City striker Sergio Aguero in the back. Barton has since been charged with two acts of violent conduct.
The red card was a blessing for Man City, who now only needed one goal to win the title. QPR substituted defender Armand Traore in for striker Cisse to protect the tie. Again Man City attacked the QPR goal trying to find an opening or final ball that would lead to that final goal. But QPR struck again in the 66th minute on a header from Jamie Mackie. Now Man City found themselves in a hole: they needed two goals to win the game, and ManU was beating Sutherland 1-0 in a game that it had complete control of.
In the 90th minute, QPR still lead the game 2-1. The title was slipping away from Man City, and you could see it on their faces. Manager Roberto Mancini was yelling on the sidelines, and the Man City players were sending desperate crosses into the box. The ManU game had ended and the title was almost theirs. But City would not be foiled. In the 92nd minute, Edin Dzeko headed the ball off a corner kick to tie the game at 2-2. Two minutes later, in a final act of desperation, striker Mario Balotelli fought to get a pass to striker Aguero who had been quiet most of the game. Aguero pushed the ball past the defense and struck a ball low under the reach of goalkeeper Kenny.
It was a stunning finish, reminiscent of the game against Sunderland in March, in which Man City scored two goals in stoppage time to tie the game and keep Man City in the title hunt. A shocked ManU team saw the title slip through their fingers because of the goal differential. It was a glorious win for Man City, who played like a championship caliber team for a majority of the season. It was Man City’s first title in 44 years – recognition for the hard work Man City had put in all season – and a message to the other teams that Man City was on top.