Heading into the final day of the Premier League season, everyone thought it would be plain sailing for Manchester City to secure their fourth title in five seasons. Yes, they were up against Aston Villa, managed by Liverpool legend and supporter Steven Gerrard, but you expected them to get the job done on home soil. And they did. But not without a couple of hiccups along the way.
With all the final day games kicking off at the same time, Liverpool fans at Anfield, who were watching their team take on Wolves, were keeping across events at the Etihad, knowing that their team also had to keep to their end of the bargain by beating Bruno Lage’s men. So, after an early mistake by Ibrahima Konate allowed Raul Jimenez in behind, with the Mexican duly playing in Pedro Neto to fire home, things weren’t necessarily going to plan.
And then, the unthinkable happened, to sink the hearts of both City and Liverpool fans. Villa took the lead via a well-worked move which saw Matty Cash plant a header out of Ederson’s reach. At this point, the title was Liverpool’s to win. But they had only just levelled things up at Anfield through a near-post Sadio Mane finish. Jurgen Klopp’s side needed to find another goal, or the title would remain in Manchester.
The drama really started to unfold after the break. Villa, unexpectedly, added to their 1-0 lead through former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho on 69 minutes. It looked as though it wasn’t going to be City’s day and opened the door for Liverpool to pull off what many thought was unachievable. But Klopp’s men were still hunting that much-needed winning goal, and time was running out.
By the time Liverpool found the breakthrough, which was yet another goal from Mo Salah, who went on to share the Premier League Golden Boot with Heung-Min Son of Spurs, Man City hadn’t only got themselves back into the game at the Etihad, they were leading 3-2, after strikes from Ilkay Gundogan (2) and Rodri. It was an unbelievable turnaround from Pep Guardiola’s side, who didn’t look like they were at the races for large parts of the game.
Guardiola’s decision to bring on Oleksandr Zinchenko at halftime and then Raheem Sterling and Gundogan slightly later made the difference. Sterling set up Gundogan’s first goal before Zinchenko was on hand to tee up Rodri, who struck from long range to draw City level. And then, Gundogan proved to be the hero when he finished from close range in a moment that could rival the iconic Aguero scenes.
While Liverpool, albeit belatedly, stuck to their end of the bargain, with Andrew Robertson adding to the scoreline late on to secure a 3-1 victory, the title never left Manchester. City were always sat atop the Premier League, even when they were 2-0 down, and all hope looked lost. It was neck and neck all the way, but City’s quality and determination won out.