MANCHESTER CITY 3, QPR 2
The 20th Barclays Premier League was settled in the most dramatic circumstances as the title went down to the last minute of added time before City emerged the victors on goal difference. City are now the fifth different club to have their name engraved on the trophy after Manchester United, Blackburn, Arsenal and Chelsea.
It’s been 44 years and two days, but the League title returned to the blue half of Manchester with virtually the last kick of the game as City fought to the very end and scored two injury time goals through Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero to snatch the title from Sir Alex Ferguson’s grasp as he waited for news from the Etihad following United’s victory at Sunderland.
Pablo Zabaleta’s first half opening goal on 39 minutes seemed a distant memory as City lost Yaya Toure to a hamstring injury shortly afterwards. Wayne Rooney put United in pole position at Sunderland and things got worse for City as QPR equalised through Djibril Cisse who capitalised on a Lescott error in the 48th minute.
Shades of Chelsea’s rearguard action at Barcelona were brought to the fore as the R’s were hit by the sending off of former City favourite Joey Barton after he struck Carlos Tevez but, instead of crumbling, QPR stood firm and Jamie Mackie took advantage of more slack City defending to put the Hoops into a 66th minute 2-1 lead.
City continued to pepper the QPR goal but the visitors had well and truly parked the bus until the five minutes of added time started and City put themselves back into the game when substitute Edin Dzeko converted a corner and Sergio Aguero finally found a gap in the visitors defence and struck the winner past Paddy Kenny.
Manager Roberto Mancini had never ever seen such a finale to a season before.
“Our supporters deserve this.” he said.
“To win like this is incredible. I have never seen a finale like this.
“Five minutes from the end I didn’t think we could win the game.
“We didn’t deserve to lose this game. We deserved to win the league.
“It’s fantastic for our fans, and the club, after 44 years.
“It was a crazy season and a crazy last two minutes.
“It was incredible for me and for all our supporters.
“We dominated this season for 28 games, but when we beat a team like United twice in one season we deserve this.”
City captain Vincent Kompany never stopped believing but he didn’t want to repeat the stunning way that City had won the title.
“Never again this way!” he smiled.
“We’ve been so good this season, we’ve been incredible.”
Asked if he though the game was up from a losing position as the game went into added time City’s captain was positive.
“We’ve done it before this season, and I never stopped believing.
“When Edin scored that goal I thought we could finish it.
“Against Spurs we scored in the last minute and we equalised against Sunderland too.
“It’s not sunk in yet, i don’t know what happened at the end – I am just so happy for the guys.
“We’re champions this season. we’ve dreamed of this all our life.
“You’ve seen how happy the fans are.”
City never do things the easy way and despite playing with two up front QPR were well marshalled and defended deep without the ball to deny space to City.
Emotions ran high at both ends as the fortunes of both sides at the Etihad fluctuated throughout the game, not least in the first half when goals for Manchester United and Bolton appeared to have dumped misfortune on both clubs at the Etihad Stadium.
It was fitting that the opening goal was scored not by one of the City’s many superstars but by an unsung hero in Pablo Zabeleta who scored his first goal of the season. The Argentine has bided his time on City’s bench for much of the season but was an integral part of Roberto Mancini’s unchanged selection in the last four games of the season with the title race reaching a historic crescendo.
The assist was provided Yaya Toure, so long a City talisman, who was struggling with a hamstring injury but had soldiered on and put the Argentine through for an effort on goal that QPR goalkeeper Paddy Kenny allowed to slither out of his grasp, loop over his head and into the back of the net off the back post.
It was a just reward for the vast possession that City had enjoyed throughout the first half. QPR had been taking lessons from the Chelsea game at the Nou Camp against Barcelona and parked the bus, reducing City to a frustrating few several chances for City to take the lead.
There was little in the way of clear cut chances for City and the tension at the Etihad only rose as news of a Wayne Rooney goal at Sunderland followed news that Stoke had taken the lead against Bolton. Cheering QPR fans and the sight of the mighty Yaya Toure laid low by what appeared to be a hamstring strain only added to a sense of fear which had begun to spread through the stadium.
City had early chances in the second half, Clichy fed Aguero from the left but the Argentine wasted his effort while Nasri sent a free kick wide.
For all their passing and movement, City seemed to be unable to find a way through the massed ranks of QPR defenders but they were stunned in the 48th minute when Joleon Lescott made a hash of a defensive back header which fell nicely for Djibril Cisse who ruthlessly levelled the scores with a rising shot that beat Hart.
QPR had limited City to a handful of half chances in the second half, Tevez and Zabaleta chances had come and gone, but the title race took another twist in the 55th minute when former City midfielder Joey Barton was sent off after he struck out at Carlos Tevez and was spotted doing so by an assistant referee.
Mike Dean had no alternative but to send him off after a discussion with his assistant while Barton later claimed that Tevez was the instigator in the confrontation but that was of scant consolation to his manager Mark Hughes who saw Barton further blot his copybook by kicking at Sergio Aguero as he stalked off the pitch – a move which is bound to bring him an extended ban.
With no alternative for QPR but to park the bus now, City still managed to create chances against the depleted R’s. Sergio Aguero forced a save from Paddy Kenny on the line but City fans were stunned during a rare QPR counter attack when substitute Armand Traore’s run and left wing cross found Jamie Mackie unmarked at the far post and his header beat Joe Hart and silenced the Etihad Stadium.
To their credit, despite staring an ignominious defeat in the face City continued to carve out chances. Carlos Tevez, and substitute Edin Dzeko, went close as the clock ticked down. A minority of fans seemed to be leaving in tears as the game went into five minutes of added time, unable to face the prospect of throwing it all away, but Dzeko popped up in the 92nd minute with a header from David Silva’s corner to re-awaken the Etihad and two minutes later substitute Mario Balotelli’s pass found Sergio Aguero who carved a hole in QPR’s defence to finish off the title race himself and send both sets of fans into raptures – Stoke’s second half equaliser had earlier condemned Bolton to relegation ensuring there would be no glum faces at the Etihad.