Man City 3-2 Aston Villa: Premier League title won in dramatic fashion as City come from two down to win late on
Manchester City retained their Premier League in extraordinary circumstances after coming from two goals down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium.
Three goals in five minutes late in the game turned the match – and the title race – on its head as substitute Ilkay Gundogan scored two, either side of Rodri’s strike. Liverpool’s late win over Wolves meant that only victory would have been enough for City.
It was an extraordinary way to do it, almost as remarkable in its own way as events a decade ago when Sergio Aguero won the title in stoppage-time. City had looked a beaten side when Philippe Coutinho added to Matty Cash’s opener midway through the second half.
Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard was set to add to his Anfield legend. Instead, amid a raucous atmosphere at the Etihad, it was Pep Guardiola and his players celebrating ecstatically upon the final whistle. Twists and turns had been expected. But surely not this.
How Man City sealed the title in astonishing fashion
There had been nerves beforehand, of course, memories still fresh of the final-day drama against Queens Park Rangers one decade ago when the routine win required turned out to be anything but. And so it proved again on a day that confounded expectations.
The first news was positive for City as Wolves took an early lead at Anfield where Liverpool needed victory to snaffle top spot from City’s grasp. It sparked wild celebrations, adding to an already raucous atmosphere. But the home side simply forgot to play.
They mustered only one shot on target in the first half and were punished by a slick Villa move that was started by Jacob Ramsey and finished by the head of Cash, with Lucas Digne providing the left-wing cross that left much of the Etihad Stadium in stunned silence.
The anxiety in the stands was palpable thereafter and the response from City did not come immediately – Ollie Watkins and Coutinho having presentable opportunities to double the advantage. With Liverpool having equalised the title was in the balance.
The introduction of Oleksandr Zinchenko for Fernandinho helped City look more fluid in the second half and the impetus was with them from the outset but the chances were missed. Kevin De Bruyne blazed over. Gabriel Jesus spooned his shot when just yards out.
The clock was ticking, the tension rising. And then came the sucker punch. A long ball and a moment of magic from Coutinho, dragging the ball one way and then reversing the shot beyond his compatriot Ederson to leave everyone in shock. City were bereft.
Remarkably, with Wolves still holding Liverpool, they were still on course to be champions on goal difference but that was not the mood at the Etihad until Gundogan altered the atmosphere in an instant. The substitute headed in and the game turned.
With Villa rocking now, the ball fell to Rodri on the edge of the box and he passed the ball into net from distance to draw level. Suddenly, it was one goal required to render events at Anfield redundant and the momentum felt irresistible once more.
De Bruyne found space in the right channel and his low cross found that man Gundogan at the far post to send the supporters at the Etihad Stadium into ecstasy. It was an inspired final substitution by Guardiola with Jack Grealish left on the bench.
It changed the game. It changed the title race.
Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson’s late goals for Liverpool meant that was still no margin for error but City were not going to make the same mistake, shutting down the game sensibly for the remaining moments as the relief began to pour down from the stands.
The supporters followed, rushing the pitch upon the final whistle. Another unforgettable afternoon for the supporters of a club that only seems to do dramatic.