Manchester City: The five games that won them the title
It may have taken 44 years, almost a billion pound and five minutes of injury time against QPR to get here, but Manchester City are champions of England once again. Roberto Mancini’s men wrote themselves into City folklore with their dramatic 3-2 win over the Rs on Sunday to clinch the title from their city rivals Manchester United.
Manchester City played the best football, had the best players and deservedly won the title, but here are the five games that ultimately won it.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 MANCHESTER CITY 5 August 28, 2011
Manchester City threw down the gauntlet to Manchester United with this polished performance at White Hart Lane. Spurs were expected to give City a tough game but Harry Redknapp’s men just couldn’t deal with Edin Dzeko and co. The Bosnian joined the Premier League’s Four-midable club with an awesome display in front of goal. Sergio Aguero also got in on the act, firing home from an acute angle. City were going to take some beating.
Manchester United 1 MANCHESTER CITY 6 October 23 2011
Some people thought the Spurs result could never be bettered, but City had something extra special up their sleeves. They visited Old Trafford as title contenders but left as title certainties. Before the game it had been reported that madcap Mario Balotelli had been involved in a fire after setting off fireworks in his bathroom. Typically it was the Italian who struck first in the derby. He stroked the ball home with a sublime right footed side pass into the bottom of De Gea’s goal. He then lifted his T-shirt above his head to reveal the now infamous slogan “Why always me?” Balotelli added a second after half-time following Jonny Evans’ red card and the flood gates were to open. Aguero converted from a Richards’ cross to make it three before Dzeko made it four. The silky Spaniard made it five by megging De Gea and Dzeko capped an unbelievable afternoon with a sixth. October 23, 2011, is the day Sir Alex Ferguson and rest of the football started to take City’s title threat seriously.
MANCHESTER CITY 3 Tottenham Hotspur 2 January 22, 2012
Following their mauling at the Lane earlier in the season Harry Redknapp had revenge on his mind. However, he had to do something that nobody else had managed so far, leave the Etihad with a result. City were unbeatable at home and after a cagey first-half City went ahead with former Arsenal playmaker Samir Nasri breaking the deadlock. It wasn’t long before they were two up as Joleon Lescott bundled home from a corner. But Spurs, who had responded well following that drubbing by City, fought back immediately. Jermain Defoe latched on to a stray defensive header to round Joe Hart to reduce the deficit and Gareth Bale got them back on level terms, just nine minutes after City had opened the scoring, with a wonder strike from outside the area. The game had burst into life and both teams strived for the win. Spurs had a great chance of completing an amazing comeback. Gareth Bale charged down the left and stroked the ball across the six-yard area, waiting for someone to tap it in. Unfortunately it was Defoe in the box and his short legs just couldn’t get a sweet enough connection. From almost losing the game, City went right up the other end and Balotelli, who was earlier involved in an incident with Scott Parker, won a penalty and coolly slotted home to seal the win. The dramatic result kept City three points clear of United.
MANCHESTER CITY 2 Chelsea 1 March 21, 2012
Following an unbelievable run of form by Manchester United, combined with a dip in form caused by suspensions to key players and Yaya Toure’s involvement in the African Cup of Nations, City went into this crunch game with Chelsea behind United in the title race. Roberto Mancini had to win this game to keep the pressure on the champions. City started well, Nasri rattled the cross bar, Balotelli shot wide and Aguero just missed out with a cheeky attempt from close range, but it was Chelsea who took the lead through Gary Cahill thanks to a wicked deflection. However, City turned up the gas and Mancini risked the wrath of hell by bringing Carlos Tevez back to the fold. But it worked. Within minutes City had won a penalty which was clinically taken by Aguero. With 12 minutes left to play, Tevez showed the City fans what they had been missing with a neat one-two with Samir Nasri who clipped the ball over Cech to send the home fans wild and put City just a point behind the leaders.
MANCHESTER CITY 3 Sunderland 3 March 31, 2012
When Sunderland visited the Etihad not too many people expected to see six goals, especially not three from the Black Cats. Martin O’Neill had turned the visitors around though and they went to Manchester with no fear. Despite City’s 100 per cent winning record at home, Sunderland arrived with a point to prove and boy did they do that. Seb Larsson put the visitors ahead with a cool finish from outside the area but City got back on level terms with a disputed penalty, coolly dispatched by Balotelli. But Sunderland weren’t going away. Nicklas Bendtner put them back in front with a far post header and they went 3-1 up moments later as the Great Dane nudged home from close range. City’s title hopes were fading fast. The home fans were despondent but the players continued to try and find a way through the brick wall. The much criticised Balotelli pulled one back before Kolarov fired one into the bottom corner. That point, went it could have been so easy to drop their heads and lose, proved to be vital. It kept City two points behind Manchester United, who also had a game in hand.
MANCHESTER CITY 1 Manchester United 0 April 30, 2012
Following a shock defeat to Wigan Athletic and surrendering a 4-2 lead at home to Everton with just 10 minutes to go, United had handed back the initiative to Manchester City. Because of their superior goal difference, City knew that if they beat United at the Etihad the title was in their own destiny. In arguably the biggest Manchester derby of all time, City took the lead right on the stroke of half-time with a bullet header from Vincent Kompany. In a game that remarkably saw United fail to register a single shot on target, City should have wrapped it up with Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri missing golden opportunities to extend their lead. In the end the one goal was enough. City were back on top on goal difference and not even the stubbornness of Newcastle United at St James’ Park could stop City from wrapping up the title.