With Manchester City's dream
dying in the embers of an exhilarating Premier League season
Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero wrote themselves into club folklore
with stoppage-time goals to seal a breath-taking 3-2 victory
over Queen Park Rangers on Sunday and snatch their first title
for 44 years.
In a tension-wracked climax to one of the most dramatic
title battles for decades, City looked doomed to failure when
trailing 2-1 to relegation-haunted QPR while illustrious
neighbours Manchester United were closing in on a 1-0 win at
Sunderland and a 20th championship.
Wayne Rooney's header seemed to have clinched a 13th Premier
League crown for United manager Sir Alex Ferguson but Dzeko
equalised for City in the second minute of the five added on at
the Etihad and Aguero struck gold.
The full-time whistle had blown at Sunderland but in
Manchester, with barely 60 seconds to play in the 380th match of
the Premier League's 20th season, the Argentine burst into the
area to lash his 23rd goal of the campaign and spark ecstatic
scenes on the pitch, the stands and everywhere else in the Sky
Blue half of the football-mad city.
It was the 1,066th goal of the season, a Premier League
record, and City's 93rd, a telling statistic as they edged out
United on goal difference alone.
With the Manchester sides finishing on 89 points, it was the
first time the English title had been settled on goal difference
and the first occasion the top two had finished level on points
since Arsenal and Liverpool had to be separated by goals scored
in the 1988/89 season.
City's nostalgic "Blue Moon" anthem had seemed more
appropriate, however, when QPR, who still avoided relegation
thanks to Bolton Wanderers' draw at Stoke City, struck through
Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie after the break to stun the hosts
who had led at halftime through Pablo Zabaleta's goal.
With QPR, reduced to 10 men after former City midfielder
Joey Barton elbowed Carlos Tevez, defending like men possessed,
there was desperation on the pitch and the technical area while
some City fans were already wiping tears off their cheeks.
Substitute Dzeko restored hope, however, and Aguero, one of
the mega-rich club's best signings since Abu Dhabi's Mansour bin
Zayed Al Nahyan began pumping hundreds of millions of pounds
into the transfer kitty, made the dream a reality.
"Five minutes from the end I did not think we could win this
game. We wanted this title and we deserved to win this
championship," City manager Roberto Mancini told Sky Sports
before going off to hold the trophy aloft.
"After 44 years I dedicate this to all our supporters. It's
an incredible moment. I thought we could get to 2-2 and hope
Sunderland could draw. It's been a crazy season."
Captain and central defensive rock Vincent Kompany, a six
million pounds bargain among the half a billion
pounds worth of players signed since the Abu Dhabi takeover in
2008, shared the feelings of most of the 48,000 fans present.
"I want to say it is the best moment of my life but if I'm
honest then I would say please never again this way," he said.
"Did I give up? No, I never stopped believing. When Edin
Dzeko scored to make it 2-2, it reminded me of our late goals
against Tottenham and Sunderland."
While City savoured being top dogs in England for the first
time since 1968, United were left to contemplate their first
trophy-less season since 2004/05.
Away from the euphoria of Manchester there was heartbreak
for Bolton Wanderers who drew 2-2 at Stoke City and were
relegated with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers.
Victory would have earned them another season in the top
flight but instead QPR survived to make sure all last season's
promoted sides live to fight another campaign amongst the elite.
Arsenal claimed third spot and a Champions League place with
a 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion. Tottenham Hotspur were fourth
after a 2-0 win at home to Fulham and Newcastle United ended
fifth after losing 3-1 at Everton.
Tottenham face an anxious wait to see if they get another
crack at Champions League football as victory for Chelsea in
this year's final against Bayern Munich would mean they take a
spot in next season's competition at Tottenham's expense.
With 17 wins and a draw from their previous 18 league
matches at their Etihad Stadium fortress, the victory City required to
seal the title, barring a United goal avalanche at Sunderland,
over relegation-haunted QPR appeared a formality.
Then again, the Premier League has delivered twists galore
over the past nine months and the final day was no exception.
News of Rooney's goal at Sunderland added to an already
tense atmosphere at the Etihad and the relief was palpable when
Zabaleta's shot beat Kenny after 38 minutes.
The City fans' joy turned to horror after the break, though,
as Joleon Lescott's mistake allowed Cisse to equalise before
Mackie put the visitors ahead either side of Barton's act of
madness which could land him a lengthy ban.
As City laid siege to the QPR goal only to be denied by
Kenny's heroics and frantic defending, "City throw it away"
headlines loomed while visiting boss Mark Hughes, sacked by City
to make way for Mancini in 2009, looked set for the last laugh.
Then, with time appearing to stop, City turned the football
world on its axis in thrilling style, moving out of the shadow
of their mighty neighbours and completing a transformation from
eccentic also-rans to kings of English football.
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