Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City retained the Premier League title in the most dramatic of fashion as they hauled themselves back from 2-0 down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 with three goals in the final 15 minutes on Sunday.
Ilkay Gundogan came off the bench to score twice with Rodri also on target as Pep Guardiola’s men held off Liverpool’s title charge to win the league by a point.
In scenes reminiscent of the first of City’s now six league titles in 11 seasons when Sergio Aguero scored a 93rd minute winner to deny Manchester United the title on goal difference, the champions produced a remarkable comeback at the Etihad.
Goals from Matty Cash and former Liverpool favourite Philippe Coutinho looked set to gift the Reds the title.
Jurgen Klopp’s men did their job by also coming from a goal down to beat Wolves 3-1 at Anfield, but City’s rescue act ensured Liverpool’s bid for an unprecedented quadruple is over.
Gundogan started the comeback as he headed in Raheem Sterling’s cross at the back post.
Rodri then side-footed home from outside the box and Gundogan completed the fightback by tapping home Kevin De Bruyne’s cross at the back post.
Guardiola said before the game he wanted no repeat of Aguero’s legendary late strike a decade ago.
But the Catalan was the most relieved man in Manchester as he sealed the 10th league title of his coaching career in just 13 seasons.
Fans swarmed onto the pitch to celebrate at full-time and the crossbar at the goal where City scored their goals was snapped under the weight of supporters sitting on it.
The atmosphere was very different inside the Etihad 15 minutes from time when they appeared to have handed the title on a plate to Liverpool.
– ‘An unlikely source’ –
Guardiola’s decision to start with 37-year-old Fernandinho at centre-back in his final appearance for the club and John Stones out of position at right-back backfired for the opening goal on 37 minutes.
Lucas Digne sped past Stones and hung up a cross for Cash to head in powerfully at the back post.
Ollie Watkins then overran a big chance to double Villa’s lead as Fernandinho was caught under a simple ball over the top.
Guardiola realised the error of his ways at the break as Fernandinho was hauled off for Oleksandr Zinchenko.
City were instantly a more potent attacking threat as Gabriel Jesus fired over Joao Cancelo’s dangerous cross with the goal gaping.
However, they were again grateful to Watkins” wastefulness 10 minutes into the second-half as he burst clear on goal and dragged wide with just Ederson to beat.
Coutinho was not so generous with a stunning control and finish to seemingly hand his former employers the title.
The Brazilian’s £142 million ($177 million) move from Liverpool to Barcelona in 2018 helped fund the team that under Klopp could still win a treble of cup competitions this season if they beat Real Madrid in next weekend’s Champions League final.
However, they remain one top-flight English league title behind Manchester United’s record of 20 thanks to a remarkable rally from the blue half of Manchester.
Guardiola’s other two substitutes combined to give the home fans and team hope when Gundogan headed in Sterling’s cross.
Rodri has become an unlikely source of crucial goals this season and the Spanish international stroked home his most important yet two minutes later.
A winner then seemed inevitable as Villa buckled under wave upon wave of City attack.
It duly arrived nine minutes from the end as De Bruyne drove to the by-line and flashed the ball across goal for Gundogan to apply the finishing touch.
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