Manchester City claims second Premier League title in three years
Manchester City won the Barclays Premier League title on Sunday afternoon, downing West Ham 2-0 to secure their second title in just three seasons. Samir Nasri and Vincent Kompany both found the back of the net for the Citizens, while 45 minutes to the east, challengers Liverpool recovered to beat Newcastle 2-1 -- but it was too little too late.
City had spent just 14 days atop the Premier League coming into Sunday's match, but had ben hotly tipped to take the crown from the start of the year.
"It's an amazing feeling. My second title in three years," a joyful Nasri said after the match. "It was an amazing league the whole year. There are no words to explain the feeling now."
What happened in between was the closest title race in memory, with Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and City all laying claim to being England's best. Arsenal's title charge hit the skids two months ago as they cracked under some heavy losses. Chelsea were stunned by both West Brom and Sunderland and then simply ran out of juice as the UEFA Champions League games too their toll.
And then, there was Liverpool, who for a good two months looked like they would final raise their first ever Premier League title. One of the greatest and most successful teams in England, they have tasted European success in the modern era, but ever since the reformation of the old First Division, have been eclipsed. Sentimentalists hoped this would be the year they could do, not least because it is also the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. And with one of the most potent attacking tridents in the game, this year's Reds displayed some of the flair and style that had long been lacking on Merseyside.
It was not to be: first Chelsea shocked them at Anfield with a damaging 2-0 loss; then came the night that fans will call "Crystalbull" for years to come. Up 3-0 at Selhurst Park, wee Crystal Palace fought all the way back to a 3-3 draw thanks to a brace from Dwight Gayle -- and with that, the Reds' dream was dead. City took care of business this past Wednesday against Aston Villa and Sunday had a feel of the inevitable about it.
There were some with nerves, and why not? City have had a habit for drama on the final day of the season. There was the time they played for a 2-2 draw under Alan Ball only to discover too late that the result actually relegated them. Whoops. There was the time Robbie Fowler missed a late penalty that saw City denied a slot in the UEFA Cup. And there was the time that QPR were beating Manchester City 2-1 in stoppage -- before Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero scored twice to give City their first top-flight title in 44 years.
There was no such excitement as Liverpool's bumbling took the pressure off City -- who only needed a draw at kickoff -- after just 20 minutes. Martin Skrtel opened the scoring for Liverpool -- but at the wrong end. Yoan Gouffran sizzled in a cross from the left flank and the league's highest-scoring defender inexplicably stuck a boot out and sliced the ball past his own keeper. He walked back up the pitch, stunned; his manager, Brendan Rodgers, simply stood on the sideline, shaking his head.
As news filtered back to the Etihad, City, playing the same sort of patient football seen midweek against Villa, simply ratcheted up the pressure, and when Nasri scored, it broke the dam. Yaya Toure slipped the ball to his left to create a yard of space and the Frenchman slammed the ball right to left through keeper Adrian and inside the far post. Kompany added the second early just after the break when Dzeko knocked down a corner for him and Andy Carroll's dive to clear it missed, giving the Belgian defender a clear look on net from a yard out.
Liverpool would recover from their early mishap, scoring twice in two minutes behind two free kicks flighted in by captain Steven Gerrard. Daniel Agger tipped in the first one at the far post, while Daniel Sturridge was able to redirect the second. Newcastle's capitulation was complete when Shola Ameobi, possibly playing his final game for the Tynesiders, was sent off for dissent in ignominious fashion. Paul Dummett was then sent off for a vicious tackle on Luis Suarez to reduce Newcastle to nine men and heap more pressure on manager Alan Pardew.
Elsewhere, Tottenham locked up the final Europa League spot on Sunday with a comfortable 3-0 rout of Aston Villa, a result that also ensured that Manchester United will miss out on European soccer for the first time in 25 years. The Red Devils had a slim chance of making the Europa League, but goals from Paulinho and Emmanuel Adebayor -- combined with an own goal from Nathan Baker, put paid to that idea quickly.
And, Norwich's relegation was also confirmed with their 0-2 loss to Arsenal. Realistically out of the league before the ball was kicked, the Canaries stunk out the house against Arsenal, with Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson scoring in quickfire fashion.