Sergio Aguero fires past Paddy Kenny to secure Manchester City‘s first title in 44 years. (Image | The Guardian)

The ultimate round of matches of the 2011-2012 Premier League season had more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. In this vein, footballing clichés were wheeled out by the bucket load. At Manchester City, it really was a game of two halves, as the league leaders thoroughly pummelled the Queens Park Rangers defence, peppering shots at Paddy Kenny and any other body the R’s could get in the way. 44 of them, in fact. With Manchester United maintaining a 1-0 lead over Sunderland for the majority of the game at the Stadium of Light, all eyes were on the Etihad Stadium. Pablo Zabaleta set the Citizens on their way just before half-time, at almost exactly the same point as Bolton Wanderers completed their turnaround against Stoke City to take a 2-1 lead. QPR were relegated, Bolton were staying up, and City had a hand on the trophy. Surely this would be it from Mark Hughes’ ultra-defensive side?

How wrong we were. Shortly after the break, Joleon Lescott inexplicably headed into the path of the onrushing Djibril Cissé, who slammed the ball past Joe Hart to stun the Etihad and see QPR draw level. City were shaken, understandably so, but they appeared to have been given the lifeline of all lifelines when Joey Barton lost his head and blatantly elbowed Carlos Tévez on the edge of the box. The R’s skipper saw red, deservedly, and proved the extent of his despicable ill-discipline by following up his earlier offence with a kick out at Sergio Agüero. However, with the script written for Roberto Mancini’s men to saunter to a 5-1 hammering of Rangers, Traoré (a replacement for Cissé) broke down the left, and swung in a magnificent ball, which was met powerfully by Jamie Mackie to hand QPR the lead. It was the winger’s sixth goal of the season, and showed how far the Scottish international has come since playing for Exeter City in non-league football just four years ago.

As the clock wound down, some City supporters left the stadium in a shocking display of negativity, but as the board indicating five minutes of added time was held up it appeared as though they had made the right decision. However, as with the rest of the day, nobody predicted what came next. The whistles went in Sunderland and at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke, meaning that City had to win or United were champions, and QPR were already safe. Injury time began with Hughes and his coaching staff celebrating on the sidelines, and first Edin Dzeko scored his 16th goal of the season, heading past Kenny, who had been outstanding all game, before Agüero broke through the Rangers wall and lashed the ball home, sending the entire stadium into euphoria. Manchester City thoroughly deserved their win, after such an incredible comeback, and it is fair to say that the expensively-assembled side has been the best in the Premier League all year. From Vincent Kompany, to Sergio Agüero, to Yaya Toure, these players earned their glory. But spare a thought for QPR. Hughes’ boys, with 10 men on the pitch against 11 multi-million pound superstars, they very nearly became the only team to win at the Etihad all season.

A second successive 2-2 draw for Bolton Wanderers condemned them to Championship football next year after a disappointing afternoon at the Britannia. (Image | Caught Offside)

So, the balance shifted from one side of Manchester to the other, and in the process, “moneybags” QPR were safe and Bolton Wanderers sadly went down. One has to feel for Owen Coyle and his charges, particularly given the trauma they experienced with Fabrice Muamba so close to the end of the season. Twitter almost exploded with “I can’t believe it” and other such clichés and exclamations, but it has to be said that on paper, if you knew nothing of how the results came about, they would not have been surprising in the slightest. Rangers were always going to lose in Manchester, United were certain winners, and Bolton securing all three points at the Britannia, where Stoke do undoubtedly rule supreme, was always somewhat unlikely.

In other news, which has been almost entirely glossed over by the national media amid the media storm of those last five minutes, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur finished in the final Champions League places, the former coming through after being stunned by West Bromwich Albion in Roy Hodgson’s last game in charge. Newcastle United fell just short, losing 3-1 to Everton, who ended another impressive year on a high. David Moyes has once again illustrated just how silently competent and understatedly impressive he really is, having re-signed Steven Pienaar (who scored today), snapped up Nikica Jelavić for a bargain £6m, and ended the season above city rivals Liverpool, having spent around a tenth of their outlay in doing so.

Jamie Mackie silenced the entire Etihad, bar the jubilant QPR supporters, when he powered a header past Joe Hart mid-way through the second half. (Image | London 24)

Anyone who witnessed this special day will never forget it. From Joey Barton’s sending off, West Bromwich Albion going 2-1 up with nothing to play for, City’s last-gasp triumph, Mackie stunning the sky blue masses, and those final few minutes, it truly summed up why we spend so many hours watching Wigan-Wolverhampton Wanderers (which proved to be an absolute classic, finishing 3-2): it is for moments such as Agüero’s winner. On 606, that eminent barometer of the nation’s footballing opinion, it was suggested that Sir Alex Ferguson should step aside, as the tide has clearly turned against Manchester United. While it is hard to disagree with the second assertion, as City’s endless resources mean their spending will not simply “dry up” at any point, Fergie will be back, and so will United. The Scot builds teams, Mancini has bought one. It is an incredible outfit, but outlay of £1bn means that success must follow, and anyone who truly believes the Italian wouldn’t have been sacked had City failed to secure the title needs a reality check, and fast.

Back to Football

Follow The Armchair Pundits on Twitter (@armchairpundit2) or “like” our Facebook page for new articles and exclusive content.

Advertisements