Football: Man City fight back to beat Villa and win Premier League title in electrifying late second half
- Manchester City won their fourth Premier League title in five years, beating Aston Villa with three goals in five minutes late in the second half
- Aston Villa goalkeeper attacked as celebrating Manchester City fans invade pitch
Pep Guardiola hailed his Manchester City stars as legends after securing a fourth Premier League title in five years on Sunday in dramatic fashion.
Needing to win to hold off Liverpool’s title charge, Guardiola’s men trailed Aston Villa 2-0 until the 76th minute before Ilkay Gundogan came off the bench to score twice either side of Rodri’s strike.
“These guys are legends. When you win in this country four times in five years, it is because these guys are so special. They will be remembered forever,” said Guardiola.
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.
“The magnitude of our achievement is the magnitude of our rival,” added Guardiola, after sealing his 10th league title in 13 seasons as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City boss.
“Liverpool make us stronger.
“At 2-0 down we thought we need one goal because with our people and momentum we could do it.”
City’s joy was also marred by ugly scenes when fans flooded onto the pitch at full-time, injuring Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
“Manchester City would like to sincerely apologise to Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen, who was assaulted after the final whistle at today’s match when fans entered the pitch,” City said in a statement.
“The Club has launched an immediate investigation and once identified, the individual responsible will be issued with an indefinite stadium ban.”
The crossbar at the goal where City scored their goals was snapped under the weight of supporters celebrating.
However, 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.
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.
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 grateful to Ollie 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 21 minutes from time.
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.
City were far from their fluent best, lacking finesse as they piled on the pressure in search of a leveller but rarely troubling Villa keeper Robin Olsen.
The edgy mood among the home fans turned to desperation after Philippe Coutinho then doubled the lead for Villa with a goal of pure simplicity.
Ollie Watkins headed on from a long Olsen goal kick, and the former Liverpool midfielder Coutinho produced a brilliant first touch to cut inside and then drilled the ball into the bottom corner.
Liverpool were level with Wolves at the time of Coutinho’s goal, but City knew that a goal for Juergen Klopp’s side could now take the title away from them.
But then came the City comeback blitz that sealed the title regardless of events at Anfield.
Two substitutes combined for the first, with Ilkay Gundogan heading in a Raheem Sterling cross at the back post in the 76th minute.
Half-time substitute Oleksandr Zinchenko, on the left flank, then showed composure to pull back to Rodri, and the Spaniard delivered a pinpoint finish – side-footing into the bottom corner from 20 metres out.
The title-winning goal came in the 81st minute when De Bruyne whipped in a low cross to Gundogan, who tapped in from close range, sending the crowd into rapturous delight.
Other outcomes from the final day of the Premier League season:
— Tottenham clinched the fourth and final Champions League place by beating Norwich 5-0.
— Arsenal missed out on the Champions League despite beating Everton 5-1 but qualified for the Europa League.
— Manchester United qualified for the Europa League despite losing its final match of the season 1-0 to Crystal Palace.
— West Ham qualified for the Europa Conference League after losing 3-1 to Brighton.
— Burnley was the final team to be relegated, with its six-season top-flight stint ending with a 2-1 loss to Newcastle
— Leeds stayed in the Premier League after beating Brentford 2-1.