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A title decider contested in January. The stakes could not have been higher.
Anything less than a victory would leave City’s hopes of a second successive league crown hanging by a thread with Liverpool poised to open up a TEN-point gap over the reigning Champions.
The atmosphere was electric as the City faithful sought to roar Pep Guardiola’s men on to a crucial victory, and the Etihad Stadium witnessed a fantastic performance which served to cut the Reds’ advantage to four points and reignite City’s title hopes.
Typically, the triumph was not gained with ease. Instead, a dramatic night of action unfolded, highlighted by a controversial moment on 18 minutes which would prove so significant in the overall battle between the two contenders.
When Mohamed Salah slid Sadio Mane through, there looked to be only one outcome: the opener. However, a remarkable slice of fortune (and some desperate last-ditch defending) preserved the goalless scoreline, as the ball struck the post.
Danger averted? No… Instead, John Stones’ attempted clearance then hit Ederson and looped back goalwards. Time stood still, as Stones stuck out a hopeful leg and somehow managed to prevent the ball from crossing the line by a mere 11 millimetres. The finest of margins.
Lifted by the prospect that luck could be in City’s favour, Guardiola’s men rallied to take full advantage.
Naturally, the man for the big occasion – Sergio Aguero – would make his mark, firing a stunning effort inside the near post to break the deadlock, before Firmino levelled for Liverpool just after the hour.
Nerves jangled. Everyone knew a draw would not be enough for City. It was time for a hero to step up.
Cue: Leroy Sane. Unleashing his electric pace, the German winger drove at the Liverpool defence before driving a low effort to the far corner. Once again, the ball struck the post – only this time, the ball deflected into the net and the pendulum swung in the Champions’ favour.
Eighteen nail-biting minutes ensued but City hung on to clinch a vital win and kick-start our title push.
There were many better games than this during the campaign – the home wins over Chelsea, Leicester and Liverpool or victories at Arsenal, Cardiff and Brighton spring to mind – plus many more.
So why Tottenham? Well, there are, of course, many reasons in terms of how important the game was just four matches from the end of the Premier League season.
But it was the resolve that the Blues showed that made this match stand out for me.
Just a few days earlier, City and Spurs had fought out a thrilling and exhausting Champions League clash at the Etihad with the effort both sides put in enough for this match to have easily been a damp squib.
City had been jettisoned from one end of the emotional spectrum to other, wildly celebrating a goal that would have taken us through to the semis one second, on our knees in utter despair the next as VAR ruled out Raheem Sterling’s last-gasp goal for offside.
It was the kind of disappointment that could have taken weeks to recover from – and yet we faced the same team (and a very good one at that), just days later in a crucial Premier League encounter.
How Pep got the players to refocus in the days that followed, only he and they know, but Phil Foden’s early goal would prove enough to beat Spurs 1-0.
The City fans helped carry the team over the line and another three points were secured and three more victories would guarantee the title.
It was a hard watch, tense, edgy and at times uncomfortable – but it was a performance of champions – steely, resolute and completely determined to get back on track immediately.
The rest, as they say, is history.
To win the title, there are times you need to find alternative ways to beat sides and this was a fine example of City fighting and battling when our usual artistry had failed us.
Leicester, in fine form under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers, were difficult to play against. A young, vibrant side, they didn’t allow us to settle on the ball and were threatening going forward.
With the game locked at 0-0 after 70 minutes and the title on the line, Vincent Kompany produced a magical moment to win it – via a spectacular 30-yard strike that flew into the top corner. It was the latest we had scored our first goal of any game all season and the relief in the stands was palpable.
It wasn’t vintage City in technical terms, but we showed plenty of desire to get a result that was absolutely vital.
‘Outstanding’ was the word Pep Guardiola chose to describe this result.
You could argue he was being modest.
This was a near perfect display and a stark reminder that at our very best, we are near impossible to live with.
That was the case in the opening 25 minutes, during which City were mesmerising to effectively end the contest with a ruthless four-goal salvo, which paved the way for us to consign Chelsea to their heaviest defeat since April 1991.
It was undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best performance of Guardiola’s tenure and there was so much to savour.
Particularly Sergio Aguero’s star showing.
The Argentine struck three times, including a 25-yard thunderbolt which found the top corner on a day in which he was the brightest star in a sparkling team performance.
That he could have had two more – he missed from close range and was also denied by the bar – highlights just how dominant City were that day.
It was an irresistible performance.
A tough, hard-fought midweek win away on Merseyside deep in the depths of mid-winter may not have been the prettiest of victories – but it was the very stuff of which title wins are built.
Goodison Park has never been the happiest of hunting grounds for City and the atmospheric old ground was the scene of sobering defeats for Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United over the second half of the campaign while Liverpool were held to a goalless draw there too, a result that ultimately proved pivotal in this tightest of title races.
So, sandwiched as it was between high-profile home clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea, the visit to Everton represented a formidable challenge for Pep Guardiola’s side.
To his side’s immense credit, it was one they answered with total professionalism and single-minded attention to detail.
And thanks to a superb 45th minute header by defender Aymeric Laporte – one of the towering individual figures throughout City’s campaign – Guardiola’s side were able to break the Toffees’ stubborn resistance.
That advantage notwithstanding, it remained a tense, fraught encounter until Gabriel Jesus finally put the game beyond doubt by registering City’s second goal in injury time to secure a priceless three points.
It was also a signal to Everton’s neighbours across Stanley Park that City were more than up for the title fight.
Daily round-up of City news, views, gossip and opinion...
Vincent Kompany (obviously), Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez all feature.
Juventus’ Joao Cancelo’s name has once again been linked with City, while elsewhere in the media Oleksandr Zinchenko has been reflecting on an historic season.