Match Report

City stage stunning Villa fightback to retain Premier League crown

City stage stunning Villa fightback to retain Premier League crown
Premier League
Premier League
Sun 22 May
3
2
Ilkay Gündogan 
76, 81
Rodrigo 
78
Matthew Cash 
37
Philippe Coutinho 
69
City staged another incredible final day fightback, scoring three goals in five second half minutes to dramatically beat Aston Villa 3-2 and so retain the Premier League title at a spellbound Etihad.

Having gone 2-0 down midway through the second half Pep Guardiola’s side looked to be in danger of losing the crown to Liverpool, who beat Wolves 3-1

However, in amazing scenes reminiscent of our first Premier League triumph 10 years ago, with the same uncanny scoreline, we staged the most unbelievable of comebacks to seize the crown, as a brace from substitute Ilkay Gundogan and a Rodrigo strike lifted the lid off the Etihad.

It was a fightback full of grit and character and one worthy of any title-winning side.

And it meant we retained the crown, secured a fourth title in five years under Pep Guardiola and handed departing Club captain Fernandinho the perfect emotional send off.

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A day to remember

With so much at stake there was a charge to the occasion with fans gathering outside the Etihad hours in advance and the City team bus being greeted by an army of passionate fans and blue smoke.

The atmosphere as the teams kicked off was spine-tingling too – with the Etihad also bidding a fond farewell to Club captain Fernandinho after nine fabulous years’ service.

But first there was the small matter of the most pressing 90 minutes of the season to navigate as we sought the win that would confirm a fourth Premier League title in five years.

ACTION MAN: Gabriel Jesus powers forward
ACTION MAN: Gabriel Jesus powers forward

And Villa sent a stark reminder that they hadn’t merely come to make up the numbers, a timely early intervention from Fernandinho denying Brazilian compatriot Philippe Coutinho a clear header on goal.

They also restricted time and space as Pep Guardiola’s side sought to convert territory and possession into that all-important goal.

And it almost arrived on 25 minutes after a typical lung bursting rampage by Kevin De Bruyne.

His charge helped open a fraction of space for Phil Foden on the right side of the box, with his snapshot was deflected agonisingly wide.

However, it was Villa who made the Etihad breakthrough as they struck with a breakaway 37th minute goal through Matty Cash.

Emiliano Buendia made the initial foray deep into our half before feeding the onrushing Lucas Digne on the left flank.

The Frenchman delivered a pinpoint dipping cross into the heart of the box and fellow full-back Cash was there to head home past Ederson.

ONE OF OUR OWN: Phil Foden powers forward
ONE OF OUR OWN: Phil Foden powers forward

With the visitors’ tails up it then needed a fine challenge by John Stones to deny Ollie Watkins after the England striker had evaded Fernandinho.

A tense afternoon had suddenly got even more nerve-racking and though City pressed and harried, Villa proved dogged and resolute, throwing bodies on the line to try and deny us.

There was a change to the City formation after the break with Oleks Zinchenko replacing Fernandinho, Stones moving to centre half with the Ukrainian on the left of defence and Cancelo switched to right full-back berth.

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And Zinchenko almost made an instant impact when his superb twisting mazy run almost found Jesus before the Brazilian saw a close range shot fizz over.

Rodrigo also fired wide from 20 yards, but our usual fluidity and pinpoint accuracy was not at its sharpest with Villa proving obdurate opponents.

With half an ear trained to events at Anfield, the tension was almost unbearable as the game entered the last quarter.

Guardiola rang the changes, bringing on Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan in an effort to find an opening.

STRIKE ONE: Ilkay Gundogan narrows the defict
STRIKE ONE: Ilkay Gundogan narrows the defict

Instead however it was Villa who struck what felt a decisive second goal 21 minutes from time through Coutinho.

The Brazilian latched onto a high ball on the edge of the City box and ran on the outside of Aymeric Laporte before despatching a low shot past Ederson and inside the near post.

City were not done though and Sterling and Gundogan combined to narrow the deficit 15 minutes from time, with the German heading home his fellow substitute's inviting arcing ball from eight yards.

And within two minutes there was pandemonium at the Etihad as City dramatically drew level.

Zinchenko was the provider this time, breaking down the left channel before intelligently cutting the ball back to the waiting Rodri on the edge of the box.

It would have been tempting to let fly but instead the Spaniard despatched a low shot which rifled into the corner of the net to spark wild scenes

LEVEL BEST: Rodri strikes to level the scores
LEVEL BEST: Rodri strikes to level the scores

But that was nothing compared to what happened two minutes later as Gundogan struck again to lift the roof off the Etihad with his second and our third.

Typically, De Bruyne was the architect, latching onto a loose ball and driving into the heart of Villa box.

The Belgian then pinged in one of his trademark curling balls and there, gloriously, to meet it at the far post was Gundogan.

It sparked scenes of absolute joy and mayhem on the pitch and sidelines but there was still work to be done especially with Liverpool beating Wolves 3-1.

But with the atmosphere at fever pitch and with our passionate fans acting as a 12th man we ran the clock down to secure the most dramatic but richly deserved of Premier League title wins.

What a season… what a team!!

WINNER: Ilkay Gundogan sparks scenes of mayhem after his winner
WINNER: Ilkay Gundogan sparks scenes of mayhem after his winner

Teams

CITY: Ederson, Stones, Laporte, Fernandinho (Zinchenko 45), Cancelo, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Bernardo (Gundogan 69), Foden, Jesus, Mahrez (Sterling 56)
Subs: Carson, Walker, Ake, Grealish, Palmer, McAtee

ASTON VILLA: Olsen, Cash, Chambers, Mings, Digne, Ramsey, Luiz, McGinn, Buendia, Watkins, Coutinho (Nakamba 72).
Subs: Sinisalo, Sanson, Traore, Young, Ings, Chukwuemeka, Chrisene, Iroegbunam.

Star man

It had to be Ilkay Gundogan.

The German has produced many moments of magic for us down the years but his two-goal cameo here will cement his status as a City legend.

All seemed lost when Villa went 2-0 up but Gundo and City never lost heart. His first goal gave us hope and fresh heart.

And then his winner from close range set the seal on an afternoon that will never be forgotten by those lucky enough to be here.

Wunderbar!!

Pep Guardiola reaction

"The last game is always special, a lot of emotions. The moment we scored the goal it changed everything.

"I told them it is normal, but you have to handle it. Oleks gave us a lot in the second half. We scored the goal and got the momentum and our fans did the rest.

"Ilkay Gundogan is the best runner in second positions that we have. We arrive in the sides with Joao and Oleks. And we have people with the sense of tempo in the final third- but he is the best.

"We are legends. When you win four titles in five years then it’s because these guys are so special. We will be remembered. We won with 100%, second one at Brighton, winning at home with our people is the best.

"The moment we scored and equalised quickly we had a feeling that we had the chance to score the third.

"Today I have no energy to think about next season. We are champions again! We will defend our crown again and again.

What it means

'I swear you'll never see anything like this' was the refrain in 2012 - well we pretty much did!

Another last day turnaround sees City further cement our names in Premier League history.

Back to back titles again and a fourth crown in five years - now for a summer of rest, recuperation - and we'll go again in August.

See you then!!

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