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'We are legends': Man City retain title after stunning comeback, Spurs secure top four, Leeds survive as Burnley fall

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22nd May, 2022
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Manchester City have staged a sensational comeback from 2-0 down to retain the Premier League title with a dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa.

Needing to win to be assured of holding off Liverpool, City were in danger of blowing it as Matty Cash and former Reds star Philippe Coutinho struck at the Etihad Stadium.

Yet Pep Guardiola’s side showed all their champion quality to rally with Ilkay Gundogan coming off the bench to score twice either side of a superb Rodri strike in a remarkable five-minute spell.

City had known that second-placed Liverpool, trailing by just a point, could overtake them with victory over Wolves and there were times in the afternoon when they lived on their nerves.

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There were few signs of the tension to follow as the game kicked off amid a joyous and raucous atmosphere.

City supporters had given their team a rousing welcome outside the stadium and there was a feeling celebrations were almost getting under way as news filtered through of an early Wolves goal.

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City made most of the early running but Villa, who were warned about time-wasting early on by referee Michael Oliver, grew into the game and took a shock lead eight minutes before the interval.

Lucas Digne, the former Everton full-back, broke clear down the left and clipped in a fine cross from the byline. Cash, running in from the opposite side, met it with a firm header that Ederson could not keep out.

With Liverpool having now equalised against Wolves, the mood was transformed. City were stunned and suddenly looked vulnerable.

Fernandinho looked particularly shaky as Ollie Watkins twice threatened, first having a shot blocked and then being denied by a back-tracking Stones.

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The interval came at a good time for City and it was no surprise that Fernandinho did not return for the second half. Oleksandr Zinchenko took his place and the back line was reshaped.

City upped the tempo and Gabriel Jesus should have equalised when picked out at the back post by Joao Cancelo but volleyed over.

Kevin De Bruyne went close with a dipping free-kick but City were caught out by a long clearance upfield by Robin Olsen, which Watkins headed on to Coutinho.

The Brazilian’s first touch was exquisite and completely wrong-footed Aymeric Laporte, exposing Ederson at the near post. Coutinho kept his cool and found the bottom corner.

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Villa manager Steven Gerrard was more than doing his job for former club Liverpool and this was now a serious test of City’s mettle, but they rallied.

Substitutes Raheem Sterling and Gundogan combined to pull one back on 76 minutes. The German had a free header at the back post after being picked out by Sterling and made no mistake.

City pressed again and moments later levelled as Zinchenko picked out Rodri on the edge of the area and the Spaniard stroked the ball into the bottom corner.

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There was more to come with Gundogan again in the right place at the back post as De Bruyne whipped in a good ball.

The comeback was complete and, even though an equaliser from Villa could have changed the picture again, it never looked like happening as City celebrated another league crown.

It is Guardiola’s 11th trophy in six years since coming to England.

“We are legends. We will be remembered. This group of players are absolutely eternal in this club,” said Guardiola.

“What we achieved, it is so difficult to do it. Sir Alex Ferguson with Manchester United has done it years ago – two or three times – now I realise again the magnitude of doing this. Now we are part of this.”

An incredible day of goal-laden drama ended with City champions, Burnley relegated, and Tottenham in the Champions League.

But those bald facts only tell a fraction of the story.

At Anfield, Liverpool recovered from an early Wolves goal to win 3-1. It was not enough as City celebrated their fourth title in five years, one as dramatic as the one secured by Sergio Aguero ten years ago.

The drama began early, Pedro Neto stunning a hopeful Anfield as he gave Wolves a third minute lead, tapping in a cross from Raul Jimenez.

Liverpool lay siege to Wolves’ goal and levelled in the 24th minute. Thiago Alcantara’s clever back heel in midfield set Sadio Mane away, and he beat Jose Sa at his near post.

Anfield’s next roar came when news broke of a goal 40 miles away, at the Etihad, for Aston Villa full-back Cash.

Meanwhile, at the bottom a 19th-minute penalty from Callum Wilson put Newcastle 1-0 up and dumped Burnley into the relegation zone. Another penalty, from Raphinha at Brentford, gave Leeds a three-point cushion which looked firm when Wilson added a second.

Back at the top former Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho put Villa – managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard – 2-0 up. 

But in a frantic, near-hysterical atmosphere, City came back with two goals from substitute Gundogun sandwiching one from Rodri as Villa collapsed.

The news stunned Anfield depsite Mo Salah coming off the bench to put them ahead. Andy Robertson added a third, but the quadruple dream is over. 

The final whistle in Manchester sparked scenes of unbridled joy at the Etihad with the crossbar giving way during a pitch invasion. But while City players were joyously mobbed Villa ‘keeper Olsen was attacked.

Back at the bottom Maxwel Cornet pulled a goal back at Turf Moor to give Burnley hope with 21 minutes left. That hope grew when Sergi Canos equalised for Brentford. 

One goal for Burnley or Brentford would have been enough. But Burnley could not find an equaliser and Leeds, facing a Brentford side reduced to nine through injury and a Canos red card, scored in the 94th-minute through Jack Harrison.

The only non-event was the race for the fourth and final Champions League place. Spurs, needing to win at Norwich to secure it, won 5-0, Dejan Kulusevski and Son Hueng-min scoring twice and Harry Kane once. 

Son’s brace gave him a share of the golden boot with Salah.

That result made for a muted celebration at the Emirates where Arsenal, who hoped to profit from a Spurs slip-up, were forced to settle for a Europa League spot despite thrashing Everton, who had secured their safety in midweek, 5-1.

The minor European places were settled as expected too, though not without threat of a twist. 

Manchester United were beaten by a Wilfried Zaha goal at Crystal Palace. So when Michail Antonio gave West Ham the lead at Brighton they were bound for the second Europa League place and Manchester United for the Europa Conference.

However, Brighton then scored three enabling new Old Trafford boss Erik Ten Hag to look forward to a Europa League campaign.

Elsewhere Chelsea beat Watford 2-1 and Leicester defeated Southampton 4-1.

© AAP

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