English Premier League
Sunday 13 May 2012, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Y Toure (de Jong 44), Barry (Dzeko 69), Nasri, Silva, Tevez (Balotelli 76), Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Richards, Milner
Goals: Zabaleta (39), Dzeko (90+2), Aguero (90+4)
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta
City began the game knowing that a win would more than likely seal their first Premier League title and their first league championship in forty-four years. For the visitors, a draw would be enough to keep them in the division. While, at The Stadium Of Light, Manchester United could steal City’s thunder if they could better the blues’ result.
The intentions from the visitors was clear from the start: They had come for the point that would see them escape relegation. It was City on top from the off and QPR were happy to see the hosts control possession, but remain firm. With 16 minutes on the clock, Paddy Kenny fumbled a City shot, but there was nobody in blue nearby to capitalise and he was able to dive on the rebound before Aguero could react.
On 24 minutes, Hart was tested for the first time: A free kick was given for a foul by Barry on Cisse and the QPR man fired a free kick over the wall and towards the bottom corner. City’s keeper, however, held on to the shot comfortably. It was a warning from the visitors and there was bad news from Sunderland: United were a goal ahead and, as it stood, they were top of the league.
Silva fired a shot wide of Kenny’s post before Yaya Toure sliced one well wide, as the blues struggled to get going. But, soon enough, City were in front: Yaya Toure slipped onto the end of a pass into the box and fed it through to Zabaleta on the overlap; he smashed a shot at goal that Kenny could only parry onto the post and into the back of the net. City were back on the top of the table.
Just before the break, City lost Yaya Toure to injury. But, as the teams emerged for the second half, it didn’t appear to have affected the host’s forward play: Aguero forced a save out of Paddy Kenny after just 31 seconds. But that ascendency suddenly turned; Cisse broke away from the City back line after Lescott misjudged his header and it fell perfectly for the striker to volley. He did and it beat Hart, pulling the visitors level.
The home side, however, continued to push forward, despite creating very little in the way of shooting chances. QPR were defending stoutly and City were looking sluggish, though soon their task got more difficult. Joey Barton swung an elbow at Carlos Tevez on the edge of the box and it was spotted by the linesman, who flagged. The referee produced a red card and, to compound matters, the former City midfielder kicked out at Aguero, before aiming a head-butt in Kompany’s direction.
The red card, though, didn’t adversely affect the visitors. On 65 minutes, QPR broke away down the left flank and a cross into the box found Mackie unmarked, breaking into the box. He met it with his head and powered the effort past Hart and Lescott on the line and City, needing to win, were suddenly behind and not looking like scoring.
Roberto Mancini went for broke. He threw on Dzeko and Balotelli and City piled men forward into the box, but despite corner after corner and cross after cross, the blues couldn’t force a shot. QPR heads were flicking the ball away and producing last gasp tackles and blocks. Dzeko forced Kenny into a good save with his feet.
A goalmouth scramble ended with a good double-save by Kenny from Aguero, the second him preventing the ball from crossing the line from inches out. Balotelli headed at goal, but Kenny was on form to push it away, also. Still needing to win, City were still losing and the board was going up for stoppage time. City had five minutes to score twice – where have we heard that before?
The first came from Dzeko. The ball was played into the six yard box and the Bosnian rose to meet the cross ahead of anybody else. The bullet header was straight past Kenny and City were on level terms, as the final whistle blew in Sunderland. United had won and City needed another.
With a minute to play, the ball was fed into Balotelli on the edge of the box. With his back to goal, he couldn’t keep his feet and slipped backward, but had the mind to nick the ball to Aguero. He beat the challenge from Taiwo and smashed the ball into the back of the net. City were back from the dead.
Manchester City were Premier League Champions.