MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City clinched a sixth Premier League title in 11 seasons on Sunday by scoring three times in five minutes to come from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-2 in the final to avoid being knocked down by their challenger Liverpool.
City led 2-0 at Villa until İlkay Gündoğan started the comeback in the 76th minute. Rodri equalized two minutes later and Gündoğan put City ahead in the 81st minute.
At one point, even when City were losing, he was still ready to defend the title as Liverpool only drew 1-1 with Wolverhampton. But Mohamed Salah then put the second-placed side ahead in the 84th minute, which would have taken Liverpool into first place had City not staged a fight back at the Etihad Stadium. Andy Robertson then sealed Liverpool’s 3-1 victory.
Had City conceded a late equalizer Liverpool would have snatched the trophy, but Pep Guardiola’s side held on for victory in a thrilling climax.
Pep Guardiola’s trophy defense was secured on the final day in a more nervous manner than expected when City briefly held a 14-point lead in January.
City’s fourth league success in five seasons produced a first for Guardiola. It’s the first time City have sealed the title in front of their own fans who poured onto the pitch in their thousands at the final whistle against Villa.
Although it went to the wire, this one came without any of the angst of 10 years ago when City’s first Premier League title was only clinched in the dying minutes of the season.
That success, which produced City’s first league crown in 44 years – with Roberto Mancini as manager – ushered in the era of dominance enjoyed by a club transformed by the influx of investment from Abu Dhabi.
City are now enjoying the steady stream of titles they once had to watch crosstown rivals United sweep under Alex Ferguson. City’s rise coincided with the retirement of the Scot – who won the Premier League 13 times from 1993 to 2013 – and the decline of Manchester United.
The teams entered the final round on Sunday with City 32 points ahead of United and with Liverpool the biggest threat to Guardiola’s side. In the past five seasons, the only time City haven’t won the trophy was when Liverpool’s 30-year title drought came to an end in 2020.
But it will be another season that ends with City unable to win European football’s greatest prize – the Champions League – while Liverpool play in the final against Real Madrid on May 28.
While Liverpool’s net spend on transfers has been around $250m over the past five years, City’s has been over $530m.
City’s financial might was not enough to convince Tottenham to sell Harry Kane ahead of this season, leaving Guardiola to win that title without a recognizable striker. Still, City were able to break the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish for £100m ($139m) even though the midfielder only started sparingly.
City have already strengthened their attack for next season, with a deal reached with Borussia Dortmund to sign Erling Haaland for 60 million euros ($63m), adding one of Europe’s most exciting young strikers to the squad. the team.
Still, concerns remain for human rights campaigners and less wealthy rivals over the club’s ownership in Abu Dhabi and its actions.
The UAE’s human rights abuses are glossed over by City fans who largely forget how their club was used by a state as a tool of soft power that exploits the glamor of the world’s biggest sport to clean up his image.
City owner Sheikh Mansour has only been seen at one game in his 14 years as owner. Mansour, who is deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, has been condemned by the British government for recently hosting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
City were fined 10 million euros ($12 million) in 2020 for obstructing a UEFA investigation into their finances following leaked internal club correspondence. But the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a two-year Champions League ban because claims the club had disguised the source of revenue as overpriced sponsors of businesses linked to its Abu Dhabi property were either dismissed , or emerged too long ago to investigate. .
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