May 14, 2012

Manchester City’s win one for the ages

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Remember when I said that soccer in general was on an amazing run? Well that form continued during the final day the English Premier League season with all 10 games stacked to be played at one time – one of the funnest and manic situations in sports. To make matters even better, there was a legit title race that would be settled, a battle for spots in Europe and two teams fighting to stay up. What more could you ask for?

With Manchester United playing against a Sunderland table firmly entrenched mid-table and looking like they cared more about the night’s new episode of Game of Thrones that awaited, the Red Devils easily came away with a 1-0 victory. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had done its part to try to wrest the title away from favoured Manchester City, would it be enough?

On paper, it should have been a cakewalk for City. They were playing at home – where they hadn’t lost all season – against Queen’s Park Rangers – the team with the worst away record in the EPL. But the thing was that QPR was fighting for its EPL life and an animal with its back against the wall is most dangerous – just ask Joey Barton.

With the score tied 1-1 after some uncharacteristically shoddy defending from City, Barton saw fight to throw an elbow into the face of Carlos Tevez. That earned him a straight red card and QPR would now have to fight on a man short.

Even better, Barton kneed Sergio Aguero in the back after being sent off and nearly caused the insane Mario Balotelli to come off the bench and fight him. Now that would be a Pay-per-view event I would pay $49.99 to see.

But now with all 10 Rangers parked just outside their box, the Blues had a really rough time breaking them down. Even worse, hitting on a counter attack, QPR scored to take a 2-1 lead. City fans feared for the worst; many fans were seen holding their heads, crying about a title they bungled away to their oft-superior rivals.

This lasted until the 91st minute at Etihad Stadium, when United were already celebrating their victory and counting down the seconds to their latest title triumph.

Then something incredible happened: Off a corner from David Silva a minute into injury time, Edin Dzeko headed in the ball to even the score 2-2. Two minutes later, Mario Balotelli gave Aguero a return pass, he dribbled past one QPR defender and scored the title-winning goal with about 30 seconds to spare.

Any sports fan – except for United fans – should have leapt for joy at what was one of the most exciting two minutes that soccer has ever seen. To comeback and win from 2-1 down in injury time during a normal game is thrilling enough; to win a title that way – the club’s first since 1968 – was even better.

It also turned out to be the first tie-break victory since 1989, when Arsenal won the league on goal differential. That was also years before the Premier League even existed in its current state.

Many have quarrels with City’s massive payroll, backed by a middle-eastern oil Sheikh, but was as pure of a victorious joy that there could have been and we should all applaud their tremendous effort this season.

United’s 89 points were also the most ever by a runnerup, although it does stand to reason that the title could have very easily theirs had the ball bounced any different way for City on Sunday.

And, fittingly, with Bolton’s 2-2 draw against Stoke City, QPR stayed up anyway.

With the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea on Saturday, we should see a thrilling conclusion to what has been a tremendous season of league football.

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