For seventy five glorious minutes, the league hung in the balance in the most unexpected of ways. Villa did the best they possibly could, and were two up on City; Wolves, in turn, did all they could to frustrate the Reds, holding them to a draw. Would City really win it on goal differential? Would Liverpool find a way in the end, as they always do? Would Gerrard cause City to slip, or would they go on a blitz for a few minutes, as they always do? There is a reason that the two league games between Liverpool and City have ended up with an identical, 2-2 scoreline; both teams are so evenly matched and so forward-oriented.
In the end, both Liverpool and City dug deep and won their games in the way that they both win these kinds of games. Liverpool in a “we can tighten the screw just a wee bit more until you break” fashion that nets them so many late goals. City by clicking into one of those flows where they finally unlock the opposition and then keep turning the key over and over in rapid succession. Unfortunately for the merseyside horde, the end result of that is that City wins the league on 1 point.
You could see how close, how tense this was simply by watching Pep’s reaction after the City game; he could not contain his emotions, and was full-on crying. This must have been an incredibly stressful game for him, and in the end, billions or not, his footballing machine deserved to get something from this season. Still, with the most tantalizing chance of a quadruple in history at hand, City’s comeback was a significant disappointment for everybody else. It seems doubtful that any team will get this far in this quest for a while to come.
At Anfield, the nerves were showing all the way through. The early Neto goal seemed more due to lack of concentration by the Reds than anything, with the players’ minds impacted by the occasion. It took a downright ingenious back pass from Thiago to Mane, with a sublime finish by the latter, to get back on level terms, and then we settled into a painfully long stretch of knowing that one goal could change everything.
Salah eventually got it, scrappy as it was, but by then it was too late. One feels that, had the Reds scored that goal ten minutes earlier, it might have translated into a disabling panic thirty-five miles away at the Etihad. Once that went in, it was clear Wolves were not coming back. Then Robbo netted another one, but only for the books. I suppose I should pick a man-of-the-match, and in that case, I’ll give it to Thiago, because he was brilliant before he got injured, and unfortunately, it looks like we won’t see him in Paris next weekend.
In a season full of twists and turns, this championship day ended with none such at the top with respect to the final outcome, but what a journey it was through these last 90 minutes, which seems oddly appropriate. Still, I have to admit… my heart is suggesting that I’m getting too old for this.
Congratulations to City for another title.
See ya in August.