Manchester City 2
West Ham United 0
We Are The Champions Again
Sunday 11th May 2014 : GYKO at the
Home of the Champions
This time, they spared the emotions of their supporters.
There was no late drama. No bedlam. For once, Manchester
City resisted any temptation to make life unnecessarily
hard for themselves. Instead, they just rolled up their
sleeves and set about finishing off their work. They are
the champions of England and they did it in a way that
made it feel like the old City, the club they once said
should carry a government health warning, were a fading
By the time it was all done, Manuel Pellegrini's team
had clocked up 102 goals for the season and it was
probably a surprise they had not managed to catch, or
overhaul, Chelsea's record of 103 from four years ago.
Sergio Agüero is probably thinking the same after one of
Pablo Zabaleta's overlapping runs had presented him with
the kind of chance he would normally score blindfolded.
No matter. Vincent Kompany's goal four minutes into the
second half could not generate the mosh pit that Agüero
set in motion on the final day two seasons ago but, for
once, City's crowd might actually appreciate a party
with a chill-out zone. West Ham were generous opponents
and, for City, the only real problem was persuading
their supporters to leave the pitch so the presentation
could begin. "We want to see the trophy," the public
announcer reminded everyone, with a crackle of
irritation in his voice.
Eventually, it was brought on by three of the players –
Ashley Brown, Joel Labotierre and Egan Riley – from
City's trophy-winning sides at under-18, under-14 and
Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, had said it would be "pretty
depressing" for a team to win the league with only a
scattering of home grown English players. This was not a
direct riposte from City (it had been planned 10 days
ago). But it was still a way of making a point. What a
moment for Kompany, too, bearing in mind it was his
error at Anfield a month ago that had threatened to
extinguish City's chances of glory.
A lesser side might have crumpled, particularly after
the clumpy 2-2 draw against Sunderland that left them
six points behind the following Wednesday, with only one
game in hand. City have made it a victory for
resilience. Their song tells us they "fight to the end."
The mosaic said: "Together." Among the banners, there
was the message: "Nobody remembers who comes second."
And City – calm, professional, slick, assured – made
absolutely certain the title race had experienced its
Pellegrini, his medal still round his neck, made sure
afterwards to mention the work of his predecessor,
Roberto Mancini, but there was another moment later on,
analysing a "beautiful great season," when he offered a
rare glimpse into some of the issues he inherited.
"Maybe the relations were not the best," he said. "It
was very important to have calm, to try to convince them
how we can play, and how important it was to be close,
all of us."
On the pitch, Kompany could be seen coaxing some of the
fringe players to the presentation stage. Joleon Lescott
had set up a photograph of the English players and Joe
Hart was singing: "We are the quota." Yet there is a
great sense of unity among a cosmopolitan squad. As
Pellegrini said, there are no factions, no cliques, no
Just consider the number of controversies that have
accompanied this success (practically zero). Super City
have Gone Holistic, to borrow the buzzword they
introduced after Pellegrini had replaced Mancini.
They were ahead, five minutes before the interval, when
Samir Nasri took a short pass from Yaya Touré and, with
nobody closing him down, let fly from 25 yards. Adrián,
the West Ham goalkeeper, got his glove to the shot but
it was a weak attempt to keep it out.
The ball thudded in off the right-hand post and the
Etihad was enveloped in the state of euphoria that
culminated in Pellegrini, this man of quiet, measured
dignity, getting the bumps from the victorious players.
For a few moments, there were even a couple of hairs out
The crowd's nerves had already been soothed because of
the news filtering through from Anfield of Martin
Skrtel's own goal and Kompany's close-range finish
shooed away any lingering doubts. Edin Dzeko applied the
first touch and the ball brushed off Nolan to fall
invitingly for Kompany, inside the six-yard area. The
crowd were on their third Poznan by the time the final
whistle turned the pitch into a writhing mass of bodies.
West Ham had plodded through what could conceivably be
Sam Allardyce's last game in charge. They defended
stoutly for the opening half an hour but it has never
been the structure and organisation of Allardyce's team
that is in doubt. It is the absence of any real spark or
creativity and, if this was the farewell, it petered out
unsatisfactorily. They did not manage a single effort on
target from their three shots and there was a note of
tragicomedy attached to the chance that fell to Andy
Carroll midway through the second half.
From West Ham's only real opening, Carroll attempted to
bring down Stewart Downing's cross and his first touch
sent it out for a corner. He was substituted a few
Touré's celebrations were slightly tarnished by the
hamstring injury that had forced him out of the game
early but before then he had demonstrated again he was a
worthy rival to Luis Suárez for the season's individual
awards. Martín Demichelis deserves more acclaim than he
has actually received for the way he has justified
Pellegrini's faith and when the manager was asked about
Nasri potentially missing out on France's World Cup
squad it was rare to hear him so opinionated. "I can't
believe Samir Nasri will not be going," was his verdict.
"It will be an important mistake."
More than anything, there was the sense that if City
play a wise hand then the Pellegrini era, unlike
Mancini's, can sustain success. "Big teams cannot be
satisfied with one title," Pellegrini continued. "On
Tuesday we start working for the next season."
A meeting has been arranged in Abu Dhabi with Sheikh
Mansour. It is just a pity City's owner does not make an
appearance in Manchester. He would enjoy what he sees.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov,
Demichelis, Kompany, Garcia, Yaya Toure (Negredo 86),
Silva (Milner 76), Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko (Fernandinho 69)
Pantilimon, Clichy, Jovetic, Lescott
Bookings: Demichelis, Aguero
West Ham United:Adrian, Reid, McCartney, O'Brien,
Tomkins, Taylor, Noble, Nolan (Jarvis 64), Diame (J Cole
81), Downing, Carroll (C Cole 72)
Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, Armero, Vaz Te, Collins
Bookings: Nolan, Noble
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Manchester City 4
Aston Villa 0 One More Point
Wednesday 7th May 2014 : GYKO at
They think it's all over, and it
probably is now. The difference in demeanour between
Manchester City's players at the end and Liverpool
trooping sadly out of Selhurst Park on Monday was
marked. City were in celebratory mode here, playing to
the cameras rather than pushing them away, raising their
arms in salute rather than raising the collars of their
shirts to hide their tears of disappointment.
This result finally puts Chelsea out of the title
equation, and leaves City needing just one point rather
than three to secure a second championship in three
seasons. The goal difference is up to 13, something not
even Liverpool will be tempted to chase after their
chastening experience at Palace, not even in a home game
It would appear that the only danger facing Manuel
Pellegrini's side now is to regard this as the finishing
post rather than the game against West Ham on Sunday
that closes the season. They could be forgiven for
feeling that way after Edin Dzeko's double unleashed a
tide of emotion and late goals from Stevan Jovetic and
Yaya Touré added gloss to proceedings after more than an
hour of rising tension. However, given City's experience
against Queens Park Rangers on closing day two years
ago, that seems unlikely to happen. The patience they
brought to bear in this game should also stand them in
Pellegrini was not here two years ago, but he knows the
story. Most of the players were, and they know that
there is no such thing as a certainty in sport,
especially in this part of the world. Even the City fans
have incorporated the giddy events that brought the
2011-12 season to a conclusion into their matchday
routine with a chant – "we fight to the end" – that
positively obliges Manchester United supporters to point
out that a team that twice goes behind in a game that is
supposed to be a title parade will usually have to.
Not that many United supporters have the stomach for an
argument after the season Old Trafford has just endured.
The team that made a virtue out of fighting until the
end has little option but to accept that their rivals
have stolen both their schtick and their place at the
top of the table.
Without the sharpness and mobility of Sergio Agüero the
home side made a slow start, enjoying over 75% of
possession in the first half hour but doing little with
it other than peppering Brad Guzan's goal with a
succession of hopeful shots and over-ambitious pushes
into the penalty area. Villa have not managed an away
win in over two years without Christian Benteke in their
side, so there was every reason for City to adopt a
According to Brendan Rodgers, a lack of patience was
what cost Liverpool dearly in the title race, not
against Crystal Palace but against Chelsea. To an extent
the home fans appreciated that.
There was no need for Roy of the Rovers football against
a Villa side of extremely limited ambition – although
Andreas Weimann did give Pablo Zabaleta a run for his
money just before the interval when City were caught
with far too many players upfield at a corner – but the
City crowd had not turned up in the expectation of
Billy's Boots football either.
For anyone unfamiliar with that particular comic book
hero, Billy was the one who could play like a prince but
only in a certain pair of boots. When he mislaid them,
had them confiscated, stolen or sabotaged, all events
that used to occur with astonishing regularity, he was a
terrible footballer, frequently annoying his team-mates
with inexplicably laughable misses. That pretty much
summed up City's first-half performance, and by the time
Touré, Samir Nasri, David Silva (twice) and Aleksandar
Kolarov had made Guzan's job easier, rather than harder,
by missing the target with plenty to aim for, the locals
would have been happy to see the storyline take a turn
towards Roy of the Rovers.
Why, it began to be asked, was Álvaro Negredo on the
bench when Dzeko was all too clearly having one of his
less effective games, whether or not he scored two goals
at Everton that put City in this position?
Why were City all buildup and no finish, with an
apparently endless succession of low crosses played in
towards the six-yard line when Villa were having no
difficulty whatsoever in clearing them?
City were seeing plenty of the ball, just failing to use
it like a team within reach of the title. Had Guzan been
performing heroics in the Villa goal it would have been
another matter, but at the interval a thoughtful silence
descended over the Etihad. It looked suspiciously like
one of those occasions where City might prove capable of
beating themselves, or at least allowing their opponents
to escape with a barely deserved draw.
Guzan did keep out a goal bound drive from Kolarov at
the start of the second half but the pattern remained
the same, City were all but beating their fists in
frustration against Villa's back line of six.
Pellegrini threw on Jovetic, as he had to, with his side
beginning to run out of attacking ideas, and as the rain
fell steadily on a typical Manchester night both
managers took a technical-area soaking as they
contemplated the ongoing stalemate. Finally, as he had
on countless previous occasions, Silva slipped a ball
through to Zabaleta and this time the ball slid along
the six-yard line found Dzeko stealing in ahead of Ron
Vlaar and Ciaran Clark.
It was the only time it had happened all night, but it
only needed to happen once. The crowd burst into life,
Steven Gerrard mockery was back on the hymn sheet, and
with the pitch becoming increasingly sodden and sapping,
City could see an endgame and begin to relax.
There was even something distinctly Roy of the Rovers
about Touré's closing goal, which shows how quickly
things can change in a match. With Villa hitting the bar
with a chance to bring the game back to 2-1, City should
accept the encouragement and heed the warning.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kolarov,
Demichelis, Kompany, Garcia, Milner (Jovetic 60), Yaya
Toure, Nasri, Silva (Fernandinho 76), Dzeko (Negredo 86)
subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Lescott, Richards
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark
(Robinson 79), Baker, Bertrand (Grealish 88), Westwood,
Delph, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Bowery (Bacuna 59)
Unused subs: Steer, Sylla, Holt, Grealish, Tonev
Referee: Michael Oliver
Manchester City 3 City on
Saturday 3rd May 2014 : Joe Harris
for GYKO at Goodison Park
Two years ago, Sergio Aguero and Edin
Dzeko scored the dramatic late goals that made
Manchester City champions. Their contribution at
Goodison last night was just as vital, as Manuel
Pellegrini’s men survived an Everton onslaught to lay
one hand on the title. Dzeko scored twice after Aguero
had struck to cancel out Ross Barkley’s sensational
opener. And the visitors then had to call on all their
powers of resistance to repel the Toffees after Romelu
Lukaku’s reply set up a grandstand finish.
Everton did Merseyside proud – but could not halt City
moving to the top of the table on goal difference.
They have a nine-goal advantage over Liverpool and
will lift the Premier League trophy next Sunday if they
can beat Aston Villa and West Ham at the Etihad in the
space of the next seven days.
Perhaps the title was always going to be decided on
Merseyside. Steven Gerrard’s slip and Liverpool’s
defeat to Chelsea last week prompted opportunity to
knock once more for City. City’s record of just one win
on Everton soil since 1992 was wretched, given the scale
of the revolution that has taken place at the Etihad in
the last six years.
Last season, Roberto Martinez tied up Roberto Mancini in
knots in the FA Cup Final by employing a three-man
defence that enabled him to pack his Wigan midfield. He
used the ploy again. And for most of the first period,
it had the same effect. Even so, Barkley’s 11th-minute
strike was all about technique than tactics. Leighton
Baines rolled a pass into Steven Naismith, who found
Barkley with a first-time pass.
What happened next was astounding. Thirty yards out, he
looked up to see where Joe Hart had positioned himself
before curling a glorious right-foot shot into the top
corner. It was as if the clock had been turned back 11
years and 16-year-old Wayne Rooney was wearing royal
blue. Yes, it was that good. Surely the World Cup calls
for the 20-year-old from Wavertree.
Everton had appeals for a penalty waved away when
Barkley tumbled under Vincent Kompany’s fine tackle.
And moments later, in the 22nd minute, City were level.
Yaya Toure found a pocket of space to link with Aguero,
running down the side of Antolin Alcaraz, and the
Argentine’s crisp finish flew past Tom Howard at his
near post. It was Aguero’s 27th goal of an
injury-ravaged season – and he hit the ball with such
force that he pulled a groin muscle and limped off.
City’s change of formation at least enabled them to get
a grip of the game. And they took the lead a minute
before half-time through Dzeko. The Bosnian was thwarted
by the legs of Howard after breaking clear. But, when
James Milner returned the ball towards the penalty spot
from the right, he leaped to direct his header into the
It took a brilliant save by Hart to prevent Naismith
bringing Everton level.
But City’s response was to score again in the 48th
minute. Samir Nasri teased John Stones before whipping a
low ball across the six-yard box and Dzeko couldn’t miss
his 23rd goal of the season.
But Everton were back in it in the 65th minute when
City’s offside trap broke down and Lukaku met Baines’
cross with a downward header beyond Hart. City had to
survive more than six minutes of injury-time to go to
the top of the table. But their celebrations at the end
said it all.
Everton: Howard, Baines, Stones, Jagielka (Deulofeu
66), Alcaraz, Coleman, McCarthy, Osman (McGeady 83),
Barkley, Naismith, Lukaku Unused
subs: Robles, Hibbert, Distin, Garbutt, Ledson
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Clichy,
Demichelis, Kompany, Garcia, Yaya Toure (Kolarov 66),
Nasri (Silva 74) , Milner, Aguero (Fernandinho 28),
Dzeko Unused subs: Pantilimon,
Lescott, Negredo, Jovetic
Bookings: Garcia, Dzeko, Demichelis
Referee: Lee Probert
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