Manchester City stage remarkable comeback to clinch Premier League title

Manchester City staged a sensational 2-0 comeback to retain the Premier League title with a dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa.

Needing to win to be sure of holding Liverpool, City risked blowing it away as Matty Cash and former Reds star Philippe Coutinho struck at the Etihad Stadium.

Yet Pep Guardiola’s side showed their full league quality to rally with Ilkay Gundogan coming off the bench to score twice either side of a superb strike from Rodri in a remarkable five-minute span.

City knew second-placed Liverpool, a point behind, could overtake them with a win over Wolves and there were times in the afternoon when they lived on their nerves.

When trailing by two, Liverpool were held 1-1 and news of another Anfield goal at this stage might have been a hammer blow.

Yet in the remarkable drama of the final day, City threw off the shackles of a dismal first-half display to turn the tables and make Liverpool’s eventual victory academic.

There were few signs of nervousness, or tension to follow, as the game started in a happy and boisterous atmosphere.

City fans had given their side a rousing welcome outside the stadium and it looked like the celebrations were almost beginning as news of a Wolves first goal filtered through.

City were boosted by the return of John Stones from injury but, with Kyle Walker fit enough only for the bench, he lined up at right-back.

Fernandinho, making his last appearance for City, continued in his role as a makeshift centre-back alongside Aymeric Laporte with Joao Cancelo on the left.

It created an uncomfortable back four, and it turned out, but it was City who did most of the first run.

Cancelo had a few efforts blocked after good runs and Gabriel Jesus almost embarrassed debuting Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen when he charged a clearance. Phil Foden also curled a shot from just wide after a Kevin De Bruyne counterattack.

Villa, who had been warned of the time-loss early on by referee Michael Oliver, grew into the game and took a shock lead eight minutes before the break.

Lucas Digne, the former Everton full-back, cleared on the left and cut in a fine cross from the signature line. Cash, coming in from the opposite side, met him with a firm header that Ederson couldn’t prevent.

With Liverpool having now equalized against Wolves, the mood has changed. The city was stunned and suddenly looked vulnerable.

Fernandinho looked particularly shaky as Watkins twice threatened, first having a shot blocked and then denied by a running back Stones.

The interval came at the right time for City and it’s no surprise Fernandinho didn’t return for the second half. Oleksandr Zinchenko took his place and the back line was reshaped.

City picked up the pace and Jesus should have equalized when he was picked off at the far post by Cancelo, but he flew over the top.

Still, Villa were in a stubborn mood and fended off wave after wave of fresh attacks with captain Tyrone Mings standing tall.

De Bruyne closed with a diving free-kick but City were caught by a long clearance from Olsen, which Watkins headed towards Coutinho.

The first touch from the Brazilian was exquisite and Laporte completely on the wrong foot, exposing Ederson at the near post. The goal still took a bit of finishing but Coutinho kept his composure and found the bottom corner.

Villa manager Steven Gerrard was more than doing his job for former club Liverpool and now was a serious test of City’s mettle, but they rallied.

De Bruyne exploded first before substitutes Raheem Sterling and Gundogan combined to pull one off in the 76th minute. The German had a free header at the far post after being picked off by Sterling and made no mistakes.

With their tails now up, City pressed again and leveled moments later as Zinchenko picked off Rodri at the edge of the box and the Spaniard stroked the ball into the bottom corner.

There was more to come with Gundogan again in the right place at the far post as De Bruyne whipped a good through ball.

The comeback was complete and, while a Villa equalizer could have changed the picture again, it never seemed to happen as City celebrated another league crown.

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