Week 33 of the English Premier League sees Man City blow a two-goal lead against rivals Man Utd, postponing the title race for at least another week, and it’s as it was in the fight for relegation.
Raheem Sterling has had the season of his life, but he will look back on this game – the tie that could have given City the title – and wonder if someone from United’s backroom had sneaked into the City changing room and stole his shooting boots.
City was imperious in the first half against their neighbours. To say they bossed the action is the understatement of the season. The boys in blue handcuffed those in red, and in particular, a lanky looking man in midfield who had decided to dye his hair blue on this day of all days.
By the time the action entered the 25th minute the United defence was ready to puke. Dizzy. Disorientated. Dumbfounded. The ball came in from a corner, and Vincent Kompany lost Chris Smalling to thunder a bullet header past David De Gea.
Five minutes later and a goal of exquisite quality.
Sterling zigged and zagged at the edge of the United box before sliding the ball into the feet of Ilkay Gündogan, who in one full movement, pirouetted like a ballet dancer before poking the ball into the far corner.
Sensing an early finish the engraver began etching the words ‘City’ into the Premier League trophy, and the ribbon lady picked out her favourite hues of blue. The champagne bathed in ice.
The last time City had given up a two-goal lead was a decade ago. And this is no Sir Alex Ferguson side; a team that has come back from a two-goal deficit on nine occasions.
Out of shape.
Out of sorts.
United had no chance.
Sterling, who was magnificent in the first half, found himself in front of goal with only David De Gea to beat on two occasions. It should have been 4-0. The lad who had been so ruthless in front of goal for the first time in his life reverted to type and blasted both onto the moon. Maybe Gündogan could do better? No. The German wizard headed a six-yard effort straight into the hands of De Gea.
What’s that smell?
United went into the Bovril break two down and not four. Mourinho must have gotten the megaphone out of his trousers. Football boots and cups of tea must have flown around the room.
United came out a different team, and one man, in particular, had stared hard in the hairspray glossed mirror.
Before the match, Pep Guardiola decided to play mind games by telling the press that United had offered the out of sorts Paul Pogba to City in the January transfer window.
In the 53rd minute, Alexis Sanchez found space on the right; he clipped the ball into the box, Ander Herrera chested the ball brilliantly into the path of Pogba who scored from close range.
In midweek, City capitulated at Anfield conceding three goals in 19-minutes. The engraver and the ribbon lady had a problem. United was about to beat that record. Two minutes after Pogba’s tap-in, the Frenchman roamed unmarked into the box. Sanchez found him with a peach of a pass, and Pogba headed United level.
City should have bought him.
It was City’s turn to feel dazed, disorientated and dumb.
69-minutes on the clock and Sanchez picked up his second assist of the game when he gave Smalling the chance to redeem himself from close range, and the centra half finished with aplomb.
City fought back as City can.
Gündogan had most of the chances including another close-range header that De Gea tipped over the bar in a way only the Spaniard could, and Sterling was once again found wanting when he hit the post from three yards out with time running away from them.
But it was no good.
City will entertain Liverpool in midweek with their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread, on the back of two defeats and six goals conceded.
They will have to wait a few more weeks.
They have to beat Spurs at Wembley on the weekend and hope West Brom can beat United at Old Trafford and you’re more likely to see United come back from a 2-0 deficit at the Etihad.
The Fight to Avoid Relegation
It’s a case of as you were at the bottom of the table.
Managerless West Brom stopped their eight-game losing streak with a home draw against Swansea. Jay Rodriguez scored his tenth goal of the season to put the Baggies ahead, but Tammy Abraham equalised. The other two sides in the bottom three – Stoke and Southampton – both lost as predicted against Spurs and Arsenal. Above them, everyone else drew.
West Brom 1/2000
Crystal Palace 9/1
West Ham 25/1
Here are the rest of the results in full.
Results in Full
Everton 0 v 0 Liverpool
Stoke 1 v 2 Spurs
Watford 1 v 2 Burnley
Brighton 1 v 1 Huddersfield
West Brom 1 v 1 Swansea
Bournemouth 2 v 2 Crystal Palace
Leicester 1 v 2 Newcastle
Man City 2 v 3 Man Utd
Arsenal 3 v 2 Southampton
Chelsea 1 v 1 West Ham
Premier League Table
1. Man City – 84
2. Man Utd – 71
3. Liverpool – 67
4. Spurs – 67
5. Chelsea – 57
6. Arsenal – 54
7. Burnley – 49
8. Leicester – 43
9. Everton – 41
10. Newcastle – 38
11. Bournemouth – 38
12. Watford – 37
13. Brighton – 35
14. West Ham – 34
15. Swansea – 32
16. Huddersfield – 32
17. Crystal Palace – 31
18. Southampton – 28
19. Stoke – 27
20. West Brom – 21