LONDON: Manchester City clinched the Premier League title with the win required to finally end Liverpool’s relentless attempt to dethrone them as champions by crushing Brighton and Hove Albion 4-1 on the south-coast yesterday.
Pep Guardiola’s City ended the season with 98 points, two shy of last season’s record-breaking 100, while Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers saw them finish on 97 – by far the largest tally for a Premier League runners-up spot.
Such was Liverpool’s tenacity in the title race that it took an incredible 14th straight league victory for Abu Dhabi-owned City to become the first club for a decade to retain the title.
Neither side dropped a league point since Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw at Merseyside rivals Everton on March 3 with Juergen Klopp’s side winning their last nine matches.
Goals from Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Guendogan gave City an ultimately comfortable victory.
“We have to say congratulations to Liverpool and thank you because they pushed us to increase our standard,” said Guardiola who now has two league titles with City to go with the three he won in charge of both Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
There was only a brief moment of panic for City when Glenn Murray’s header gave Brighton a surprise 27th minute lead. But cometh the moment, cometh Aguero.
The Argentine striker, whose last-gasp goal secured City’s first Premier League title in heart-stopping fashion seven years ago, levelled 83 seconds later to take him to 20 league goals in five successive seasons with City.
Aymeric Laporte’s thumping header put City ahead before the break but with Liverpool, who began the day one point behind, leading against Wolves, hope remained at Anfield that something extraordinary could happen in the south-coast sunshine.
But when City winger Mahrez drove an unstoppable shot past Brighton goalkeeper Mathew Ryan’s despairing dive just past the hour and Gundogan’s majestic free kick found the net in the 72nd minute the City fans could get the party started.
City have now won four league titles in eight seasons but captain Vincent Kompany, whose sublime shot earned a crucial 1-0 win over Leicester City on Monday to keep his side’s fate in their own hands, said this was the most satisfying of them all.
“Back to back, it was the hardest and most satisfying ever. Liverpool were exceptional this year. I don’t mean to rub it in – they didn’t deserve to lose,” Kompany said.