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Tuesday, May 15, 2012
City lands title after incredible finale
MANCHESTER, England — In the final moments of the Premier League's most dramatic season yet, Manchester City had just enough time to produce one last, stunning twist.
With the club's title hopes fading by the second, and with fans anxiously pulling at their hair in the stands as a stubborn Queens Park Rangers side clung to a surprising 2-1 lead after 90 minutes, City threw all of its attacking might forward to secure one of English soccer's greatest comebacks.
Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero both scored in injury time to clinch a 3-2 victory that secured the club's first league title since 1968, finishing ahead of crosstown rival Manchester United on goal difference.
"It's a crazy finish for a crazy season," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "I've never seen a final like this."
No one had.
After a season in which the balance of the title race shifted back and forth between the Manchester clubs numerous times, City seemed to have thrown it all away by letting 10-man QPR rally from a goal down to take the lead in the second half, while United completed a 1-0 win at Sunderland.
But Dzeko headed in an equalizer in the second minute of stoppage time to give the City fans hope, and Aguero then clinched the title when he slalomed through the QPR defense and blasted the ball into the net. As Mancini raised his hands and ran along the touchline, Aguero — the son-in-law of Diego Maradona — tore his shirt off in jubilation before he was mobbed by his teammates.
"He was crying on the floor," City captain Vincent Kompany said. "All the guys were pouring their eyes out. You don't see strong personalities like that showing their emotion so often."
Moments earlier, United had completed its victory at Sunderland and the players were lingering on the pitch ready to start celebrating title No. 20, waiting for the result of the City game.
Instead, a party 44 years in the making burst into life back in the blue half of Manchester as fans flooded the City pitch and ignited blue smoke canisters.
"Miracles do happen in Manchester," Kompany said. "This time it's on this side of the road."
Now United will have to live with the fact that the club once dismissed by manager Alex Ferguson as a "noisy neighbor" has won the league.
"I'd like to say, on behalf of Manchester United, congratulations to our neighbors — a fantastic achievement to win the Premier League," Ferguson said.
United had won 12 of its 19 titles since City last won the English championship for just the second time in 1968. In the meantime, City climbed back into the Premier League from the depths of the third tier and became a credible title challenger after a takeover by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour, who has invested more than $1 billion into the club over three years.
"It was really important to start winning this championship," Mancini said. "Manchester City can have a big future now."
The Manchester rivals have traded places atop the standings all season, but City had to overturn an eight-point lead United held five weeks ago to finish on top.
"We didn't deserve to lose, we had a lot of chances and we deserved to win the game and championship," Mancini said. "It's fantastic for the club and the supporters after 44 years."
It was the first time since 1989 that the English title was decided in such dramatic circumstances. Arsenal and Liverpool finished level on points and had the same goal difference, and the Gunners were awarded '89 title on total goals.
"I never stopped believing," Kompany said. "When Edin scored that goal, it reminded me of so many other moments during the season when we've done this before. There was no reason not to believe."
LONDON — Bolton was relegated to the League Championship on the final day of the English Premier League season, wasting a late lead in a 2-2 tie at Stoke.
Bolton had been in the top division since 2001-02 and would have remained with a win but finished with 37 points, one behind Queens Park Rangers, which gave up two stoppage-time goals and lost 3-2 at Manchester City.
Bolton gets dropped along with Wolverhampton and Blackburn. Reading and Southampton will be promoted along with the winner of the May 19 playoff between West Ham and Blackpool.
Arsenal finished third, clinching a Champions League qualification for a 15th straight season with a 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion as Laurent Koscielny scored a tiebreaking goal in the 54th minute.
Tottenham was a point back in fourth after Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe scored for a 2-0 win over Fulham. Spurs will be qualifying for next season's Champions League if Chelsea loses to Bayern Munich in this season's final next Saturday. If Chelsea, wins, it will claim the berth as defending champion.