Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Monday May 14 2012
Can anybody truly believe what we witnessed yesterday at the Etihad Stadium? As the "typical City" signs were going up around the football world, Sir Alex Ferguson was presented with his wish for "something stupid" happening in City`s final match of the season. And that something stupid took place in circumstances so reminiscent of the achievements of his own team as "Fergie Time" finally took on its metamorphosis to "Mancini Time".
Seventeen wins at home and one draw, QPR abysmal on the road and the scene was set for the day. Bright sunshine and a party atmosphere from the off, you couldn't tell the Blue Mooners that a catastrophe could be waiting to be played out on the hallowed turf. Only those of us of fifty years standing cautiously avoided talk of an easy win and City taking the title virtually unopposed. My catch phrase for the week had been "Ask me at five o'clock on Sunday." Deep down I wanted to believe, but the shreds of "typical City" will probably never leave me.
A non-descript looking match with QPR not so much parking the bus. It looked more like the old Princess Road bus garage that heralded the way to Maine Road for those of us approaching from the south of Manchester. Every player behind the ball. No space for City to move, no lines to get between.
City were patient and buzzing without actually putting Rangers under pressure. Half time was approaching to the news that Stretford had sneaked a goal at the Stadium of Light and were therefore top of the league. The hobbling Yaya Toure turned a neat pass into the path of the rampaging Zabaleta who hit a screamer, fumbled by Kenny and which went in off the post with the Rangers keeper trying to scramble it away. It turned out to be Yaya's last contribution as de Jong was sent on as his replacement.
The relief went around the stadium like a blue wave. The Blues were now in total control of the match and the title. Surely it was just a case of easing the game out and preparing for the celebrations. Was it really as easy as that?
Readers, we are talking about Manchester City. Why on earth would they make it easy when you can write an endgame of historic proportions, that will never be repeated in our lifetimes or even thereafter.
With the second half under way and the Premier League operatives preparing in the service tunnel for the end of match ceremony an uncharacteristically weak back header from Lescott went straight into the path of Cisse. He may not be everyone's cup of tea but he does know how to accept a gift as he drilled the ball past Hart to create a mini-celebration up the A1 in Sunderland and to begin a new wave of despair around the Etihad.
Eroded was the confidence, rising were thoughts of "typical City".
The madness took a new direction when former City man Joey Barton took the law into his own hands and set about a one-man assault on half of City's team. Not enough was it to elbow Tevez under the long-distance gaze of a hawk-eyed linesman, but after Mike Dean saw no alternative other than to red card the only ex-City player I have ever know to be "boo-ed" when he comes back, he then kicked Aguero and tried to head butt Kompany. What's that all about? At least he should get the rest of the year off after that list of devastation. Former team-mate Micah Richards had to escort him from the field before Kevin Hitchcock took over. He still even tried to have a go at Balotelli, who was amongst City's replacements yesterday. Apparently on his twitter he said he tried to take a City player with him by provoking either Aguero, Tevez or Kompany. Well Joey, you looked a bit like a thug. You don't need a suspension, you need a prison sentence.
So 1-1 and poor opposition down to ten men. Time to get the hammer down. Time to put a season's work into perspective. Not City. Time to put the same season's work on the line as Traore outstripped Zabaleta getting clear down the left. His pinpoint cross found the unattended Mackie at the far post and his perfect downward header confused Hart and Lescott and in unlikely fashion put Rangers ahead. Even Martin Tyler said "typical City."
What was a short time ago a blue wave of relief was becoming a bigger wave of despair and desolation as the dream of becoming title winners ebbed from the stadium with just over twenty minutes left.
The endgame arrangement started to move to plan B, a lap of appreciation. The Premier League vans came back into the service tunnel to take away the podium, the fireworks, even the trophy.
Mancini started to ring the changes. The ground attack wasn't working. The channels were blocked, the lines cemented together as Rangers obdurate defence slid from side to side along with City's probing attack. Often forced out wide to send in crosses to no-one. Big man needed, enter Dzeko. Craft needed, enter..Balotelli.
The changes generated hope. Balotelli was more direct, Dzeko more robust, but still the red and white dyke could not be breached. Corner after corner, effort after effort, shot after shot. The tank looked empty as the match was about to move into stoppage time. As with the Kompany's goal against Stretford a fortnight ago, Silva's corner went right on the button as Dzeko sent a bullet header into the Rangers net to make it 2-2 on the day, leaving City one goal away from the title. That would be "typical City" - to lose it all in a photo-finish.
News filtered through that the match was over at the Stadium of Light where the typical Milton Keynesers were already celebrating. News also filtered through that Bolton had only managed a 2-2 draw at Stoke and as celebrations started in the away end and with only seconds left on the clock, Rangers dropped their guard for one single second. It was enough for a scruffy one-two between Aguero and Balotelli. It was enough for Aguero to compose himself with an extra touch. It was enough for Aguero to smash the ball past Kenny and into the QPR net. It was enough to change the big wave of despair into a tsunami of ecstasy. It was enough to signal the start of untold celebration of the like we have never seen at the Etihad, nor at Maine Road. The stadium almost fell down, the noise was available on the Richter Scale. The match was over. The desolation transferred to the Stadium of Light where Sunderland's fans did the Poznan. For once it went City's way.
Mayhem broke out in the stadium, mayhem broke out in the service tunnel where the Premier League had to hurriedly retrieve the fireworks, the podium and redecorate the trophy. In the dressing room area the atmosphere was unbelievable in every sense as the players celebrated and waited for the on-field presentation platform to be constructed.
As Vincent Kompany was finally presented with the long-awaited Premier League trophy the Etihad reached crescendo proportions as the tears for fears become tears of joy. World City was in a daze. Even David Platt suffered short-term memory loss telling broadcasters he couldn't remember what happened. What could be seen on the seating decks needed to be seen to be believed. Those of us from the silver age of "typical City" saw this fantastic football club progress to a new golden age in two stoppage times minutes that defied logic, defied belief.
The Pedmachine managed to speak to David Platt, Mark Bowen, Kevin Hitchcock and even Martin Tyler, who although deep down had given up on the Blues, but who in his sheer commentating professionalism asked the question "Could it happen?." Mark Bowen confirmed that he too thought Rangers switched off for a moment and let City in. Martin Tyler told me as he had many others.."You couldn't write it, could you? You couldn't make it up". But it was compelling viewing for the Sky paying public with nine months work for twenty teams coming down to two stoppage time minutes.
This was a day of epic proportions, never before seen in the relatively short history of the Premier League. A sign hanging between levels two and three states "History in the Making." We are told to be part of it, we are part of it.
It was a day when the pages of the Premier League took on a new dimension. A day when football history moved on. A day when the so-called new kids on the block took their bow. A day when history was re-written. Hopefully a day when "typical City" was finally extinguished. How fitting therefore that Segio Aguero's winning goal was the 1066th scored in the Premier League this season.
Date:Monday May 14 2012
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