Manchester City had already had the experience of playing at home and letting the title slip away.
Were the leaders going to crumble like never before in the Premier League?
It was the throbbing when they lost 2-0 to Aston Villa on Sunday, silencing their fans at the Etihad Stadium, while pursuers Liverpool beat Wolverhampton.
Like the comeback that was forged in 2012 to win its first Premier title with two goals in stoppage time, City completed another vibrant reaction.
City clinched their sixth English top division title in 11 seasons thanks to a flurry of three goals in five minutes to turn the score around and beat Aston Villa 3-2, thus avoiding being displaced on the final day by Liverpool.
When the 2-0 draw against Villa seemed grim, Ilkay Gündogan started the comeback after 76 minutes. Rodri leveled two minutes later and Gündogan put City ahead in the 81st.
For a moment, despite losing, City looked set to retain the title as Liverpool were drawing 1-1 with Wolverhampton.
But Mohamed Salah put the second in the table ahead in the 84th minute, and that could have catapulted Liverpool to the top. City, however, knew how to react at their Etihad fiefdom Andy Robertson sentenced Liverpool to a 3-1 victory.
“We have risen and we won,” said captain Fernandinho after his last game for City. “It’s a fantastic feeling.”
Relief, and ecstasy.
If City had conceded a goal in agony, Liverpool could have kept the trophy. But Pep Guardiola’s team resisted in an exciting final.
For something thousands of City fans stormed the field of play at the final whistle, defying warnings against pitch invasions. The stadium was covered in blue smoke.
It was not until the people could be cleared that the Premier trophy could be handed over to City.
“It was a crazy match,” Gündogan said. “We are human, and by losing 2-0, we are almost out of options. But we did the essentials and scored two goals quickly and then we had 10 minutes to score the third”.
Liverpool — the only team to interfere with City’s title run since 2018 by winning in 2020 — had to settle for second place. Champions of the two domestic cup tournaments, Jürgen Klopp’s team can still complete a hat-trick if they beat Real Madrid in the Champions League final next Saturday.
Also on Sunday, Tottenham certified qualification for the next Champions League after beating bottom club Norwich 5-0. Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski scored twice and Harry Kane scored the other as Spurs moved into fourth, two points clear of Arsenal, who beat Everton 5-1.
Manchester United will join Arsenal in the Europa League under new manager Erik ten Hag, despite losing 1-0 to Crystal Palace. West Ham squandered the chance to dislodge United from sixth place by losing 3-1 at Brighton, leaving last season’s Europa League semi-finalists in the Conference League.
In the bid for permanence, Leeds will remain in the Premier after a long-suffering 2-1 win against Brentford that condemned Burnley to relegation for the first time after six seasons in the Premier.
Leeds went ahead through a penalty taken by Raphinha in the 56th. Sergi Canós leveled for Brentford in the 78th, but the Spanish player was sent off shortly after receiving two bookings in quick succession. Jack Harrison scored the winning goal for Leeds in stoppage time. Leeds would have been relegated if Burnley managed to beat Newcastle at home, but in the end they lost 2-1.
Egypt’s Salah and South Korea’s Son Heung-min tied for top scorers with 23 goals. Salah has won the Golden Boot three times, and this is the first time Son has finished top of the scoring charts.
City’s defense of the title, crystallized on the last day, turned out to be more difficult than expected, since in January they managed to take a 14-point lead.
City’s fourth championship in five seasons marked a milestone for Guardiola. It was the first time City had sealed the title in front of their fans.