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Aguero's 94th-minute winner claims title for Man City

ESPN staff
May 13, 2012

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Plays of the Day: City take title in Fergie time

The city of Manchester is officially under blue control after Sergio Aguero incredibly helped Manchester City come from 2-1 down in injury-time to end their 44-year wait for the tag of 'English champions' on Sunday.

After the most phenomenal climax to a Premier League season, there was cause for double celebration at The Etihad Stadium as City lifted their first top-flight title since 1968, while QPR survived relegation courtesy of Bolton's draw at Stoke. The Champions League places go to Arsenal and Tottenham - at least for now, in the case of Spurs - after what was a compelling final day of Premier League action.

Manchester City have been, without question, the best team in England this season, scoring more goals and conceding fewer than any other side. They nevertheless required three points at home to QPR in order to witness Vincent Kompany lifting the Premier League trophy, but it needed a quite unbelievable injury-time fightback as Edin Dzeko and then Aguero scored in a dramatic 3-2 victory.

Roberto Mancini said it would be his "greatest achievement" if he was able to wrest the league title away from United, and after a season when he has had to deal with severe hindrances in Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, the Italian's name rightly echoed around fortress Etihad - where no visitor has won a league game all season.

It was absolute one-way traffic at Eastlands as QPR barely got out of their own half, but after news of a Wayne Rooney goal at Sunderland filtered into the ground City suffered an attack of the nerves, even when Pablo Zabaleta poked through the soft hands of Paddy Kenny for 1-0.

A shocking error three minutes into the second period from Joleon Lescott, when he blindly opted to flick the ball back to Joe Hart - succeeding only in setting up Djibril Cisse for an equaliser - sparked panic around the Etihad.

City's cause was aided by the sending-off of former player Joey Barton, who really should have been shown three red cards after he elbowed Carlos Tevez, floored Aguero with a knee to the back and aimed a headbutt at Kompany all in the same incident.

With half an hour still to play, a winning City goal surely had to arrive, but instead it was Jamie Mackie who stole in at the back post to send QPR - and United - into raptures. City responded by throwing everything at Rangers, but as the clock ticked into injury-time the score remained 2-1.

Suddenly, however, there was hope when Dzeko managed to bundle home for 2-2 with four minutes of injury-time still to play. And then, with Mancini a ball of anguish on the sidelines, it was Aguero who broke into the box in the 94th minute to score the most dramatic title-winning goal in Premier League history.

Wayne Rooney's goal wasn't enough for Manchester United © PA Photos

Manchester United started the day knowing victory at Sunderland likely wouldn't be enough to overhaul City, and in agonising circumstances that proved the case despite their 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.

Back in October Sir Alex Ferguson, following City's 6-1 win at Old Trafford, prophesied that "you never know when goal difference will count", and that one result has ultimately decided the title.

As United's match came to a conclusion, the title was staying at Old Trafford after Rooney netted the only goal of the game for the Red Devils. A simple strike for the England man, he nodded home unmarked at the back post from a right-wing delivery, later hitting the bar as Sunderland failed to cope with United's top scorer.

However, as United's players stayed on the field to wait for news of City's result, the groans from the travelling faithful told Ryan Giggs and Co all they needed to know as a miraculous title triumph was snatched from their grasp.

QPR's defeat at City meant Bolton could have stayed up, had they won their final game at Stoke's Britannia Stadium. However, Owen Coyle will have to prepare his men for life in the Championship next season after they drew 2-2, leaving them one point adrift of safety after 38 games.

Stoke were by far the better team in the early stages at the Britannia, although when their 13th-minute opener arrived it was highly controversial. Jonathan Walters was the man to net, but his challenge on Adam Bogdan had Bolton screaming for a free-kick.

Bolton gave themselves hope when Mark Davies equalised five minutes before the break, and then an unbelievable error by Thomas Sorensen saw them lead 2-1 at half-time. Kevin Davies was the man with the shot, Sorensen somehow allowing the ball through his hands at the near post.

For a while Bolton's lead, coupled with QPR's result at City, meant the Trotters were staying up, but Walters netted a penalty as everything began to go wrong towards the full-time whistle.

Arsenal guaranteed themselves Champions League football next season, and potentially secured the future services of skipper Robin van Persie, with a 3-2 victory over West Brom at the Hawthorns. With Chelsea capable of snatching the fourth Champions League qualifying spot if they beat Bayern Munich in next week's final, it was imperative that Arsenal finished third, which they managed thanks to goals from Yossi Benayoun, Andre Santos and Laurent Koscielny.

Yossi Benayoun was on the scoresheet for Arsenal © PA Photos

The Gunners needed all of four minutes to break the deadlock at the Hawthorns, and the goal came from Chelsea loanee Benayoun, although it owed much to an inexplicable Marton Fulop fumble as Robin van Persie's deflected through-ball somehow found its way through Fulop's hands and to the feet of Benayoun, who ran it into the unguarded net.

However, the lead lasted only six minutes as an awful offside decision allowed the Baggies to level. Shane Long was two yards offside when he latched onto the ball, stroking past Wojciech Szczesny for new England boss Roy Hodgson. Worse was to come too as Arsenal conceded again inside the opening quarter of an hour, Graham Dorrans putting Wenger's side in real danger at 2-1.

Arsenal were back level by half-time though, Santos lashing a 22-yard screamer beyond Fulop as the Gunners showed plenty of character in the fight for third. And they were helped enormously by Fulop as they secured all three points, with the West Brom keeper committing yet another error as Koscielny grabbed Arsenal's winner.

Tottenham are the team facing a nervy 90 minutes next week after their 2-0 win over Fulham was only enough to secure fourth in the table - disappointingly a point behind Arsenal. A Chelsea defeat to Bayern would send Spurs into the Champions League next year but victory for the Blues would leave Harry Redknapp's men contemplating life in the Europa League.

Ultimately Spurs' fate was taken out of their own hands by Arsenal's win at the Hawthorns, but they could have tossed away Champions League qualification altogether had they lost to Fulham and Newcastle won at Everton. Goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe ensured Redknapp's men remain in contention for a place at Europe's top table.

It took two minutes for Spurs to strike at White Hart Lane, Adebayor exchanging a one-two with Luka Modric to settle early nerves. They were then grateful to veteran keeper Brad Friedel, who produced two fine saves to deny Fulham an equaliser. Jermain Defoe's strike after the hour settled the contest, but it may only be enough for Europa League football.

Newcastle needed either Arsenal or Tottenham to drop points in order to have a chance of a top-four finish, after what has been a magnificent season under Manager of the Year Alan Pardew. In the end, results elsewhere mattered little as the Magpies were beaten 3-1 by Everton, who finish above Liverpool in the table.

Toffees goalkeeper Tim Howard was a spectator in the opening 15 minutes as Newcastle offered little, and the visitors deservedly fell behind when Steven Pienaar found the net with the help of a deflection off Mike Williamson. The lead was quickly doubled inside half an hour as January signing Nikica Jelavic added yet another to his Everton account, before Johnny Heitinga netted a third. Tim Cahill will miss the start of next season though after being sent off for a scuffle after the full-time whistle.

Emmanuel Adebayor scored in his last game for Tottenham © Getty Images

Liverpool avoided the prospect of finishing outside the top eight for the first time since 1954, although it was a hurdle they cleared in little style, losing 1-0 at Swansea. The result means Liverpool finish below Everton, while Swansea finish a commendable 11th in their first Premier League campaign thanks to Danny Graham's 86th-minute winner.

Aston Villa's Premier League safety was officially confirmed despite suffering a 2-0 defeat at Norwich. A miracle set of results could still have seen Villa relegated on the final day, but they can now plan for next season under Alex McLeish.

Grant Holt did his chances of an England call-up for Euro 2012 no harm with the opener on eight minutes, with Simeon Jackson doubling Norwich's advantage midway through the first half as they finish 12th.

Elsewhere, Chelsea can head to Germany for the Champions League final in good spirits after they beat relegated Blackburn 2-1. Roberto Di Matteo rested the entire XI that is expected to play next week, but the Blues still had too much thanks to goals from John Terry and Raul Meireles, with Yakubu grabbing Rovers' consolation.

And Roberto Martinez, linked by Sunday's newspapers to Liverpool, signed off on another successful season for Wigan with a 3-2 win against Wolves. Matthew Jarvis gave new boss Stale Solbakken something to shout about in the ninth minute, but they were quickly pegged back by Franco Di Santo and Emmerson Boyce (2) as Wigan turned the tables, before Steven Fletcher made things interesting at the death.

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