Last-gasp City make it a terrific finish
MAY 15 — And so the mind went back to May 1999 and the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, as injury-time goals won Manchester United the UEFA Champions League title on an otherwise uneventful night against Bayern Munich.
Well, I suppose, if the Red half of Manchester could do it, so can the Blue of course!
Honestly, I’ll raise my hands and admit I got it wrong on both counts. I had thought it was all over on Sunday, as the match reached the 90-minute mark, and never expected such a dramatic turn of events just as I had written off Alex Ferguson’s men 13 years ago as that match entered injury time, too!
Divine intervention was the first thought on my mind as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prodded home from Teddy Sheringham’s header!
And, divine intervention it was too when Sergio Aguero smashed home the long-awaited (in more ways than one) title-winning goal!
Eventually, tired legs got the better of Queens Park Rangers and I am glad they stayed up in the Premiership despite the loss.
The Hoops came with a game plan, to defend and defend deep, which they did well. Tactically they gave room and lots of time to City leftback Gael Clichy but he, in turn, never could put in a decent cross.
The City defence, on the other hand, were let down by their two best players in central defence. It was Joleon Lescott misjudging a header for the first goal conceded (scored by Djibril Cisse) and Vincent Kompany getting caught by Armand Traore before playing a wonderful cross to the far post for Jamie Mackie to head home.
Meanwhile, over at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland entertained Man United.
One of the highlights of the evening — and I mean across all the matches played on Sunday night — was the gauntlet of emotions on Wayne Rooney’s face as the drama unfolded. This is the beauty of watching two games side by side and was he not a picture to behold.
Moving on to the second biggest do-or-die mission of the night — Arsenal’s trip to The Hawthorns to take on West Bromwich Albion — the Red half of North London proved that their credentials for entering the Champions League group stage were most worthy.
The Gunners deserved third place as they eventually remained focused compared with neighbours Tottenham Hotspur. The Arsenal had good periods of play during the season while on occasion their defensive flaws were papered over but were glaring nevertheless.
The slump in Spurs’ season, when the manager had his mind on the England-job-that-never-was, could well be dealt another blow if fellow Londoners Chelsea win the Champions League this Saturday. Maybe, just maybe, this could be a good thing, too, as the Spurs need to better manage their players.
Slowly but surely the meltdown has already begun as Harry Redknapp dismantles the team, alienating certain players, i.e. Jermain Defoe, and is now already making calls for money to be spent. A trend when it is Harry, as we have seen with his previous clubs.
The Newcastle United train, meanwhile, eventually came to a halt but that did not prevent them from parading that awful away shirt of theirs at Goodison Park.
The Magpies have had a wonderful season with a good set of players but now need to build a stronger squad. And, by that, I mean they need to have something more than Shola Ameobi coming off the bench.
The Blues of Stamford Bridge should play in yellow come Saturday at the Allianz Arena as Bayern Munich do seem to have an aversion to that colour.
On the other hand, the dismantling of the Bavarians by Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final last Saturday could well be the death knell for Chelsea. I will write more on that later this week.
I must mention here too that one of the highlights of the season was Swansea City’s brand of football. A huge amount of credit is due to Brendan Rodgers for making the Swans an extremely enjoyable team to watch.
The comparisons to Barcelona were in no way exaggerated. To see ordinary players caress and pass the ball with such composure and confidence surely begs the question as to why more managers never get it right.
The three clubs that went down — two sets of Wanderers and a team of Rovers, funny how the names seem so apt for teams that are now venturing out of the Premiership — will acknowledge their own weaknesses and there will be no excuses.
Although, it does make one wonder as to why Kevin Davies was under-utilised by Bolton manager Owen Coyle. There seemed to be some personal friction between the two and eventually Coyle is the loser.
And so concludes the 20th edition of the English Premier League.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.