Even if you don't appreciate soccer, it's hard not to appreciate the closing minutes of Sunday's final round of English Premier League matches. Manchester City and Manchester United went in to the games tied on points, with City holding the advantage of a better goal difference. United took care of business at Sunderland, winning 1-0. Their match finished with the team and its fans thinking they'd won the league, with City down 2-1 at home to QPR, a team just a hair away from being relegated into the lower division. But there were a few more minutes of injury time to be played at Eastlands...A few minutes which City took full advantage of, scoring two goals to win the match 3-2, and bring the title to Manchester's second club for the first time in 44 years. It was an absolutely unbelievable finish, and the reaction of commentator Paul Merson (an ex-Arsenal midfielder) captures it well:
The full few minutes are worth watching, as well, particularly when spliced with the Man U players and fans learning of the defeat.
The outcome is notable for several reasons:
- Abu Dhabi oil money breaks Man City into the small club of Premier League winners. Make no doubt about it, this title was bought (just like Chelsea's have been) through the purchase of an entire team's worth of players. Let the debate begin about whether that matters.
- Mario Balotelli, so often the bad guy for Man City this season, supplied the assist for the winning goal, perhaps buying himself more time at the club, but also proving that beneath his immaturity, stupidity and awful haircuts, there's a world-class player.
- Man City enjoyed a goal difference (goals scored minus goals conceded) that was five goals better than Man United at the end of the day. The score when City embarrassed United at home in the fall? 6-1.
- It's a bit of melodrama to say an entire season of 38 games came down to just 2 minutes, though it's somewhat true. The 6-1 result mentioned above played a big part; as did United losing to Wigan and drawing with Everton a few weeks back as well. But let's not forget the role of one Joey Barton: the QPR midfielder got himself sent off for elbowing City's Carlos Tevez in the face, but despite playing a man down, his team still managed to go 2-1 and hold onto that lead for nearly half an hour. It wasn't the red card that did the damage, it was Barton hanging around after the fact for a few more minutes, during which he also kneed Aguero in the back of the legs and head-butted Vincent Kompany. Had Barton -- never one for going quietly -- not pulled his usual tricks, the trophy might have headed to the other side of Manchester.