Manchester City retained their Premier League title and finally ended Liverpool’s magnificent challenge after surviving a scare to come from behind and outclass Brighton at the Amex.
Pep Guardiola’s side started the day knowing victory would ensure they would be the first team to retain the crown since Manchester United 10 years ago – but any slip-up could let in their relentless pursuers Liverpool, who were hosting Wolves at Anfield.
And when Glenn Murray gave the Seagulls the lead with a glancing header from a corner after 27 minutes, anxiety rose in Sussex and hopes rose at Anfield that Liverpool might win their first title in 29 years.
Manchester City’s response was instant, emphatic and ruthless as they swept Brighton aside to end the campaign with a record 14 successive league victories, making it 32 in all, which equals the record they set last season.
Sergio Aguero pounced in the area to equalise inside 83 seconds and Aymeric Laporte arrived unmarked on the end of a corner to put City ahead before half-time.
Brighton had no way back and City completed the formalities in spectacular style as Riyad Mahrez fired high past Mat Ryan just after the hour and Ilkay Gundogan’s spectacular 72nd minute free-kick sparked wild celebrations.
City may not have repeated the 100 points that won the title last season but this was arguably an even sweeter success given the season-long battle with Liverpool.
They will now aim to complete a unique domestic treble when they face Watford in the FA Cup final at Wembley on 18 May.
Man City stung into action
City knew their task at kick-off in Sussex – but whether it was a combination of nerves or unwitting complacency, it took the fright of going behind to kick them into action.
City were careless and lacking in urgency until Murray bundled in a near-post header.
It was the signal for the last assault on the title.
Aguero swiftly put the show back on the road and once Laporte escape the attentions of Murray to head home, this was job done.
It was a fitting decoration that the final two goals of City’s season were thunderous efforts from Mahrez and Gundogan, demonstrating the quality that is spread so liberally through this squad.
Brighton, to their credit, did not simply stand aside and allow the party to take place: Chris Hughton’s side were organised and resilient but once they levelled matters up, City were irresistible.
And even the home fans accepted the inevitable by the final whistle, rising to first give a standing ovation to City captain Vincent Kompany when he was substituted and then to Guardiola and his team once referee Michael Oliver had sounded the final whistle that confirmed they were were Premier League champions for the fourth time and for the sixth time in total.
City’s achievement, completed with that astonishing 14-game win towards the winning post, is underscored by the fact they saw off a Liverpool side that lost just once this season – to City – and amassed 97 points.
This is a magnificent feat by Guardiola and Manchester City.
The best team always ends as Premier League champions – and no matter how superbly Liverpool have performed, they came up against a truly outstanding team that was just one point better.
Brighton survive again
This was a day of celebration for Manchester City – and also one of satisfaction for Brighton as they look forward to another season in the Premier League.
It was a particularly special day for their iconic 38-year-old Spanish defender Bruno, who was making his final appearance. He was cheered throughout and made an emotional farewell when he was taken off.
Bruno, clearly loved down here, was also acclaimed during a post-match speech.
The Brighton fans left for summer in good heart after surviving late worries they may be hauled into the relegation fight and now shrewd manager Hughton will start plotting again to ensure they are in position for another season of consolidation when it all starts again in August.
Man of the match – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
City’s sixth top-flight title – the stats
- Manchester City have won their fourth Premier League title – only Manchester United (13) and Chelsea (5) have ever won more in the competition.
- Overall, City have won their sixth English top-flight title. They’re the first side to retain the title since Manchester United in 2008-09.
- This was the eighth time the Premier League title has been decided on the final day of the season, with Manchester City winning it on three of those occasions (2011-12, 2013-14 and 2018-19).
- City’s haul of 98 points is the joint-second highest for any team in English top-flight history (converting to three points for a win) – only City themselves have ever earned more (100 in 2017-18).
- City conceded the first goal in a Premier League game for the first time since their 2-0 defeat at Chelsea in December – they were behind for just 83 seconds before Sergio Aguero’s equaliser.
- City have won their last 14 Premier League games – only City themselves (18 in December 2017) have had a longer winning run in the competition.
- City have won 32 Premier League games this season – equalling their own record in the competition from last season for most wins in a single campaign in the competition.
- Sergio Aguero has scored 32 goals in all competitions for Man City this season – only in 2016-17 (33) has he scored more in a single campaign for City.
- City’s David Silva has provided 18 assists for Sergio Aguero in the Premier League – only three players have ever assisted another for more goals in the competition (Frank Lampard to Didier Drogba, Darren Anderton to Teddy Sheringham and Steve McManaman to Robbie Fowler).
- Glenn Murray has scored 36% of Brighton’s overall Premier League goals (25/69), the highest proportion of any team’s goals in the competition’s history.
‘My toughest title to win’ – reaction
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, speaking to Sky Sports: “We have to say congratulations to Liverpool and thank you so much, they pushed us to increase our standards.
“It’s incredible, 98 points, to go back-to-back. We made the standard higher last season and Liverpool helped us. To win this title we had to win 14 (league games) in a row. We couldn’t lose one point.
“It’s the toughest title we have won in all my career, by far.”
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, speaking to Sky Sports: “I’m just delighted, this is exactly what I came to the club for, to win trophies and be in these moments.
“The manager here… his mentality is the best. It’s always about winning. It’s the way he sets us up. I’m happy to be here learning and winning.
“As a manager, he’s got multiple players in each position challenging each other. No one is comfortable here but everyone is ready to take their chance – like Riyad today. He’s not played much recently but I knew he was going to score today.
“It’s been a lovely season after a difficult World Cup. Hopefully I can go one better next year.”
Brighton manager Chris Hughton, speaking to Sky Sports: “The next step for us is to learn from the disappointment we had in periods this season.
“We need to score more goals, that’s the biggest thing. There are really good parts of our game that we can hold on to, but goals are the most important thing.”
On Bruno’s retirement: “Bruno’s an exceptional individual. It’s not just about him being a great captain. The way he looks after himself and gets in the shape he is, it’s great dedication.
“He’s a fantastic individual and a person. That’s why he’s held in such high esteem here.”
Author: Phil McNulty