Manchester City won their fifth Premier League title in six years with a 1-0 win against Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, capping up their home season in style.
Arsenal had lost at Nottingham Forest the day before, as part of a late-season slump that has seen the Gunners win just one of their past seven games. With three games remaining, City had officially secured the championship.
Following City’s midweek victory over European champions Real Madrid, Pep Guardiola made a slew of changes for the visit of Chelsea. Only Kyle Walker and Manuel Akanji stayed, although their absence had little effect on the visitors’ chances.
Following a guard of homage from Frank Lampard and his soldiers, City lost no time in cranking up the heat. The kids who had been granted a rare start were purring like the predators that normally roam this pitch, with two combining for the opening after 12 minutes.
Cole Palmer, who had a great time defending Cesar Azpilicueta all afternoon, broke down the left before passing it over to Julian Alvarez. The World Cup champion took it in stride on the right side of the box before shooting past Kepa Arrizabalaga, who came in for Edouard Mendy in Chelsea’s starting lineup.
It was Alvarez’s 17th goal in all competitions in a remarkable first season that has only gone unnoticed because to the extraordinary teammate he stood in for tonight.
Phil Foden, who won his sixth Premier League title before reaching the age of 23, was given the run of the field. The England international was teasing the Blues’ midfielders, twisting and turning before blasting balls out to Palmer and Riyad Mahrez. He seemed to be able to command the speed and determine whether City turned it into a cricket score by himself.
Chelsea, on the other hand, had other plans. They responded with a few opportunities of their own, notably via Raheem Sterling, who returned to Etihad Stadium for the first time since leaving as a four-time league winner last summer. After receiving a fantastic ball over the top from Enzo Fernandez, he fluffed an attempted square. He ran past Manuel Akanji moments later to have a shot on goal, but Stefan Ortega stopped superbly on the ground.
City quickly shut down the half by dominating possession as the end-of-season euphoria set in, but Chelsea emerged stronger after the break. Chelsea’s steam quickly ran out amid a slew of changes from Lampard, including Sterling’s departure to a standing ovation from the home fans. City didn’t have much to give, but Alvarez did put the ball in the back of the goal once again. However, after checking the monitor, referee Michael Oliver ruled it out owing to a Mahrez handball in the buildup.
Kevin De Bruyne quickly followed, but City couldn’t or didn’t feel the need to turn the screw. After the final whistle, City supporters invaded the ground in scenes seldom seen in the Premier League. The players hurried down the tunnel as security did little to stop the supporters, flares and banners from flooding the pitch in seconds. The Premier League imposed a one-year stadium ban for anybody caught invading the pitch in September.
It should come as no surprise that Guardiola was pacing the sidelines in what was essentially a meaningless game for his squad. Whether he was virtually erupting with wrath as his defence played out too slowly or running to shift about his midfield positionally, his theatrics once again demonstrated why this City squad is so darn brilliant.
He and they are unyielding. Every player that enters an all-conquering squad on a day like this, whether a world-class star or a youngster chosen from the academy, is at the proper level. The expressions alter, but the intensity does not.
It’s why they’re on track for 94 points, which would have been the second-highest total ever before the Guardiola era, but now pales into insignificance. Yes, it’s against the background of 115 alleged violations of the league’s financial regulations, but the sheer ruthlessness must be admired.
To reach that amount, City must now defeat both Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford on the road. Then comes their chance at immortality, with Manchester United in the FA Cup final and Inter Milan in the Champions League final standing in their way.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have nothing to play for other than a solitary mid-table slot, with Frank Lampard’s team a point behind 11th-placed Crystal Palace with a game in hand. That matchup is four miles away at Old Trafford in Manchester on Thursday.