Manchester City win Premier League title with Brighton rout
BRIGHTON, England -- Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions after a 4-1 victory at Brighton ensured they finished above Liverpool by just a point in one of the tightest title races in Premier League history.
City started the day on top but dropped to second after an early goal at Anfield, and the pressure grew when Glenn Murray headed Brighton ahead in the 27th minute. But Sergio Aguero equalised just 83 seconds later and Aymeric Laporte headed City ahead before half-time.
Pep Guardiola's men wrapped up the crucial three points with brilliant second-half strikes from Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan to win a second consecutive Premier League crown.
Not only are City champions, but the manner of their achievement cannot be overstated. After winning the title with 100 points last season, Guardiola was uncertain if his players could go again and they responded by recording the second-biggest ever pointy tally of 98 to become the first club to defend the title in a decade. Not to be forgotten, to get over the line, they picked up 14 successive victories, the second biggest winning streak in Premier League history.
City fans won't thank the players for putting them through the nerve shredder after conceding the opening goal. The manner of it, a near-post header from a corner, was reminiscent of Fernando Llorente's killer goal that ultimately saw them knocked out of the Champions League by Tottenham. But Pep Guardiola will have all summer to get his side even better and will spend little time worrying about the negatives on the final day of a ridiculously competitive season.
8 -- Guardiola decided to recall Riyad Mahrez for his first start in six weeks with Brighton squeezing the space and City needing to move the ball quickly rather than threatening with pace. It was a surprise that the Algerian began the game on the left wing with Bernardo Silva on Mahrez's preferred right-hand side and Raheem Sterling as a No. 10, but the three have the flexibility to switch into each other's positions and Guardiola changed it midway through the first half and his side looked more of a threat. Mahrez justified his selection with a stunning strike to give City the comfort of a two-goal cushion.
GK Ederson, 7 -- It takes a title decider to ruffle the Brazilian, who had a couple of slightly nervy moments. That said, he was still a big presence even if he couldn't keep the clean sheet he wanted.
DF Kyle Walker, 7 -- His passing was slightly off early when he was troubled by the pace of Alireza Jahanbakhsh but he settled into the game as City took the lead.
DF Vincent Kompany, 7 -- Produced one of the crucial moments of the season on Monday but this was a more understated performance where his leadership qualities shone through.
DF Aymeric Laporte, 8 -- Solid defensively and attacked the ball with utter determination to grab the crucial second.
DF Oleksandr Zinchenko, 7 -- Brighton tried to isolate him with Murray from high balls out of defence but he kept battling well and supported the attack superbly.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 8 -- Dictated the play from a deep-lying midfield position as he tried to shift the Brighton defence out of position. Capped it all off with a stunning free kick.
MF David Silva, 7 -- Drifted around the edge of the box and threaded some short passes that had the Seagulls panicking.
MF Raheem Sterling, 7 -- Started as a No. 10 but looked more of a threat when he moved out to the left wing although Bruno enjoyed himself on his farewell appearance.
FW Bernardo Silva, 7 -- Constant threat with his clever dribbling and was quick to change the tempo when Brighton tried to slow the pace of City attacks.
FW Sergio Aguero, 7 -- Clever with his movement and grabbed an equaliser with his first opportunity shortly after the home side went ahead.
FW Riyad Mahrez, 7 -- Still getting to grips with Guardiola's tactics but scored a brilliant third which settled City's nerves.
MF Kevin De Bruyne. N/R -- A welcome return to enjoy the celebrations after an injury-hit season.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, N/R -- Late change to give Kompany a deserved reception from both the away and home fans.
DF Danilo, N/R -- Came on late for Walker to take part in the festivities.
LEICESTER -- Chelsea sealed third place in the Premier League with an underwhelming 0-0 draw against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, while Eden Hazard was unable to provide a match-winning contribution on perhaps his final appearance in English football.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek continued his late season form and showed no ill effects from the cramp that forced him off against Eintracht Frankfurt in midweek. This game offered little else to shout about, but Chelsea remarkably finish a rollercoaster season as London's top club.
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Gonzalo Higuain ended his unfulfilling six-month spell in the Premier League with a desperately listless display, and it's difficult to know where the goals will come from against Arsenal in the Europa League final if Hazard doesn't produce an individual masterclass in Baku.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Sarri wisely opted to rest Hazard with a top four place already assured, but gave the travelling Chelsea fans something to cheer by bringing on the Belgian in the second half. It's a pity though that he couldn't find room to give academy youngster Marc Guehi a senior debut, having included him in the squad.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 6 -- On what might prove his final Chelsea appearance the veteran Argentine backup goalkeeper was relatively untested and generally solid. His kicking, one of the weaker aspects of his game, created no real problems and he commanded his area nicely.
DF Davide Zappacosta, 6 -- Handed his first Chelsea start in two months he did pretty well, darting forward regularly and causing panic in the Leicester defence with some of his crosses. Had trouble running the other way against the lively Ben Chilwell though, and his attacking threat waned as the game wore on.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- Leicester didn't have the aerial threat to exploit his lack of height at centre-back, and aside from one slip, he didn't often encounter the speed of Jamie Vardy. Passed safely under pressure and scrambled well a couple of times as the home side surged forward.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Celebrated his new two-year contract with some vital interceptions to preserve Chelsea's clean sheet, most notably poking away Chilwell's cutback with Leicester players queuing up to score. His slip granted Vardy a free run at goal but that was the only error in a decent display.
DF Marcos Alonso, 6 -- Looked a little fresher and faster than he has for most of this season, and should have got an assist with a precise low cross that an unmarked Higuain somehow managed to bundle wide. Wasn't greatly troubled by Marc Albrighton or Ricardo Pereira.
MF Ross Barkley, 6 -- Carved open the Leicester defence with a perfect run onto Jorginho's pass, only to hammer his shot straight at Kasper Schmeichel. Fired another left-footed effort wide, but overall he didn't look to get into the penalty area enough. He was also loose with the ball at times.
MF Jorginho, 6 -- A little sloppier with his passing than usual and at times Leicester's pressing unsettled him, but he had plenty of good moments too. Barkley's miss from his brilliant pass in the opening minutes underlined how unfair it is that he's failed to register a Premier League assist this season.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 7 -- Chelsea's most dangerous player. Took every opportunity to lead promising attacks with driving runs through midfield and picked out sensible passes in the final third, though his teammates too often failed to capitalise on them. Didn't manage to test Schmeichel himself.
FW Pedro Rodriguez, 5 -- Always catches the eye with his work rate and his passing was better than in a nightmare display against Eintracht Frankfurt. Couldn't get anything done in the final third though, and rarely seemed on the same wavelength as his fellow attackers.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 2 -- Too slow to press, too passive to hold the ball up, too sloppy to link play. This was another torrid performance, capped by a horrendous miss when he was found unmarked by Alonso's low cross shortly before half-time. He's given Chelsea no reason to want him back next season.
FW Willian, 6 -- Had some joy early on cutting in from his favoured left flank, stinging the palms of Schmeichel with one low shot. That was pretty much the extent of his goal threat. His most notable contribution was at the other end, surging back to help foil Vardy after Azpilicueta and Luiz had slipped.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- His introduction was greeted with great fanfare but he cruised through the final stages of this game, rarely looking likely to provide a breakthrough. Couldn't quite control one Loftus-Cheek pass in the box and did not get the penalty he was seeking.
MF Mateo Kovacic, NR -- Provided fresh legs when he was brought on for Barkley in the 76th minute.
FW Olivier Giroud, NR -- Much more threatening than Higuain in the final six minutes as he tried to get on the end of several crosses, to no avail.