Saints and Huddersfield share spoils in Premier League season-ender
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.