BC-SOC--Man City Champion,1st Ld-Writethru
BRIGHTON, England (AP) — Manchester City retained the Premier League trophy after coming from behind to beat Brighton 4-1 and see off Liverpool’s relentless challenge on the final day of the season on Sunday.
The quality and intensity of the title race was emphasized by City requiring a 14th successive league victory to finish a point above a Liverpool side chasing a first championship crown in 29 years as the top two finished with a record 195 points combined.
“Liverpool was exceptional, I don’t mean to rub it in, it is what it is, they didn’t deserve to lose,” City captain Vincent Kompany said. “It makes me so much more happy that we played such a great team all season.”
But during a 21-minute wobble in the first half City looked like throwing away a fourth title in eight seasons.
Sadio Mane put Liverpool in front against Wolverhampton in the 17th minute and a jittery City fell behind 10 minutes later at Brighton.
“We heard the Brighton fans singing ‘1-0 to Liverpool’ just at the moment we conceded,” Kompany said.
Even when Sergio Aguero leveled 83 seconds after Glenn Murray’s header, City only moved back into top spot when Aymeric Laporte nodded in from Riyad Mahrez’s corner in the 38th minute.
It turned out to be the goal that clinched the title.
But there were still nerves to be eased in the second half. Mahrez netted in the 63rd minute, a rare high point in his first season after joining City in a record 60 million pound (then $80 million) signing in July.
There was a stylish conclusion to City’s title defense when Ilkay Gundogan scored directly from a free kick in the 72nd minute for the team’s 95th goal in 38 league matches.
“We were creating chances, finding the gaps, imposing ourselves,” Kompany said. “Though the pitch was slow I felt we were magnificent. We did everything we needed to do in a game such as today.”
City became the first team since Manchester United in the 2007-08 season to retain the trophy, part of a hat trick of successes for Alex Ferguson’s team.
With Ferguson long retired and United in freefall, City is the force not only in Manchester but English football. City has won the Premier League four times since the influx of Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth following a 2008 takeover, having only won the title twice before that.
Guardiola has now won eight league titles in his 10 seasons as a coach, stretching back to his debut campaign at Barcelona when he won a treble in 2009 and featuring successes at Bayern Munich.
City remains on course for an English treble, having already collected a League Cup and preparing for the FA Cup final against Watford on Saturday.
“We’ll go and celebrate but we’re also thinking of that next game on Saturday,” Kompany said.