Winning the league
It’s rare to see a club winning the league title with more than a couple games to go in the season. Bayern Munich convincingly cruised to the Bundesliga title with a 4-1 win at Augsburg. Manchester City had the opportunity to cruise as well, dominating the first half of the Manchester derby against United at the Etihad. However they struggled mightily in the second half, allowing United to strike in quick succession and snipe a win.
Bayern’s Magic Number
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Winning the league with 6 games to go is a hell of a feat. In the Bundesliga it has only been outdone by the 2013-2014 Bayern team who won that year with 7 games to go in March. What’s even more impressive is this is Bayern’s 6th straight league title. The number 6 has some legitimate significance for them today.
The game got off to a funky start, with Augsburg going ahead 1-0 in the 18th on a weird own goal. Niklas Sule caught an odd deflection from his own keeper off his face and it rolled into the net. That lead lasted barely 14 minutes before Corentin Tolisso leveled, and James Rodriguez got the go-ahead 6 minutes after that. Arjen Robben and Sandro Wagner added second half goals, cementing Bayern Munich as champions with a 4-1 win.
After a 6-0 spanking of Borussia Dortmund last weekend, Bayern Munich solidified their place at the top of a very lopsided Bundesliga. To put this in perspective, Bayern is 20 points ahead of 2nd place Schalke. Dortmund has really fallen off from what they’ve been the past few years. This has given Bayern true reign that I don’t see them relinquishing anytime soon.
The Battle of Manchester
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Admittedly, I started this post with the hopes of talking about how 2 clubs won their respective leagues with 6 games to go. City could have set the standard for the Premier League. The current record is winning the league with 5 games to go and, almost perfectly, that belongs to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
Then City had to go and ruin my glory. And theirs I suppose. To be honest I’m just bitter because City plays Spurs next week and I absolutely don’t want them winning the title at Wembley. This game was really a tale of two halves.
First Half – City
City was a force. They scored two beautiful goals and continued packing on the pressure through the end of the half. They did this all without the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero, and Kyle Walker. It was clear that Pep Guardiola was prioritizing the Champions League clash with Liverpool on Tuesday over a definitive win today. Losing 3-0 in the first leg left a bad taste, and they need to be well rested to fire back in the second leg.
Ashley Young was subject of the first controversial moment of the game. Within the opening 8 minutes, he went down for a challenge in the box, and seemed to have handled the ball. This could have ended up an early penalty, but referee Martin Atkinson waved play on.
City had opportunity after opportunity. Raheem Sterling had a pair of misses that he should have buried, and he set up Bernardo with a weak attempt in the 22nd minute. Bernardo came flying down the right flank and put a nice ball into the top of the box. Sterling struggled to get a good touch, but was able to slip through to a streaking Bernardo. He was only able to poke his toe at it however, and David De Gea made an easy stop.
Minutes later, Leroy Sane made a nice run into the left side of the box. His cross attempted was stymied, forcing City’s first corner of the match. The ball was whipped in, and captain Vincent Kompany was able to bury a beautiful header over De Gea. Not 5 minutes later, İlkay Gündoğan made a beautiful turn in the box, slotting home in the far bottom corner. City looked as though they could go into halftime up 3 or 4, but United was able to hold them off.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 7, 2018
Second Half – United
After some classic Jose Mourinho anti-football in the first half, United came out with their foot on the gas in the second. Right away, the put their best foot forward and forced City’s press back into their own half. It only took about 8 minutes before Paul Pogba was able to slot home United’s first goal. Alexis Sanchez did a great job in the attack, getting the ball into the box. Two minutes later, Pogba struck again with a difficult header that brought the game level. This was Pogba’s first brace in the Premier League.
Pep brought on De Bruyne and Jesus pretty quickly in hopes of regaining control of the match. Both teams looked as though they could take the upper hand over the next 10 or so minutes. It was United however who pulled ahead. Chris Smalling put one home off a corner to give United the lead, and they were able to hang on until the end, spoiling City’s title celebration for at least one more week.
FT: City 2 #MUFC 3.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 7, 2018
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If you thought this match would finish without some controversy you were mistaken. Atkinson gave out 9 cards overall, 6 to City and 3 to United. Of those, 7 were given in the second half. Once things pulled even the game became a dogfight. Once United pulled ahead the wheels fell off.
Ashley Young should have been sent off for a rash, studs up challenge on Aguero in the box. Atkinson waved play on and Young wasn’t punished at all, which is absurd. If it were me, Young would have been given a straight red and City would have had a penalty, with some time left to get another goal while up a man. This is one of the few times I think VAR could benefit the Premier League, but I digress.
Atkinson frankly had no control over the game in the final 20 minutes. Challenges were flying in, cards get plenty of action in and out of his pocket, and yet some sure fire calls (Young getting sent off) never happened.
Better Luck Next Time
Even though City left derby day without winning the league, their time will come. And soon. They have another tough Champions League match with Liverpool on Tuesday, then go to Wembley to play Spurs in a rare evening match next Saturday. I’m hoping they lose both of those matches and win the league at some point after that. They have Swansea, West Ham, Huddersfield, and Brighton left. There’s no doubt they’re going to do it. At this point it’s just a question of when.