Liverpool’s bid for a first Premier League title and a first top-flight triumph in 29 years ended in failure despite a final-day victory over Wolves.
Liverpool came to Etihad Stadium on 3 January with a seven-point cushion at the top of the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp’s side were unbeaten and knew that a win would put the defending champions 10 points behind them and potentially out of sight.
After 18 minutes, with the score locked at 0-0, Sadio Mane poked a shot past Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson that hit the post, only for John Stones’ attempted clearance to rebound off the keeper and come agonisingly close to crossing the line, before the defender hooked it away.
It was a moment Stones would describe as “something special” as he celebrated on the pitch at Brighton after the final-day victory that clinched the title by a single point.
But had Liverpool taken the lead would they have gone on to win? Ten points is an awful lot to make up in the remaining 17 games of the season.
As it was, goals from Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane gave City the win and inflicted Liverpool’s only defeat of the whole campaign.
In a title race so tight and so intense, the two head-to-head games were always going to be massively significant. City may have landed a crucial blow with that win in Manchester in January, but they missed a chance in October that would have helped them out even more.
Champions City had not won a league game at Anfield in 15 years. They had a great chance to end that run but Riyad Mahrez fired an 85th-minute penalty high over the bar. The game ended 0-0.
It will be noted here that the game against Leicester City would turn out to be the first of four draws in six games, handing the initiative in the title race back to City, the reigning champion.
On April 24, thanks to a win against Manchester United at Old Trafford, City at last took an outright lead in the table. It has not relinquished it.
By late January — only a few weeks after City had beaten Liverpool to regain some momentum in the race — Guardiola was of the same mind, resigned to the apparently inevitable in the tunnel at St. James’s Park. He did not watch Liverpool play Leicester the next night, preferring to watch “Jersey Boys” at Manchester’s Palace Theater. When he emerged, he knew his team had a reprieve. He was determined not to waste it.
No team had finished as Premier League runners-up with more than 89 points before now. In the top five European leagues, the runners-up to finish with the most points were Real Madrid in the 2009-10 La Liga season (96 points), an unwanted record Liverpool can now claim as their own.
When Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ went unbeaten en route to the title in 2003-04 they picked up 90 points, while only one other side has gone through a whole season losing just once – Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team who were champions in 2004-05.
THESPORTSBAY IS AN ONLINE SPORTS NEWSPAPER THAT GIVES REGULAR SPORTS NEWS UPDATE ON A DAILY BASIS TO MILLIONS OF READERS AROUND THE WORLD.
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLES.