In the end, Manchester City flexed their title-winning muscles.
For Brighton & Hove Albion, much like the rest of England’s elite, they proved too good. Too good, crucially, for an eminently laudable Liverpool, who concluded the campaign with a scarcely believable 97 points.
City ended it with one more, to again finish at the summit. For the first time in a decade, the English champions retained their crown. Pep Guardiola's men decided the Premier League’s great battle of the north by frolicking in the sun in the south.
Brighton were bettered then battered, going from 1-0 up to 4-1 down. City survived some early final-day nerves to offer another example of their expertise. A fourth Premier League trophy was arguably their best yet.
“Back-to-back, it was the hardest and most satisfying Premier League ever,” said captain Vincent Kompany who, signed days before the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008, has been present for them all. “Liverpool were exceptional this year. I don’t mean to rub it in, it is what it is: they didn’t deserve to be a loser today."
Referencing the league showdown at the Etihad Stadium not long into 2019, when John Stones hacked the ball from the line and Liverpool’s potential 10-point lead was cut to four, Kompany traced City's success back to then.
“It makes me so much more happier," he said. "We played against such a good team all season and, when our backs were against the wall, we won at home at the Etihad and that made the difference today. And until now we were able to stay in front.”
Eventually, City would go on to win 14 league matches on the bounce, the second-longest streak ever recorded. The sequence halted at Brighton, with City exalted. They added the league title to the League Cup captured in February, and have the FA Cup final to come next weekend. A first domestic treble in English football history heaved to within view.
For Kompany, the newest addition to the collection was made possible by the collective.
“It’s a combination, it’s the group of players, it’s the staff,” he said. “We’ve got an incredible desire to overachieve and, because we have such a good team, overachieving is difficult.
“We’re looking forward to the FA Cup final now. It’s unprecedented. We’ll be here to celebrate, but as well we’ll be thinking of the next game on Saturday.”
On Sunday, City conquered the tension at the Amex, climbed back from Glenn Murray’s headed opener and at the final whistle cavorted in front of their travelling fans.
They were behind on 27 minutes, but down for only 83 seconds. Seeking an instant response to Brighton's goal, Sergio Aguero spun onto David Silva’s flick and rifled his finish below Mat Ryan in the Brighton goal. All the while, Liverpool led at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, simplifying the sums. Only three points would suffice.
On 38 minutes, Aymeric Laporte sent City on their way, rising high to head down Riyad Mahrez’s inswinging corner. From there, they cruised to what they needed. Just after the hour, Mahrez dumped Lewis Dunk on the turf and thrashed a right-footed effort beyond Ryan.
Fans in Abu Dhabi cheer on Man City
Ilkay Gundogan rounded off the romp, curling his free-kick high into Brighton's top corner. There were 18 minutes remaining, but the race was run. The Premier League’s too. Kompany was withdrawn late on, to a standing ovation from what felt the entire venue, soon to be wrapped in Guardiola’s arms on the touchline. By the time the evening was done, he had arms enveloping the top-flight trophy.
A week that began with his thunderous decider against Leicester City concluded with him holding aloft the hardware. The key, he said, was his team’s strength of character.
“We all chipped in this season,” Kompany said. “The talk is about the goal, but I’m thinking of how many clean sheets we kept the last 15 games or so. It’s ridiculous. I’m so proud of the guys to do the work going forward, but as well when we had to win 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, to do the work defensively.”
They defended their place as the country’s lead outfit. Liverpool came up just short, accumulating the most points in history of any team in Europe’s top five leagues without lifting the title. They were beaten only once, to City's four.
Perhaps that provided the biggest testament to City’s feat. Liverpool’s lasting challenge pushed them harder, but still they persisted on their perch. The Blue Moon club have developed a winning habit.