Manchester City title party put on hold after Marcos Alonso’s late winner for Chelsea
Guardiola's side miss chance to be crowned champions as Aguero fluffs his lines from the spot
Chelsea had already denied Manchester City the quadruple. Now they have delayed their coronation as champions, if not for long. They will hope such a capacity to frustrate Pep Guardiola bodes well for the Champions League final.
The win Thomas Tuchel’s team secured may yet have greater consequences for them, their chances of securing a top-four finish looking all the better when Marcos Alonso’s shot from Timo Werner’s injury-time cross looped in to give City back-to-back home league defeats.
Their third Premier League crown in four seasons still feels a formality. With Manchester United playing three times before City visit Newcastle on Friday and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer set to field a weakened team in at least one game, it is very possible their triumph will be rubber-stamped without them kicking another ball.
But it represented an anticlimactic end to a seismic spell at the Etihad Stadium. Indeed, after reaching their maiden Champions League final, it could have been the greatest week in City’s history.
Instead, it may be a strange postscript to Sergio Aguero’s City career. He ended his first season in England by scoring the most dramatic title-winning goal in the division’s history; he will surely win the Premier League for a fifth time in a decade, but only after a remarkable penalty miss when he could have doubled City’s lead.
It came amid an action-packed few minutes before half-time. Ruben Dias played a hopeful pass forward, Gabriel Jesus outmuscled Andreas Christensen, who was hurt as he went down. He found Aguero, but the striker’s stray touch turned into an accidental assist, serving to tee the ball up perfectly for Raheem Sterling to drill in his first club goal since February.
Whereas one misjudgement by Aguero benefited City, another cost them. Almost immediately, Billy Gilmour caught Jesus in the box.
Aguero’s attempt at a Panenka penalty was cheeky. It was also read by Edouard Mendy, who stood up and caught it. Guardiola looked irritated. Chelsea, who have been punished remorselessly by Aguero over the years, were relieved.
They capitalised on their reprieve. Rodri was dispossessed. Cesar Azpilicueta advanced and picked out Hakim Ziyech. The winger had scored Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final winner against City last month. He struck again, drilling in a low left-footed shot.
Rodri could be forgiven for feeling overworked and outnumbered. This may have been a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final, but it featured a cast of understudies.
Each has had terrific runs this season but this was not a game when City looked Europe’s outstanding side. They were nothing like as incisive as they were when they rushed into a 3-0 lead at Stamford Bridge in January.
Guardiola, the manager who famously loves midfielders, only really selected one in a side that showed nine changes. After he benched his bunch of creative midfielders, City lacked the players to knit the team together and those who combine and create seamlessly.
They gave the ball away rather more frequently and needlessly than they usually do in an unconvincing, disjointed display before, belatedly, he summoned Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan and the Mancunian almost got a decider from the German’s cross while Guardiola wanted another penalty when Kurt Zouma bundled into Sterling.
But Chelsea displayed spirit and resilience. They had the ball in the net five times, but three were chalked off. Werner was offside twice when found by Reece James, once with a misdirected shot, once with a cross.
Callum Hudson-Odoi was closer to being onside when he converted a cross from the excellent James. But they, and Werner, were relentless. He found Alonso, who showed his eye for goal, and their extraordinary record under Tuchel got still better.
Updated: May 8, 2021 11:01 PM