Saturday 17 August, 2019

Manchester City edge Liverpool to retain Premier League title

Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte is hugged by teammate Kyle Walker, foreground right, after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Manchester City at the AMEX Stadium in Brighton, England, Sunday, May 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte is hugged by teammate Kyle Walker, foreground right, after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Manchester City at the AMEX Stadium in Brighton, England, Sunday, May 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Manchester City retained the Premier League crown on Sunday thanks to a 4-1 win at Brighton and Hove Albion, becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles in England's top flight for a decade.

Alex Ferguson's Manchester United made it three in a row in the 2008-09 season, after which point the Premier League has changed hands year on year.

City now have their fourth title in the past eight seasons and can contemplate the prospect of a similar era of dominance under Pep Guardiola, having followed up last season's 100-point haul with 98 to edge a relentless tussle with Liverpool.

The EFL Cup winners will now turn their attentions towards next weekend's FA Cup final against Watford at Wembley and the prospect of an unprecedented domestic treble.

As in 2012 and 2014, City were forced to go to the final day of the campaign to seal glory, although there was no need to repeat the unforgettable drama of Sergio Aguero's last-gasp strike against QPR on the former occasion, as, despite falling behind, they moved through the gears to claim the three points they required at the Amex Stadium.

Glenn Murray nodded the hosts in front but City led by half-time thanks to goals from Aguero and Aymeric Laporte. Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan netted after the break to get the party in full swing.

Liverpool have the relative consolation of finishing with the best points total of any second-placed team in Premier League history, but their 29-year wait for a 19th English title goes on.

Indeed, the 97 points Jurgen Klopp's men amassed is the third highest points total any team has managed in the division, behind City's exploits of the past two seasons.

Following their scarcely credible Champions League semi-final triumph over Barcelona in midweek, the Reds returned to Anfield to beat Wolves 2-0 thanks to Sadio Mane's double.

But football's apparent thirst for the unexpected this week was not further quenched on England's south coast, as City ensured they prevailed in this gruelling title battle of epic proportions.

Both teams took unbeaten runs into the eighth league game of the season, where they shared a 0-0 draw on Merseyside – Mahrez's late penalty miss denying City their first win at Anfield since 2003.

The first team to show signs of buckling under the unforgiving pace were City, who lost to Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester City in the space of a four-game December nightmare.

That slump meant Liverpool arrived at the Etihad Stadium in January with a seven-point advantage. Goals from Aguero and Leroy Sane either side of a second-half Roberto Firmino equaliser gave City a pivotal 2-1 win and handed Liverpool their only top-flight loss of the campaign.

In normal circumstances, draws with Leicester City, West Ham, Manchester United and Everton would be welcome contributions to a title-winning haul, but those Liverpool slips proved decisive as City embarked on a run of 14 consecutive league victories after their loss at Newcastle United on January 29.

Liverpool's fellow Champions League finalists Tottenham are guaranteed a return to Europe's elite competition next season after a 2-2 draw with Everton. Arsenal won 3-1 at Burnley.

Cardiff City, Fulham and Huddersfield Town said farewell to the Premier League, their relegations to the Championship already confirmed before the final day.

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