Vincent Kompany scored a 25-yard screamer to defeat Leicester City and keep Manchester City in control of their destiny with one game left of the Premier League season.
City will win the league if they beat Brighton at the Amex on Sunday. Any other result would open the door for Liverpool who are just one point behind and host Wolves at the same time.
Leicester had frustrated the Citizens for 70 minutes before Kompany’s belter, looking relatively comfortable despite seeing much less of the ball.
The match-winner came with 20 minutes to play, club captain Kompany striding forward out of defence and unleashing a bullet of a strike into the top right corner.
Former City striker Kelechi Iheanacho had a glorious chance to equalise late on, but screwed his effort wide after being played through on goal.
Manchester City made just a single change from the team that started the victory at Burnley last weekend, Phil Foden coming for Leroy Sane.
That meant Ederson retained his position in goal, with the Brazilian set to play every minute of City’s League campaign barring exceptional circumstances at Brighton next weekend.
For the third consecutive match, the Citizens lined up with Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko in defence, with Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones again among the substitutes.
David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan continued in midfield in the absence of Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne, with 18-year-old Foden coming in for just his second Premier League start.
To make room for Foden in midfield, Portuguese Bernardo Silva moved into attack, occupying the right side of City’s regular attacking trident alongside Raheem Sterling on the left and Sergio Aguero in the middle.
Following the Foxes’ impressive 3-0 win over Arsenal a week ago, Brendan Rodgers opted to keep the same side for the trip to Manchester.
That meant Kasper Schmeichel continued in goal, behind a defence of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Harry Maguire and Ben Chilwell.
Wilfred Ndidi retained his place in defensive midfield, with Hamza Choudhury and Youri Tielemans further forward and James Maddison and Marc Albrighton on the left and right-hand side respectively.
Jamie Vardy spearheaded the Foxes’ attack once again, aiming to continue his exceptional scoring record against the top six of the Premier League.
City in charge heading to the final day
In beating Leicester, Manchester City took a giant step towards retaining the Premier League title next Sunday. Their 13th consecutive Premier League victory took the Citizens to 95 points; already the joint second highest points total in Premier League history, with a game to play. Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Brighton next weekend knowing that a 14th straight win will guarantee the title.
With an FA Cup Final against Watford still to come, Man City remain in charge of their own destiny as they chase a domestic treble.
With Liverpool a point behind on 94 points and welcoming Wolves to Anfield next week, the possible eventualities of the Premier League title are described in the following permutations:
- If Manchester City beat Brighton, City win the league.
- If Manchester City draw by any scoreline and Liverpool beat Wolves, Liverpool win the league.
- If Manchester City draw and Liverpool fail to win, Manchester City win the League.
- If Manchester City lose by any scoreline and Liverpool win, Liverpool win the league.
- If Manchester City lose by less than three and Liverpool fail to win, City win the League.
- If Manchester City lose by five or more and Liverpool avoid defeat, Liverpool win the League.
There is also the unlikely possibility of a title play-off, which would occur if both City and Liverpool finish with identical records. This situation can only occur if City lose by four and Liverpool draw at least 4-4 (e.g. if City lose 4-0, Liverpool would need to draw 4-4.
If City lose 5-1, Liverpool would need to draw 5-5, and so on). If City lose by four and Liverpool draw and score five or more goals than City manage against Brighton (are you still following?), the title will head to Liverpool.
Goal for the ages from Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany has scored many important goals for City over the years. A towering header to defeat Manchester United in 2012 swung the momentum to City as they eventually won the league, while the big Belgian also scored against the Red Devils last season but ended up on the losing side as City blew a chance to seal their League title at the first attempt.
This goal had as much emotion about it as 2012, if not more. But where that goal and indeed most of Kompany’s career goals have come as headers from set pieces, his blockbuster strike to defeat Leicester was from another planet altogether.
Gathering the ball in an almost dangerless position barely 15 yards inside Leicester’s half, Kompany strode forward. It was clear that the centre-half fancied a shot, perhaps borne out of frustration that his side were yet to break down a resilient Foxes defence.
Shoot he did, and the ball arrowed into the top right corner with ferocious power. It was a truly exceptional strike that left Kasper Schmeichel clawing at the air in despair.
The Etihad erupted as soon as the ball hit the net, every fan aware that what they had just witnessed was perhaps a title-winning goal. Of course, they must beat Brighton on Sunday, but with 70 minutes on the clock at the time of Kompany’s thunderbolt, the combination of relief and shock at the quality of the strike made for a euphoric atmosphere.
Now 33 and out of contract at the end of the season, Kompany has been a pillar of City’s late-season charge. City have not conceded in each of the last three Premier League games, in which they have kept the same back four of Kyle Walker, Kompany, Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
It seems likely that Pep Guardiola will enter serious discussions with Kompany when the season comes to a close. Though he proved his worth to the team with arguably the biggest goal of his career, he has been targeted by opposition attackers in recent weeks seeking to exploit Kompany’s waning pace. Guardiola must decide if the Belgian has at least one more season at the top level within him.
Stubborn Leicester finally overcome
Before this game, only Manchester City and Liverpool had won more points than Leicester City since Brendan Rodgers was appointed Foxes boss in February.
Safe from relegation and no realistic chance of European football, Leicester could be forgiven for dropping their level over the last few games; instead, they are showing incredibly promising signs for the next season.
Man City dominated possession as expected, but Leicester were largely comfortable. It took a screamer to eventually break their resistance, and the Foxes had chances of their own. That’s is not to say Leicester should feel aggrieved to have left without a point, but the 70 minutes it took City to score was the longest fans at the Etihad have had to wait for a goal this season.
Man City find a way
Cliche time, this was the performance of Champions. Pep Guardiola has developed a tactical nous that appeared to escape him in the biggest games over the years, one which has enabled him to orchestrate three 1-0 wins in their last four games.
Well aware that teams will set up negatively and try to contain them, Pep has seemingly accepted that the three points at any cost are more important than the performance. With only 56 minutes gone, Guardiola replaced Phil Foden with Leroy Sane, reconfiguring his team with a greater focus on the attack.
In years gone by, Guardiola would perhaps been more adverse to his sides parking the bus, or wasting time in the corners of the pitch. But nowadays, City’s game management is second to none. John Stones came on in the closing stages to bolster City’s aerial power at set pieces and add to their defensive stability.
Iheanacho blows chance to spoil party
After spending three years with Manchester City from 2014 to 2017, Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho left the Etihad for Leicester City for a fee of £25 million.
He has failed to impress at the King Power Stadium, scoring just four league goals in 50 league appearances. Though he is not enjoying huge popularity in the Midlands in recent times, his late miss against his former employers ensured he remains highly regarded in the blue half of Manchester.
Slipped in by Hamza Choudhury with less than five minutes to go as Leicester trailed 1-0, Iheanacho stroked wide even though Ederson was position poorly and had left a huge gap on his left-hand side.
In a game and season of fine margins, it may come to be that the key act came from a player who played for neither Man City or Liverpool.