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Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Final Day.

Yesterday I wrote an article on the top five best final days of Premiership history, well let me be the first to say none have been more dramatic or emotional as today. It is surely fitting that as the Premiership finishes it's twentieth year, that we have seen arguably the greatest day of the Premiership's modern history.

It has been the epitome of a season full of controversy, craziness, reflection, agony and joy. It has been a season where the team finishing second can smash the team finishing third by eight goals to two. A season where the UEFA Champions League finalists can finish sixth. A season where the winners can beat the runners-up home and away and still have to win on the final day to secure the title.

We've seen more goals than ever before, more points in the top two places than ever before, more hat-tricks than ever before, it truly has been a memorable season and with so much at stake a memorable day.
Although the main story was being written in Manchester & Sunderland, West Bromwich & London were also playing their part. Arsenal who had seemingly bottled it last week when drawing three all with Norwich City came back from two-one down to win three-two and hold on, something they failed at last week and despite Tottenham's win, it wasn't enough for automatic qualification and they shall have to wait till the end of the UEFA Champions League final itself to find out whether they'll either have a chance to qualify or whether they'll enter UEFA Europa League qualifiers with Newcastle United and Liverpool instead.

The saddest story of the day however, is the relegation of Bolton Wanderers who have ended their decade stay in the Premiership. Gaining promotion under Sam Allardayce in 2001 from the play-offs, a similar feat that could be achieved with his West Ham United side next Saturday, they survived relegation for ten years, going to the final day most notably in 2003 against West Ham and surviving. However, after a decade of consecutive seasons, even achieving UEFA Cup qualification in one, it's over for them despite Queens Park Rangers' dramatic loss.

So it was to the big prize, in a year where Manchester City looked to have it won only to let Manchester United back in, only for them to let Manchester City back in, it was to the tensest day in Premiership history. United had to better City's result due to City's better goal difference, City knew that three points would equal the title and the end of a forty-four year wait.

The first blow went United's way, Wayne Rooney scored after twenty minutes but it would be the last update necessary from the Stadium of Light as it remained the same for the next seventy minutes. The action in Manchester was genuinely unmissable. In a week where the film adaptation of Nick Hornby's popular book Fever Pitch was shown on Film Four which shows arguably the most dramatic title win in Football history where Arsenal upset all the odds to beat Champions Liverpool two-nil at Anfield and take the title on Goals Scored. Perhaps it was only fitting for City to crown themselves Champions in similar circumstances.

Nineteen minutes after United's opener, City got one for themselves, through the most unlikely of scorers, Pablo Zabaleta scored after being put through by the injured Yaya Toure, who limped off with an injury not long afterwards, as that stood Manchester City were fifty minutes away from the title and there was nothing Manchester United could do but hope.

Hope, perhaps is what they did, three minutes into the second half, an uncharacteristic error by centre-half Joleon Lescott allowed Djibril Cisse in and equalised for QPR at a time where Bolton who needed a win and for QPR to lose to stay up, were leading. It meant salvation for QPR but sheer agony for City who with United still leading at Sunderland needed to score themselves or hope Sunderland could do it for them.

They looked however, to have gained a lifeline. Controversial midfielder Joey Barton hit out at Carlos Tevez and was sent off for violent conduct, he then gave definition to the word “idiot” by kicking Sergio Aguero and kicking off with other City players in an act Barton describes on his Twitter page as “Trying to take one with me.” It really is sad to think that a player like Joey Barton is still a Premiership footballer, for all the talent he may possess he really is a nasty piece of work when it comes to silly flare ups and this was no different. If I was the lucky Mark Hughes I would try and get rid of Barton as soon as possible.

Despite all this, the ten men decided to make a game of it and Jamie Mackie headed home to give QPR a two-one lead and send Manchester United fans into pandemonium alongside the Rangers fans who must have assumed then that they were staying up.

It was then that City threw the expensive kitchen sink, Edin Dzeko and the controversial Mario Balotelli came on but it seemed Paddy Kenny was hell-bent on keeping them out and then it was into stoppage time.

With the score still at two-one to QPR, Manchester United were minutes away from winning it, but then Edin Dzeko equalised and as Manchester United's score was finalised at one-nil it meant City had to win and they did it. As Sky clicked off the split-screen showing United just about to celebrate, Mario Balotelli picked out Sergio Aguero who blasted it home and pandemonium switched from Stadium of Light to Eastlands as the season twisted again.

Manchester City after thirty-eight games of tension, anguish and now ecstasy were finally Champions and became the fourth different club to lift the Premiership title in its twenty year history.
So that was the season, it was one of sheer shock and drama. It was arguably the most exciting season of recent years and although the critics will tell you that the quality was lacking in defending and refereeing it only heightened the great drama we've all grown to love.

I shall write a proper review of the season in the coming days, in between revision for my crucial ICT exam.

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