Ten years ago Sergio Aguero scored the dramatic injury-time winner against QPR that saw Manchester City snatch the Premier League title from rivals Manchester United in an extraordinary final-day conclusion to a thrilling title race.
Here, the PA news agency looks back on how a remarkable day was set up and unfolded.
It was Roberto Mancini’s City, at home to QPR, who held the advantage heading into the decisive day. Both they and defending champions United were level at the top on 86 points but City’s superior goal difference – eight better than United’s – effectively meant a win, or simply matching their neighbours’ result at Sunderland, would secure a first league crown since 1968. It was not to prove that straightforward but the drama that followed was merely in keeping with an eventful, roller-coaster season.
After winning the FA Cup the previous year – their first trophy in 35 years – “noisy neighbours” City had apparently arrived and were ready to go head to head with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side for the title. They started strongly but were rocked in September when star player Carlos Tevez became embroiled in a touchline dispute with Mancini. The Argentinian subsequently went AWOL and did not return until the following spring.
City initially brushed off his absence and thrashed United 6-1 at Old Trafford on their way to moving five points clear. They maintained their lead until December but United, soon to be boosted by Paul Scholes coming out of retirement, clawed their way back and were level heading into the new year.
City lost to Swansea in March to allow United to move in front. Mancini buried the hatchet with Tevez to bolster his side’s faltering challenge – and the Argentinian inspired a comeback win over Chelsea on his return – but further slips saw United take command. When City lost 1-0 at Arsenal in April with Mario Balotelli sent off – the latest in a series of distracting controversies involving the combustible Italian, one of which involved setting off fireworks in his bathroom – their race seemed run.
United led by eight points with just six games remaining but, in another twist, then surprisingly lost at Wigan and were held to a 4-4 draw by Everton. That allowed City to nudge ahead on goal difference by winning a memorable derby at the Etihad Stadium with a Vincent Kompany goal. The stage was set for a thrilling finale.
United apply the pressure but City respond
United drew first blood on the day as Wayne Rooney fired them ahead after 20 minutes at the Stadium of Light but City were back in the driving seat by half-time as Pablo Zabaleta fired a shot through the grasp of QPR goalkeeper Paddy Kenny. Both sides led 1-0 at the break.
While there were no further goals in the north east, it was at the Etihad where the story flipped and flopped. QPR, needing a result to avoid relegation and with their manager Mark Hughes perhaps looking to prove a point to the club that sacked him in 2009, hit back with a 48th-minute equaliser from Djibril Cisse. In a significant side story, Rangers’ combative former City midfielder Joey Barton got himself sent off after clashing with Tevez, but the visitors shrugged off his latest act of absurdity to take the lead through Jamie Mackie on 66 minutes.
City snatch it at the last
Time quickly began to tick away for City and it looked as if the title would be remaining with United as the clock approached 90 minutes. Fans began to leave the Etihad believing the game was up and, as the final whistle sounded in Sunderland, some United supporters began to celebrate. Yet there was to be a considerable amount of injury time in Manchester and, two minutes into it, Edin Dzeko gave City a lifeline by heading in from a David Silva corner. Belief suddenly returned and, two minutes later, City threw themselves forward in one last attack. Nigel de Jong carried the ball into the QPR half and found Aguero outside the box. The Argentinian laid off to Balotelli – who was summoned from the bench by a desperate Mancini having been banished since his Arsenal red card – and continued his run into the area. Balotelli slipped but still managed to thread the ball back to Aguero, who skipped around a challenge and blasted past Kenny.
It sparked jubilant celebrations with Aguero ripping off his shirt, goalkeeper Joe Hart running around with arms outstretched and Mancini on the field. In Sunderland, heads dropped as news filtered through, with the look of shock on United defender Phil Jones’ face perfectly summing up the sudden change of events.