Matty Cash’s opening goal, a poorly defended unmarked running header, shook the Etihad and put the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons. With half an hour to go City were still winning the title on goal difference but the tension in Manchester was almost painful. When Philippe Coutinho, the former Liverpool star, scored a second for Villa, the air seemed sucked out of the stadium. It seemed unbelievable, but it was true. City looked rattled. However, they were still leading the league.
There followed three goals in six minutes to win the title in dramatic style. Ilkay Gundogan scored the first and the atmosphere was utterly febrile, when Rodri scored the second on 78 minutes, it was as though oxygen had been pumped into the stadium. Suddenly City was transformed. It was as if the sleeping drugs had worn off, they had woken up and now it was obvious that they would score a third and Gundogan did exactly that.
Could Villa snatch a late equaliser to hand the title to Liverpool? No. Those three goals in six minutes won them the game and the title. In fact, City had never lost top spot all afternoon.
Wolves hadn’t read the script and scored in the third minute from a long ball. It was the fourth time in the last five games that Liverpool had conceded first so they didn’t panic, instead they proceeded to attack Wolves relentlessly, if chaotically, Sadio Mane scoring the equaliser in the 24th minute from a tremendous flick by Thiago. It was in so many ways a typical Liverpool game as they threw caution to the wind, opting to batter Wolves into submission, even if it left them open at the back.
But they were not as efficient or ruthless as normal. They were not relaxed and didn’t play fluid football. Incredibly it was 34 minutes before anyone committed a foul. By that time, Liverpool had 11 shots at goal but only one on target.
Allison had to save a one-on-one from Hwang, something he’s been brilliant at all season. James Milner was brought on to bring an old head and some calming experience to proceedings for the second half.
The crowd went wild when they heard City were two-nil down urging Liverpool to bloody well score. It was Liverpool’s title to win if they could only score a winning goal, kicking into the Kop. Surely they would but Wolves still had chances to score. In the final 10 minutes Mo Salah and Andy Robertson netted but by then the energy had drained away from the game because of City’s comeback. Coming from behind to win is how Liverpool have done it so often but it was not quite enough this time, on this incredibly tense day.
Leeds started in the relegation places and had their opening goal ruled out by VAR, but it was a good sign that the Yorkshiremen would not be giving in to relegation without a fight. It was scoreless at half time. Rodrigo should’ve scored in the second and then they were awarded a penalty. Their whole season had come down to this. With the away fans behind the goal, some unable to look, Raphinha scored. Then it felt for half an hour as though Leeds were safe. However Brentford scored and the tension flooded back in again. But wait, there was a red card for Brentford because stupidly Sergi Canos had taken off his shirt on scoring, forgetting he was already on a yellow, so it was off you pop, lad.
Had it swung back Leeds way? If the Bees scored and Burnley scored, Leeds were still down. Then injury sent Brentford down to nine men, having used all their subs. The game was in the balance right until the last minute when Jack Harrison scored a second for Leeds to seal their safety. And thank god for that, they have at least entertained on occasions this season which isn’t something Burnley, Watford or Norwich can really claim. Jesse Marsch must be so relieved.
Newcastle scored a penalty against Burnley just as Leeds had a Joe Gelhardt goal ruled out by VAR for offside. It was tense to say the very least and Burnley didn’t even have a shot on target until the 45th minute. By the time Burnley conceded a second, Leeds had scored and it looked a long way back for them. But Maxwell Kornet pulled one back. They couldn’t escape could they? No they couldn’t. In truth they did not deserve to. They were relegated for a consistent lack of penetration in attack and a leaky defence. It is time for a reboot for the club, one they have needed for some time. There’s no shame in relegation, their fans will enjoy the Championship, it is the best league in England.
They could have lost fourth place to Arsenal, but it was never going to happen away at Norwich. Spurs took the lead with a sweeping move finished off by the best January signing, Dejan Kulusevski. Harry Kane scored his 17th Premier League goal of the season with a header after Norwich were caught playing out from the back when they did not have the ball skills to do so. How many times do we see that?
That was the jeopardy for fourth place abolished in a completely non-Spursy way. They had ended the season conceding just five goals in their last 11 games.
Kulusevski added a splendid third to secure Champions League football for next season and Son a fourth and fifth to take him joint top of the scorer charts. It was as though Norwich were not even there. They ended the season with only 22 points, and a goal difference of -61 having scored just 23 times. It will be a relief to return to the second tier.
VAR, rather pathetically, took over four minutes to award Arsenal a penalty for their first goal and they soon scored a second from Eddie Nketiah. Donny van der Beek came on as sub and scored just before half-time. Nice of him to actually do something for a change. He and Dele Alli have been a waste of space since coming on loan in January.
In the second half, Everton took a well-deserved beating. Frank Lampard has taken just one point more than Rafa Benitez in one fewer game, and this 5-1 thrashing was a reminder of the inadequacies of the team and the manager. Arsenal were on one of their good days and on those good days, they move through the gears so smoothly. They just need to consistently do it against sides that are much better than Everton. Fifth is definite progress on last year’s eighth and they’ll have their eyes on winning the Europa League next season.
West Ham fancied another bash at the Europa League after getting to the semi-final this year. They had to beat Brighton and Manchester United had to lose to Crystal Palace for that to happen. For a moment it looked on but Mikhail Antonio’s opening goal was equalised early in the second half by Joel Veltman and Brighton went on to win 3-1 with goals from Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck. So it will be the Europa Conference League for West Ham, which is a decent reward for them. Seventh is as high as they can ever realistically finish in the Premier League. When you consider how poor Manchester United were and the Hammers still finished two points short of them, it shows you where the glass ceiling is located, as the Big Six finished in the top six places.
Crystal Palace took the lead against a sorry United who clearly just wanted the season to be over. It’s actually amazing that they’re still in the top half really, let alone sixth. As the year has gone on they seem to have gotten ever worse. Ralf Rangnick admitted that they were not fit enough to play a pressing game and that’s what he had in mind for the team. Here they were watched by new boss Erik ten Hag and he must have been appalled by what he saw in this 1-0 loss. Even so, somehow they finish sixth, despite this being their worst Premier League season ever.
It was a game that no one was interested in. Kenedy even played his first game since returning from Brazil in January, so you knew it was a throwaway match. Kai Havertz scored, nobody was especially bothered. Watford equalised with three minutes left, and still no-one was especially bothered. Ross Barkley (remember him?) netted the winner to make sure Roy Hodgson ended his managerial career with a loss, which seemed unnecessarily cruel.