Man of the Match: Giving this honor to the player who scores the winning goal is often a cop-out, but when it’s a title-winning goal that completes one of the most memorable comebacks in Premier League history, there’s a bit more justification. Besides, the work Sergio Agüero put in on the final goal went beyond the final strike. He made his way along the edge of defense until he retrieved the ball, moved around Taye Taiwo, and won City their first Premier League title.
Packaged for takeaway:
- It’s hard to overstate the drama. Manchester City scored twice in second half stoppage time after a disastrous second half that saw them give up their 1-0 lead and carry the title to Manchester United’s doorstep.
- It looked good early, with City breaking through before halftime against a QPR side that played 10 behind the ball from the opening kickoff.
- That goal was a gift, though. Pablo Zabaleta blasted a shot from 12 yards, but it was right at Paddy Kenny, who let the ball get through his hands and, after going off the far post, into goal. Kenny otherwise had a great game, but his first goal allowed was one put over the bar almost every other time you see it.
- On the same play, City lost Yaya Touré, an absence that seemed huge as City chased in the second half. Touré had seemingly pulled a right hamstring half-way through the first, but he persisted, contributing on the opening goal. As his team celebrated, Touré sat on the turf, to be immediately replaced by Nigel de Jong.
- With QPR playing so conservatively in the first, there was little reason to think they’d make a game of it in the second. City, however, condescended to help, with a erroneous header by Joleon Lescott off a looping ball by Shaun Wright-Phillips putting Djibil Cissé alone on goal. Equalizing only three minutes into the half, QPR barely had to come out of their shell.
- And that stance persisted even after Joey Barton played the fool once again. Responding to some mild jostling from Carlos Tévez after cutting off his run, Barton swung a right elbow at the City attacker, connecting just under the jaw. It wasn’t a hard elbow, so Tevez was fine, but it was an obvious red card. As he was leaving the field, Barton kneed Agüero from behind and otherwise tried to fight any City player who confronted him (including Mario Balotelli, who tried to come off the bench to escalate affairs).
- Twelve minutes later, Jamie Mackie put QPR on top, an unbelievable turn of events. Barton’s sending off almost seemed an appropriate end to an unimpressive Rangers’ campaign, but with 24 minutes left in their season, they were about to survive, hand City their first home loss of the season, snatch the title from City and hand it to Manchester United.
- And until the end of the 90 minutes, QPR looked like they would hold out. City had their chances, but they were always through narrow channels easily blocked by Kenny. As stoppage time came, you’d convinced yourself that Manchester United would again, almost unimaginably, be champions. How could this possibly be happening? City, when all they had to do was beat QPR – a 10-man QPR – gives away the title?
- After Edin Dzeko put home David Silva’s corner early in added time, you wanted the comeback to come true. Though they stumbled their way into an embarrassing spot (and brought tears to their fans’ eyes while doing so), a two-goal comeback in stoppage time is irresistable.
- And ultimately, the title could not resist City. Their Sunday comeback completes a rebound that started weeks ago, when the Citizens were eight points back of a Manchester United side that need only close out a 4-2 home lead against Everton to start planning their victory celebrations. Instead, Manchester City claims their first Premier League title – the first time they’ve stood atop the first division since 1966.
- Just as Manchester United’s comeback against Bayern Munich in 1999 will be remembered as a (possibly the) quintessential Champions League moment, City’s comeback to dethrone United may eventually be recalled as the title-clincher to shame all title-clinchers. It is extremely rare the the excitement of a knockout competition manifests in league, but for City, it was do-or-day come the 94th minute. And do, they did.
A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.
[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]
Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.
Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.
Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.
The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.
Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.
Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.
[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]
On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.
They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.
Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.
Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.
Below is Friday’s schedule in full.
Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.
2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.
“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”
[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]
Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.
And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:
“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.
“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”
Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.
That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.
There are few teams who’ve looked as strong as Croatia at the World Cup in Russia.
[ RECAP: Argentina 0-3 Croatia ]
Zlatko Dalic’s men now have a pair of shutout wins against decent competition, topping Nigeria 2-0 over the weekend before hammering Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.
The nature of those performances will have many, us included, debating just how far Croatia can run in this tournament. Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is hoping his team doesn’t do the same.
“Let’s not be euphoric or get ahead of ourselves,” Modric said. “Of course this win will boost our confidence for the next game, and we have shown we can create opportunities, but let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground.”
Modric noted that Willy Caballero‘s howler “was a shot in the arm,” but added that they had played a “perfect game.”
That’s true. And while so much focus will be on Messi’s struggles, don’t sleep on the terrific performance of Vatreni.
Modric also seemed to bristle when asked about shutting down Messi.
“I don’t want to talk about other players. We are happy with our own performance. We wanted to cut out Messi receiving the ball because he is the most dangerous player.”