West Ham kept Manchester City out of the running for another title
The away game against West Ham a priori looked to be a test of increased difficulty for Manchester City at the end of the season. David Moyes’s team play simple soccer and often give up the initiative in matches with the big names: the Hammers look unimpressive in such matches, but they get results. In the Premier League BH have wins over Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham, and last autumn they knocked Manchester United and Manchester City out of the English League Cup (on penalties).
Thus, of the traditional “Big Six,” only Arsenal won all the matches against West Ham this season, the rest have been on Moyes’ anvil. “City” reigned unchallenged at the London Stadium, but the game advantage of the opponents does not embarrass West Ham, here again, Jarrod Bowen twice caught the offside line in the first half and twice shot irresistibly for Ederson. The 0-2 scoreline was mirrored in anguish on Guardiola’s face, but the Citizens did not give up, because it was not Real Madrid with Benzema in front, but West Ham with Antonio at the cutting edge.
Antonio, by the way, could have buried City if he had thrown the ball over Ederson, who he came face to face with after Fernandinho’s ill-considered pass backwards. And Bowen had a chance to make it a hat-trick but his shot from a clearance position was blocked. Instead, West Ham got two goals in their own net. Shamefully, both were co-created by their own defenders – a ricochet from Dawson and a clear auto-goal from Tsoufal. City’s pressure bore fruit. “The Citizens were close to winning, but Fabianski saved a penalty kick by Marez. Perhaps Riyadh’s blunder will be remembered a week from now as the fateful one.
City were caught up in accusations of spinelessness. Pep extolled the win against West Ham
The circumstances of Manchester City’s Champions League exit from Real Madrid have prompted unpleasant judgments about City’s spinelessness and lack of a winning mentality. Guardiola has desperately disagreed with this kind of criticism and has even gone on the offensive against unfriendly experts, which is not usually his style. Josep’s traditional position in verbal altercations is called the “sage over the fray”. Guardiola only fails to remain above criticism when he is unsure and nervous.
Losing the Premier League title in hand after a painful relegation from the Champions League would be a serious blow. First and foremost, a blow to the players’ belief that Guardiola only leads them to victories. It is also telling how desperately Pep grasped for a volitional draw against West Ham, which effectively put City far away from the goal. Yes, they managed to get back from 0-2, but plan “B” did not have to be activated, and on the contrary, there was an opponent who initially did not inspire fear. “City” took the candy from the underdog, who was lucky in the course of the match, but Guardiola was unstoppable:
And you say this team doesn’t have a winning mentality? Today we turned 0-2 against a strong opponent into a very important draw, and in general we should have won. Really good game, it was so hard. Very glad to get a comeback at this stadium. The second half was good. We earned a point. Now we are four points ahead of Liverpool. Our big advantage is that we are playing against Aston Villa at home. We just need to win to become champions. If not, Liverpool will take first place. We don’t need to look at anyone but ourselves. We just have to give it our all, although I wouldn’t mind if Southampton beat Liverpool 4-0.
The English champion will be decided in the final round
Everything Guardiola says is true. Or rather, a kind of truth. Indeed, the fate of the title is still entirely in the hands of the Citizens, but if Riyad Marez had converted a penalty in the 87th minute, the championship party could already be booked, and so we still need to beat Aston Villa in the final round. At any rate, we hope the denouement will come on the last game day of the season, but Liverpool could de facto (in case of a draw) or de jure (in case of a defeat) deny themselves a chance at the title if they fail to cope with Southampton tomorrow. If the Reds win before the last round, there will be 1 point between the teams of Guardiola and Klopp. Any misstep by the Citizens could be fatal.
All matches of the 38th round of the AFL will begin at the same time (May 22 at 18:00 Moscow time). “Liverpool will take on Wolverhampton at Anfield, and City will play Aston Villa at home. The opponents of the championship contenders are devoid of tournament motivation, but there is no doubt that Steven Gerrard will set up his team for the match as if it were the final. In 2014, Stevie G slipped and denied Liverpool a chance at the title, which eventually went to City. Now Gerrard himself, turned coach, could be a banana peel on City’s path to another Premier League victory. If he succeeds, Liverpool fans will chip in for an APL gold medal for Steven.
The Audience Award goes to Liverpool
Guardiola recently complained that everyone in England supports Liverpool in the championship race – the fans, the media and everyone else – and in passing reminded them that the Reds have only one title in the 30 existence of the Premier League. The main point: Liverpool is not a great club in the APL. Another bizarre move for the usually non-confrontational coach, Klopp was visibly uncomfortable responding to this escapade.
Guardiola and Man City want to bathe in love and believe they deserve far more recognition for their play and victories, but they remain the soccer personification of the proverb “You can’t force yourself”. The club’s fan base is expanding slowly around the world, mostly at the expense of seasonal glorifiers. It’s easy to root for Man City, but hard to start doing so because of a number of factors, from the club’s fundamentals to Guardiola’s soccer, whose teams tend to be boring to win and fun to lose.
And yes, in the final round of the APL, unless Liverpool spoils the last day of the season with a setback against Southampton, the entire soccer world, with the exception of an island of Man City fans, will be on the Reds’ side. However, most will be approaching not so much Liverpool’s triumph as a memorable soccer story involving Steven Gerrard and his former team. A City victory will under no circumstances resonate as much as Liverpool taking the top spot on the shoulders of the former captain.