Manchester City came back from two goals down to secure the first of the four points they need to retain the Premier League title, but they had to survive a scare at the London Stadium. Two first half goals from Jarrod Bowen gave the whom side a 2-0 half-time lead, but Jack Grealish halved the deficit and an own goal from Vladimir Coufal drew the blues level.
And Riyad Mahrez had a chance to put City on the brink of Premier League glory, but saw his late penalty saved by Lucas Fabianski. A win for City at home to Aston Villa next weekend will see the blues confirmed as champions, however, defeat for Liverpool at Southampton on Tuesday will allow the title party to start early.
Following the 2-2 draw with the Hammers, City now lead the reds by four points, and if they draw on the south coast, City will need just a point from their match against Villa to take their sixth Premier League title in ten years.
City were the better of the two teams in an average first half, but two defensive lapses allowed Bowen to get in behind the City defence and put the Hammers to goals to the good going into the interval. City’s makeshift defence of Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho twice allowed the striker the freedom behind, and Bowen punished them, scoring with the Hammers only shots on target.
And City will have to make do without Ruben Dias, John Stones or Kyle Walker against Villa, after the trio were ruled out of the remainder of the season due to injury, however, manager Pep Guardiola will be hoping a week until their final game will give Nathan Ake enough time to partner Laporte at the back.
At 2-0 down, the doom and gloom merchants, and certain sections of the media, were hovering like a circling kettle of vultures, waiting for the final whistle so they could swoop down, fingers poised on keyboards and ready to start their virtual feast of dismissing City’s chances of Premier League title number six.
But, instead of giving them the satisfaction, Guardiola’s men started a fightback that hasn’t been seen by this team under his leadership. Jack Grealish, who has come in for huge amounts of criticism given his huge transfer fee, took four minutes of the second half to reduce the deficit with a volley following Rodri’s clever knock-down.
City’s tails were once again up, and the blues drew level on 69 minutes thanks to Coufal. The goal had shades of Tommy Hutchison’s 1981 cup final goal written all over it as he went for a ball that wasn’t really needed, with the end result seeing the ball in the back of the City goal.
And City had a glorious chance to win the match and move to within touching distance of the title when Gabriel Jesus was adjudged to have been brought down in the box. Mahrez took responsibility for the spot-kick, but his well-struck penalty was at just he right height for Fabianski to palm away.
2-2 it ended, and it remains to be seen if City will rue that penalty miss when they welcome Villa next weekend.
As for West Ham, they qualified for the Europa Conference League and, a win in their final game of the season at Brighton, coupled with United failing to win at Crystal Palace, will see the Hammers go into the Europa League and United into Europe’s third competition.
The Hammers also said goodbye to their stalwart Mark Noble, who had been at the club for eighteen seasons and made over 500 appearances for his boyhood club since making his debut at just seventeen years old. We wish Noble well in his next move and all his future endeavours.
Final score: West Ham United 2-2 Manchester City