As Raheem Sterling entered the play in the 56th minute in the final match of the season against Aston Villa, no one in the crowd realised this would be his last appearance in a Manchester City shirt. He had 24 minutes to try and change the game and swing the result in City’s favour.
But 1-0 down became 2-0, just 13 minutes after his introduction, and should Liverpool score against Wolves at Anfield, it would most likely mean the England man would leave the Etihad without a final trophy. Instead, it would go to the team he signed from.
In the 76th minute however, Sterling produced a final moment of magic that would start a City comeback and send him on his way as a Premier League winner once again.
Villa were digging in deep to protect their lead, almost in a revenge for a previous, yet well-remembered match from 1990. Villa had gone up against Liverpool for the First Division title, and faced City, winless away from home all season, at Villa Park. Despite going 1-0 down, the blues produced an incredible performance to come back and win 2-1. Villa never recovered and Liverpool took the title.
And, thanks to Sterling’s final contribution in a sky blue shirt, City produced another comeback to knock the wind out of Villa’s sails and take the title in dramatic style.
Gabriel Jesus, another who has left the Etihad this summer, found the winger on the right. As he received the ball, there seemed few options available. Villa had six players in the box, five of which should have been able to deal with any cross. City had four men ready to try and get on the end of any potential incoming ball.
At the far post, Ilkay Gundgan was lurking. He looked to have evaded the attention of the Villa defence, but getting the ball to him looked unlikely. The cross would have to be of an exceptionally high quality to give him just a sniff of a chance.
Sterling looked like he was coming infield, when a sudden turn and burst of pace took him beyond Lucas Digne. Suddenly, a bit of space opened up, and as Digne tried and failed to catch the winger, there was only one target Sterling wanted to reach.
Spotting Gundo, unchecked and unmarked at the far post, Sterling knew his cross had to be of pinpoint accuracy to give the German his opportunity - and provide the blues with a chance to get back into the game.
The crowd willed the winger forward and collectively held its breath as Sterling wrapped his foot around the ball to provide the chance. Get this right and City are back in it.
It was the perfect cross.
Sterling’s long pass to the far post evaded three Villa defenders and the goalkeeper as he curled the ball directly to the head of Gundo, and the German hitman made no mistake.
What followed next was nothing short of a miracle, as Rodri and minutes later, Gundogan again took City from 2-0 down in the 76th minute, to 3-2 up by the 81st. It was every bit as sweet as the match ten years earlier, when the blues stared down the barrel against QPR, but somehow won the match 3-2.
While Gundogan and Rodri took the plaudits for their goals, Sterling’s contribution cannot be understated. It was the England man who started the comeback and the first to celebrate with Gundo as City went 3-2 up.
Sterling has now joined Chelsea after seven glorious years in Manchester, and we thank him for his incredible contributions and goals throughout his time with us.
Good luck at Chelsea, Raheem. You’ll be sure to receive a warm welcome when you come home. And no one will forget the cross that ultimately took us to the title.