Manchester City won the 2018-2019 Premier League title race after beating Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.
To ensure it remained ahead of its nearest rival Liverpool FC, City had to win 14 league matches in a row — a remarkable run that stretches back to January, when Newcastle United defeated Pep Guardiola’s team thanks to a 2-1 slip at St James’ Park. Remarkably, Newcastle is the last team to take league points from City, a record that will now stretch into the new season in August.
Fortified by a strong spine that included the goalkeeper Ederson, intelligent defender Aymeric Laporte, midfield enforcer Fernandinho, goalscoring attacker Raheem Sterling, and the merciless striker Sergio Aguero, City hardly ever wobbled in the four months between the Newcastle loss and the final day of the Premier League season.
But there was 10 minute period on May 12 where City were one goal down to Brighton.
As there was only one point separating City from Liverpool before kick-off, and because the Reds stormed into an early 1-0 lead against Wolverhampton Wanderers, City — should they have failed to beat Brighton — would have surrendered the championship to Liverpool.
It would have crowned a remarkable week for Liverpool, having come back from 3-0 down to 4-3 up in its aggregate win over FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semi-final on Tuesday. Such a scenario would have meant an open-top, champagne-soaked bus parade through the streets of Liverpool, its first since 1990.
The squad would have been jubilant on the top deck and the domestic league trophy would have been passed from player to player, from Mohamed Salah to Sadio Mane with Jurgen Klopp orchestrating the party while smiling from ear to ear. Fans would have packed tightly into each road, ecstatically snapping photographs before uploading them to Instagram.
Raucous celebrations ensued at Anfield as the home crowd could sense that parade, but the feel-good atmosphere did not last long.
When goals from Aguero and Laporte took City ahead of Brighton, chants of “City” bellowed around Liverpool’s ground, as Wolves supporters were all too happy to let their hosts know they’d be leaving the pitch with no coronation at all, should results stay as they were.
At 2-1, there was perhaps a glimmer of hope in Liverpool that Brighton could snatch a dramatic equalizer against City, meaning the trophy would tilt back into Liverpool’s hands, but City — that near unstoppable soccer force that has punished so many sides this year — grabbed a third, then a fourth, as Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan struck in the 63rd and 72nd minutes.
City defended its status as Premier League champions, and that bus parade would be happening in another northern sporting powerhouse — Manchester. It would be Pep Guardiola acting as the conductor to his incredible squad’s victory parade, and Aguero, Sterling, and Laporte who would be taking it in turns kissing the trophy on top of the bus, in front of fans on the streets below.
Though Liverpool scored a second goal against Wolves, its final day victory mattered little. The team failed to win the league despite its promising position earlier in the season. Its fans could even be seen crying in the stands as the minutes wound down on the matchday clock.
At Brighton, there were also tears but the mood was a stark contrast. The City supporters who had made the trip to the south coast partied before a ball had even been kicked, and now those celebrations will go on long into the night. The players mobbed the pitch, cuddled, and jumped up and down while fans stripped topless and sang songs in the mid-afternoon sun. At the coronation, players lifted the trophy aloft and hurled their coach Pep Guardiola into the air amid streams of ticker tape.
City, champions again, for the sixth time in its history. But it is this, the most recent, that is perhaps most impressive — and it’s because it finally has a worthy rival in Liverpool.