Blue moon rises on summit
City stroll to title with captain Kompnay scoring 102nd goal to start celebrations
Published 12/05/2014 | 10:00
Some triumphs are experienced in the white heat of a last-minute goal, like the one scored by Sergio Aguero two years ago, and others, like this final step to winning the league title, can be savoured like the proverbial bottle of fine wine, safe in the knowledge the outcome is assured.
At Manchester City, where calamity was once only a heartbeat away, this was as close to a stroll to the title as they could have imagined on the day Liverpool were undone by Chelsea and City assumed the pole position in the title race. Manuel Pellegrini's team controlled the game from beginning to end against a West Ham side so bereft of ambition and drive, one wonders whether it was a struggle for them to get off the team bus.
Nevertheless, this City team have shown maturity and composure to close the deal. This is undoubtedly the best squad in the Premier League, but in a season when old certainties have splintered, nowhere more so than across town, they have not been allowed to cruise to the title until the last day. It has been a triumph they have had to carve out game by game.
From Samir Nasri's 39th minute goal , and with Liverpool then trailing to Newcastle, the stadium calmed down and enjoyed the ride. Four minutes after half-time, Vincent Kompany scored the second and there was a margin for error that not even an attack of the condition formerly known as 'Cityitis' could erode.
Yet it is a measure of how relatively new to this kind of success the club is in the modern era that the final whistle precipitated a full-blown pitch invasion.
They never invaded the pitch at Old Trafford in those salad days when the Premier League trophy came back season after season, but there is still the mild sense of disbelief, six years after Sheikh Mansour took over, that this is really happening to City.
If Pellegrini hits the club's target of five trophies in five years, and he is two up already, then perhaps an air of complacency will set in. As things stand, it feels a long way off.
This was only the second trophy of his career, but the City manager kept it low-key, as one would expect of him, edging away from the champagne-spraying lest it wreck his club suit. Anointed as City's charming man by the fans, he did not want to end up without a stitch to wear. In the end, Kompany and Yaya Touré had to drag their manager away from a Sky Sports interview to give him the traditional celebratory bumps.
This must be what the City hierarchy had in mind when they launched the "holistic" approach in the wake of Roberto Mancini's departure last summer, an admittedly brave sortie into the contemporary lexicon in a sport wedded to older values. If they meant a manager who did not wish to fight his own players in training then they picked the right man, and his popularity was reflected in the way his players sought him out at the end.
As against Aston Villa last week, this was another game in which it paid for City to be patient and await the inevitable crack in a West Ham defence that was too lightweight and way too under-incentivised to hold out all afternoon. Even so, the visitors had not done a bad job by the time Nasri looked up from his umpteenth possession on the edge of the West Ham area and elected to sweep a shot past Adrian, who might have done better, and into the far corner.
In midfield Touré was superb, his dominance epitomised by the moment he chased down Mohamed Diamé and heaved the Senegalese midfielder off the ball. David Silva, the lock-picker of opposition defences, hit the post in first half stoppage time.
That second goal was coming and it arrived from a City corner that Andy Carroll got into a muddle trying to clear and ended up sending back towards his own goal where Kompany could pick his spot.
From then on it was simple. Sergio Aguero, quiet by his high standards, kicked out at Mark Noble off the ball which precipitated more indignation from the West Ham players than we had seen all afternoon.
One more City goal would have equalled the Premier League record, set by Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea in 2009-2010 but even so 102 for the season is not bad!
Joe Hart was one of the last off before the trophy finally disappeared down the tunnel. It has not always been a straightforward season for the City goalkeeper but when you win league titles, a lot gets forgotten. City have won it now under two managers and they will be part of the elite for a long time to come.