Belfast Telegraph

Kompany's moment of brilliance puts City on cusp of glory

Man City 1-0 Leicester

Under control: Vincent Kompany keeps things ticking over for City
Under control: Vincent Kompany keeps things ticking over for City
Kompany celebrates his stunning goal
Sergio Aguero

By Miguel Delaney

Still no twist in this title race, only the straightest and cleanest of Vincent Kompany strikes. That spectacular moment was the vital match-winner against Leicester City and, for the second time in the club captain's Manchester City career after 2012, may well be a title-winner.

It was certainly a show of leadership, just when they needed it most. Manchester City still have to go to Brighton on Sunday and claim a remarkable 14th win in a row to secure a second Premier League title in a row, but that match will have to go a long way to be as tense as this narrowest of 1-0 wins; to be as anxious as this.

City's nerve, just about, held.

Kompany's hold on the trophy has only been strengthened.

There were many periods in this game when that seemed in doubt, when doubt was coursing through City, and Liverpool's deep belief looked like it might finally be rewarded.

That was all blown away with one sledgehammer of a 25-yard strike into the top corner in the 70th minute.

The noise of the crowd said it all. The reaction of the players said it all. This was some release, to go with the way the ball was released off that boot.

Because there isn't really tension in football like a proper title-race game.

It's not just about the destination of the trophy, but the winding course of the entire season.

Every individual instance of suspense suddenly becomes loaded with the weight of 30-something prior matches and thousands of individual moments.

They might all add up, but this is when they're all given lasting meaning.

That sense of consequence charges every moment with so much nervous energy, with that then only amplified by the emotional responses of an electrified crowd.

So it was when Kyle Walker out of nowhere played Phil Foden in, only for the Leicester wall to reassemble and block the route to goal again.

The game was conforming to a classic title-race pattern in that regard, but one that was in no way dull or predictable, because of the wait of a season to get here and that weight of the season now we're here.

The challengers' siege started, Leicester left with little choice but to retreat and regroup in their own box. Against that, City were pounding away, both metaphorically and figuratively.

There were so many passages of patient passing, players like Bernardo Silva or David Silva just holding on for that opening, that ultimately saw a City player power the ball back at goal. All of Foden, Walker, Kompany and both Silvas tried this, with the Spanish Silva's almost seeing Sergio Aguero (right) turn the ball in.

The striker went even closer just before that, hitting the bar with a header before Kasper Schmeichel clawed it off the line.

Referee Mike Dean looked at his watch for the goalline technology nonchalantly, not needing to add any more.

There was then the other side of such a pattern: the openings at the other end.

Even the shortest of Leicester breaks forward brought shudders.

This was precisely why Guardiola picked Kompany over John Stones in the first place.

His experience - and particularly his title-winning experience - brings a focus in this most fraught of occasions. There were few moments as focused as his shuddering block to batter away Ricardo Pereira's early shot. Or so we thought.

The offset is his reduced mobility, which led to that booking for a foul on James Maddison.

The entire City defence was stretched in the second half, by a long run from Harry Maguire of all players, that ended with Maddison shooting just wide.

The slightest of touches, like when Jonny Evans just got onto one cross ahead of a waiting Aguero in the second half, were having huge effects.

Not just for how they prevented the moment, but the effect on everyone's nerves.

That effect was all too visible when the City players began to get ratty with each other.

It needed someone to cut through it all, to force the issue, to lead the way.

All of this was exactly what Kompany did with that purest, cleanest, hardest and most accurate of strikes. That was the moment.

This is now the table: City a point clear of Liverpool with one game to go.

That is sure to be another nervous afternoon but, as the ball flew into the net, it was impossible not to feel that this was the most important moment of all.

It wasn't quite a narrative twist. But it was some drama, some scene, and some shot.

MAN CITY: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko, Foden (Sane 56), Gundogan, D Silva (Stones 90), B Silva, Aguero (Jesus 87), Sterling.

Subs not used: Danilo, Mahrez, Otamendi, Muric.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Albrighton (Gray 85), Tielemans (Barnes 75), Ndidi, Choudhury, Maddison (Iheanacho 80), Vardy.

Subs not used: Morgan, Ward, Mendy, Fuchs.

Man of the match: Kompany

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Mike Dean

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