Belfast Telegraph

West Brom hand title to Manchester City

Strugglers’ stunning win at Old Trafford ends United’s title hopes.

Manchester City are Premier League champions after Jay Rodriguez secured rock-bottom West Brom a win at Manchester United that was as remarkable as it had looked unlikely.

A week after preventing their neighbours from clinching the title in extraordinary fashion, Old Trafford witnessed a similarly improbable result as the managerless and rudderless Baggies pulled off the shock of the season.

Fans who have been starved of cheer left celebrating a win to cherish as Rodriguez headed home for West Brom, with United’s 1-0 defeat seeing City seal the title without kicking a ball.

It is no less than swashbuckling Pep Guardiola’s side deserve – but the City boss will no doubt have rubbed his eyes in disbelief at events at Old Trafford when he returned from his round of golf.

The City manager’s decision to forego the match looked justified considering West Brom’s dreadful form, although Jake Livermore’s early attempt was a warning shot that undercooked United failed to heed.

Jose Mourinho’s men should have had a first-half penalty after Craig Dawson caught Ander Herrera, but complacency seeped in and the Baggies showed fight under caretaker boss Darren Moore that has been sorely lacking this season.

Ultimately, Rodriguez was the hero for West Brom – and City.

Just days after the Football Association announced a charge of racially abusing Brighton’s Gaetan Bong had been found “not proven”, the forward netted to secure a victory which sends shockwaves around the league.

“Manchester City, we won it for you” chanted the West Brom fans at the end of a match greeted by jeers by the home faithful.

While still nine points from safety, it was an amazing end to a match that had started with Livermore showing composure that belied his role as a midfield enforcer as he cut away from Victor Lindelof to be denied by David De Gea.

Salomon Rondon saw a close-range header comfortably denied in the Baggies’ other noteworthy first-half attempt, although United were taking their time to break down the brittle visitors.

Ben Foster comfortably stopped a hopeful long-range Paul Pogba attempt and raced off his line to thwart former West Brom team-mate Romelu Lukaku, but the ex-United goalkeeper was fortunate not to be facing a penalty in the 18th minute.

Lukaku cut back for Herrera and Dawson caught the midfielder, yet referee Paul Tierney did not award the spot-kick.

The official was on hand 10 minutes later to book Pogba after attempting to throw the ball in, only exacerbating the testimonial feel at Old Trafford.

There were a few United half-chances before half-time, while a Dawson header back across goal from a corner was begging to be turned in by West Brom.

Jesse Lingard came on for Herrera at half-time and immediately saw an attempt blocked – but the hosts continued to struggle for coherence.

Rondon had a header saved and Juan Mata flashed wide, before Mourinho turned to Anthony Martial in place of Pogba as heavy rain fell.

Foster impressively denied Lukaku when meeting a clipped Matic cross and Lingard had an attempted deflected wide as a goal looked inevitable.

But few would have predicted it coming against De Gea.

Chris Brunt’s corner to the far post was headed back towards his own goal by Nemanja Matic under pressure from Dawson, with Rodriguez stealing in to head in from close range in the 73rd minute.

James McLean fired across face of goal and United failed to muster a leveller. Chris Smalling had an attempt as the clock wound down and the full-time whistle saw City crowned champions.

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