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12th May 2019

Man City slam door on Liverpool’s fever dream of a Premier League season

Kyle Picknell

We were given just a brief ray of light in the form of Glenn Murray

When Sadio Mane put Liverpool up against Wolves after just seventeen minutes, with Manchester City still goalless away at Brighton, you couldn’t help but feel the sharp tug of history pulling on their coattails, dragging them ever closer. Minutes later, another cheer went out at Anfield as though the Reds supporters had heard news of an opening goal for Brighton.

They were wrong of course, but only a minute or two early as Glenn Murray – the Premier League footballer who would look least out of place in the front seat of a white Ford Transit van – sent shockwaves all the way up the M40 after climbing above Zinchenko and Ederson to nod in a corner.

At this point, given the week of football we had all witnessed – from Vincent Kompany’s best Conor Hourihane impression to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick corner and a Lucas Moura performance so good it earned a 10 from those notorious French miserablists L’Equipe – you felt that the path for the rest of the afternoon was set.

Man City would slowly feel the grip of the vice suffocate them out of a title and Brighton, with that notorious centre half pairing of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy – second and third in the Premier League’s ‘least out of place in a white van stakes’, if you were wondering – would hold out.

That Liverpool, with voodoo magic and the luckiest backup striker in the world on their side, would do it.

It wasn’t quite written in the stars but if you had poured out a tin of Alphabetti spaghetti this morning it wouldn’t have been that shocking to watch the letters gloop together to spell ‘DIVOCK’.

As it turned out, Murray’s goal was the impetus City needed. It was the only stimuli required for Citeh to turn into City and decide the league on their own terms. Sergio Aguero equalised less than 60 seconds later and Aymeric Laporte headed in from a corner just ten minutes after that. There would be no need for the added vowels on the Argentine’s name today.

It was all Anfield, and indeed the rest of us with no dog in the fight, had; a brief moment of shock and awe before all the nervous tension was diffused by the mobile phones and portable radios.

Wolves’ Matt Doherty hit the bar just before half-time. The pendulum had swung back once again and unfortunately, this time it would stay firmly in place.

City were home and hosed by the time Riyad Mahrez added a third and then Ilkay Gundogan pushed the probability as close to zero as it could possibly go.

To their credit, Liverpool supporters refused to allow their historic ground to become a noiseless vacuum. This has been a phenomenal season for Jurgen Klopp’s team and they were quite rightly serenaded off the pitch at the final whistle. They are the best runners up this competition has ever seen. There are no prizes for that title. And quite rightly. There should be no trophies for being the greatest second-placed team of all time, whatever the deluded TalkSPORT callers might think. But there is something to it. It’s just an asterisk on the Wikipedia page of City’s title for now but it will become a symbol of something far greater over time, the mark of a legacy in progress, especially if Liverpool come back from Madrid with a sixth Champions League trophy in tow.

For Manchester City, it was fitting end. The door for their opponents, and Liverpool, creaked open ever so slightly before being slammed shut. This is what Pep Guardiola has done to the team. Even when Glenn Murray gave Brighton the lead, forever a peculiarly curvy ray of light bursting through cloud whenever he scores an important goal, despite being 35-years-old, despite being Glenn Murray, you weren’t that convinced City would throw it away – whatever divine providence was magnetically drawing Jordan Henderson’s armbanded bicep towards silverware.

It’s to their testament that they killed off the hope so abruptly. It’s to Liverpool’s, too, that they lost only one game in the league and kept it so close, that they took it right to the very last game, keeping pace with this relentless sky blue machine whilst simultaneously finding their way to another European final.

The Barclays is over again and a long, dusty summer of international football, in the form of the Women’s World Cup in France and the UEFA Nations League, awaits. As final days go, it didn’t match the frenetic, adrenaline heartbreak turned ecstasy of 2011/12, even if it did wink seductively at us from across the room half an hour into the games. But of course it didn’t. There’s a reason that day was so special in the first place.

There was, however, always the chance. That Liverpool could do it for the first time in 30 years. That Kompany could slip on the halfway line and let a pass slide straight past him. That a Glenn Murray brace could decide the Premier League.

The cynics will chalk this down to Liverpool bottling it. That, with a seven-point lead at the turn of the year, it was their title to lose. Maybe it was, but after watching the two best teams in Europe go toe-to-toe over the second half of the season, and City slowly but surely claw the gap back, nobody can have any complaints that the title race didn’t deliver.

It was an anti-climax in the end, sure. But only because the last few weeks have been so exhilarating, regardless of who you support. The football gods have spoiled us recently. For a moment or two they were close to doing it again. For a moment or two it felt as though this wild fever dream of a title race would go on just that little bit longer.