The captain struck what could be the goal of the season to give the Blues a victory that they so desperately needed in their pursuit of the title
You cannot keep Vincent Kompany down. On a night when Manchester City needed something, anything, their club captain came up with the goods. And then some.
This was not a trademark Kompany header, the type you would expect if you’d read online that the big Belgian had scored the winning goal. Not the kind he scored against Manchester United in 2012, or the one he scored against them last year, for that matter.
This was the kind of goal you would expect if you checked your phone and saw Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi had scored in a Champions League semi-final.
See video below
City were not great here. The nerves in the stands transmitted to the players on the pitch and Pep Guardiola’s men, who have looked so sure of themselves, so calculated, so committed to the cause in racking up 12 consecutive wins to take them to the verge of the Premier League title, suddenly looked overawed.
Liverpool ‘s nervy victory up at Newcastle on Saturday evening sent shudders down the spine of many City fans, just as it did in April when Jurgen Klopp’s side picked up a late, somewhat fortuitous victory against Spurs in April.
City’s players had never seemed bothered by the nerves of their supporters beforehand, which is why they are in this position at all.
But they did here. They passed the ball around but too often it just ended up at the feet of a centre-back. They sometimes got down the sides of the Leicester defence but could not get in those trademark positions on the byline to cut the ball back and walk it into the net. They got corners but didn’t really know what to do with them – although Sergio Aguero’s header did clip the bar and had to be flicked off the line by Kasper Schmeichel.
That was the best chance of the first half but it did not feel like City were on the verge of breaking the door down. The fans were nervous. By the looks of the TV pictures Guardiola was, too – perhaps more than anybody else.
City started the second half looking a bit more like themselves – especially when Leroy Sane came on for Phil Foden – but still there was not really an overwhelming sense that they would get the goal they needed.
A draw, or worse, would have been pretty much the end of City’s title hopes. Liverpool have come this far in their own right and clearly they are not going away. Needing to rely on them to drop points for the first time since March 3 in their final game of the season would’ve meant relying on a miracle.
They needed a goal.
City’s centre-backs, given Jamie Vardy’s defensive duties, were able to push right up into the Leicester half. Usually they cycled possession out to the wings. On one occasion Kompany went for a crossfield pass but got it horribly wrong and was so embarrassed (or ashamed) that he put his hand up and appeared to apologise directly to Guardiola.
So a few minutes later when it looked like he was lining up another one, City fans would have been forgiven for thinking “don’t!”. He didn’t. Instead, he rifled one towards the top corner. What was he doing?! Guardiola said afterwards he was thinking “don’t shoot, don’t shoot”.
But Guardiola was wrong. It went in. Unbelievably, it went in. It went in the top corner. The postage stamp. Where the spiders live. The top bins – as Raheem Sterling would say.
Nobody could believe it. Leicester’s players least of all. Schmeichel had no answer. Harry Maguire, who was charged with blocking the shot, knew it had gone over his shoulder but clearly expected it to go into the stands. He didn’t even bother turning around to see where it ended up, and was surprised when the fans started celebrating.
And how they celebrated. After the cruelty of the Champions League meeting with Spurs, there was no doubt about this one. No VAR to intervene, certainly no offside.
Well, there could have been doubts. Did that really just happen? Surely not. The replays, the confirmation of what had just transpired, were celebrated as if City had scored a second goal.
In the end, they didn’t. This was like Burnley all over again – bring on a centre-back and keep the ball in the corners.
They didn’t get the second goal but more importantly Leicester did not get one themselves. City shut up shop, they battled for their lives and if Kompany’s goal did not give them the cool heads that they could have done with, it gave them victory.
Now they need just one more. If they win at
Brighton on Sunday the title will be theirs. They will need cooler heads than they had here, but at least, in a weird way, they will not be at home, where the edginess of the crowd so clearly affected them on Monday.
Kompany did not need to do anything else to be written into City folklore, he has already earned his place. Those headers, those tackles, those all-or-nothing performances over the years, amid all of those battles with his own body, have assured him of a place in City history.
But after that goal he might get a statue. That’s how big it could be for City.
After the final whistle, one greeted with yet more wild celebrations, the City players celebrated, and then assembled for their end-of-season lap of appreciation.
Kompany, as he walked around the pitch with his children, was seen in tears. His contract expires this summer and all indications are that he will sign a new one, so they were surely not farewell tears.
That will come out in the wash, but one thing is for sure: Vincent Kompany has come up with what could be the moment of the season, in the most spectacular fashion, when City needed it most.
One more win and City will win the title. They will need to be better than they were on Monday. Or they will need another moment like that.
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