- Last Updated: 1:47 PM, May 13, 2012
- Posted: 12:48 PM, May 13, 2012
MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City ended a 44-year wait for a league championship Sunday with a thrilling 3-2 victory over QPR in the most dramatic finish to a season in English Premier League history.
Sergio Aguero’s injury-time strike saw City come from behind to secure the win it needed to clinch the title, barely minutes after Edin Dzeko drew the team level against the relegation-threatened Londoners, who had been reduced to 10 men.
“Football is incredible,” breathless City manager Roberto Mancini said as fans invaded the Etihad Stadium field. “Doing it like this is incredible. I’ve never seen a final [day] like this. ... [It’s a] crazy season, crazy last minute.“
The stunning victory was enough to finally see off the challenge of defending champion Manchester United, which was seconds away from celebrating a 20th league crown after Wayne Rooney’s header secured a 1-0 victory at Sunderland.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s team was on the field at the Stadium of Light ready to party as news of Aguero’s winner filtered through, leaving his players and traveling fans dejected.
In contrast the capacity crowd at the Etihad Stadium was enjoying mass jubilation, as City players were joined by members of the club’s 1968 title-winning side.
“You want to say it’s the best day of your life, but if I’m honest, please no, never again,” City captain Vincent Kompany said. “We’ve done it a few times this season. I never stopped believing, never ever. ... Unbelievable.“
City’s title-winning team was recruited afterÂ Abu Dhabi-based owner Sheikh MansourÂ invested more than Â£1 billion ($1.6 billion) since taking control of the team in September 2008.
But the multi-millionaires on the field were minutes away from the worst choke in league history as QPR took a 2-1 lead into the closing stages, despite losing hot-headed former City midfielder Joey Barton to a red card early in the second half.
Goals from Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie had put the underdog visitor ahead at the Etihad after Pablo Zabaleta had given City a first-half lead, before substitute Dzeko and Aguero came through for a sixth consecutive victory in the run-in.
“This is an incredible moment,” Mancini added. “We wanted this title and we deserve to win this title. This is for all our supporters, the club, the chairman and the owner. This is the perfect finale for a crazy season. We dominated this season for 38 games, but when we beat a team like United twice in one season we deserve this.“
The win ended the long wait for glory for the success-starved fans in the blue half of Manchester who have suffered the Red Devils winning 12 of their record 19 league titles in the years since City last claimed the honor.
Even in 1968, United superseded its rival’s achievement by becoming the first English team to win the European Cup in the same season.
But Sunday’s drama ensured the pride of Manchester was City’s in 2012 as United finished the season trophyless for the first time in seven years.
The City fans’ boasts will be made sweeter given United had been odds-on to claim a 20th league crown barely a month ago and were seconds away from the trophy again Sunday.
Mancini even declared the title race over following City’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal on April 8, which left his team eight points behind Ferguson’s defending champion despite dominating the first half of the season.
But United’s surprise loss at Wigan and surrendered draw against Everton handed City a lifeline, which it took with a 1-0 home win over Ferguson’s team followed by a 2-0 victory at Newcastle last weekend.
City’s remarkable victory Sunday also meant the 6-1 thrashing of United at Old Trafford in October was ultimately critical in the final reckoning as the two clubs ended level on 89 points, but with City eight goals better in terms of goal difference.
Despite the last-gasp defeat QPR’s players could join in the celebrations in Manchester after retaining top-flight status as Bolton — which suffered the horror of Fabrice Muamba’s on-field collapse in March — was relegated following a 2-2 draw at Stoke.
In the race for Europe, Arsenal secured third over local rival Tottenham after coming from behind to win 3-2 at West Brom.
Spurs, who beat Fulham 2-0 to land fourth, will need a Bayern Munich victory in the Champions League Final against Chelsea on May 19 to qualify for Europe’s premier competition next season.
Newcastle’s fantastic season ended on a quiet note with a 3-1 defeat at Everton, leaving Manager of the Year Alan Pardew’s overperforming team fifth.Follow @NYPostsports