Monday, April 30, 2012

City completes the double over United

Just a mere three weeks ago Manchester City trailed Manchester United by eight points so the league title look settled.  Unfortunately for United's sake, the month of April has not been kind them.  After United's shock loss away to potentially relegation bound Wigan earlier this month, United followed that up a few weeks later with a 4-4 tie at home to Everton despite leading by two goals with less than 10 minutes remaining.

That all meant instead of coasting to the league title, United only lead City by three points ahead of the most anticipated Manchester Derby of my lifetime.  Heading into the match, ESPN's soccer power index (SPI) claimed that City had a mere 27.7% chance of winning the league title.

Luckily I was able to watch the match live with my buddy Brian at Stocks & Blondes despite the weekday kickoff at 2 pm CST from the baby blue Etihad Stadium.

After a back and forth first half, David Silva's corner kick found Vincent Kompany's head thanks to poor marking by Chris Smalling for a powerful finish to put City up 1-0 in stoppage time of the first half.  City has a league leading 14 goals from corner kicks, which was quite a home slump buster for City against United since City hasn't scored a home goal against United in over four matches.

Besides the goal, the only other real noteworthy happenstance in the match followed Nigel de Jong aka Kung Fu Panda's slightly cynical challenge on Danny Welbeck.  United manager Sir Alex Ferguson got vocal with City manager Roberto Mancini.  City had a few other chances throughout the match but no real on-target scares.

The five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half felt like the longest fives minutes of my life, especially since I was having flashbacks of Michel Owen's winner in the 47th minute of second half stoppage time to give United a home win over City in the 2009-10 EPL season.

Luckily City hung on to complete the double over for United for only the second time in 40 years. Don't get too excited yet fellow City fans though because the last time City completed the double over United, unfortunately United won the league title that year.

All rooting interest aside, City was the better side than United.  City out shot United 15 to 5 and none of United's shots were even on goal.  That was due in large part to the fact that City was much more effective in the attacking third.  City completed roughly 70% (101 of 147) of their passes in the attacking third while United only completed 56.7% (59 of 104) in the the attacking third.

Don't get me wrong, this obviosuly was not the 6-1 beat down that City gave United at Old Trafford but it might be the most significant win for City in their 131 year rivalry.

City and United both have 83 points and two matches remaining.  The good news is that City would win the league if the season were to end today thanks to a +61 goal differential, eight better than United.

Unfortunately City has a much tougher slate of matches since they are away against Newcastle (currently 5th in the EPL) and home against Queens Park Rangers (currently 17th in the EPL) while United hosts Swansea City (currently 12th in the EPL) and away against Sunderland (currently 11th in the EPL).  Despite having a much tougher slate of matches, SPI now claims that City has a 65.8% of winning the EPL.

City has not won the top league in England since 1968 when they clinched the title with a 4-3 win over Newcastle.  Typical City would be wilting against Newcastle to give away the league title but winning a match like today over United marked a new era for City.  Don't get me wrong, City could still stumble against Newcastle and/or QPR but they control their own destiny.  That means for the first time in my lifetime, it is City's title to lose.

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