Sports are a special type of escapism defined by moments that temporarily allow viewers to transcend their current reality to achieve a collective feeling. Be these moments euphoric or tragic, it’s what separates sports from anything else really. It’s that collective feeling when all the stakes are on the line and the world stops to watch.
On Sunday, the sporting world stopped and turned their eyes onto the Prem and the title race between Liverpool and Manchester City. This moment deserved the world’s attention, two of the greatest sides currently were to take the title race to the last second of the season. Temporarily transporting the world to the pitches of England, blocking out the noise for 90+ minutes of action.
Neither side was facing an opponent who needed something from the game, but Aston Villa was the much morer interesting matchup for City. Villa coached by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard and led by another legend Coutinho looked to play spoiler to City. With the collapse against Real still fresh in mind, Pep looked to finish this season with a trophy and win in Manchester.
Liverpool faced an interesting Wolves side, one that was solid but not spectacular, a good mid table side led by the great Raúl Jiménez. Looking to complete a treble, Liverpool desperately needed a result to stand a chance at the title. With Salah and van Dijk nursing injuries, Liverpool surely had the more difficult of the two tasks.
As the clock ticked down to kickoff, like an eager chef waiting for the egg timer to go off, fans drew towards the TV or pitch. Magnetically pulled in, fans were finally here, ready to see two titans fight for a chance at glory.
To just give a quick bit of context to the title race, Liverpool found themselves a point behind City and six goals behind in goal differential. City would get the title with a win, no matter Liverpool’s results. Both teams would be playing at their respective homes, meaning a title clincher would be celebrated in front of their fans.
All games on the final matchday kickoff at the same time which is such an interesting situation for fans and players alike. This means that fans would know the results of other fixtures before the players, meaning that players are left in the blind for the most part.
Less than four minutes into the game, Liverpool would find themselves down after Jiménez’s run and cross tore apart the defense to find an open Pedro Neto for the tap in. Just three minutes into the game, first blood was drawn and City found themselves coasting towards the championship. Matip would almost equalize right after, but his header missed the mark.
Meanwhile, in Manchester, needing only a tie, City allowed Villa to find space and chances with Coutinho getting close on a few occasions. Phil Foden, whose play has forced Grealish to be an expensive benchwarmer, would launch wide City’s best opportunity. With word of Liverpool’s misfortunes likely reaching players, City felt that they could ease up and play at their own pace.
This would backfire, as Villa right back Matty Cash would head home the opener, sending the blood pressure of City fans skyrocketing. A little over ten minutes prior, Liverpool would equalize through a goal from Sadio Mané. Just like that, City found themselves down a goal with Villa not letting up and Liverpool looking to kill off Wolves.
As halftime drew, Liverpool fans felt delirious as they were tied on points with City and felt the game going their way. In Manchester, City fans were likely ready to sacrifice anything for the spirit of Agüero to power them to the title.
The second half of these two games could be considered to be the greatest finish to a Premier League season, outside of the Agüero goal of course. Both games would see a combined six goals with the title decided in the last ten minutes of the season.
Somehow Gerrard was able to have Villa act as a surrogate for Liverpool, coming out blazing and ready to deliver Liverpool the title. Around 15 minutes into the half, Coutinho would find himself in space and beautifully control the ball to give himself a shot on goal. 2-0 Villa.
Pep, knowing he had to make a change, put all his chips in the pot and brought on İlkay Gündoğan for Bernardo Silva. Fans, justifiably, were outraged, here was City’s best offensive player being taken off for a more defensive player.
Gündogan almost immediately repaid Pep for his gamble with his header breaking the hearts of Villa fans to put City back into the game. Feeling hot, like Steph Curry after making a screw you three, City continued to attack with Rodri’s long range heater tying the game. Now all the momentum was City’s, as Liverpool would need a miracle to overcome the goal differential.
Less than a few minutes later, City would finally have one hand on the trophy with Gündogan tapping in the winner. With a small tap so close to goal, Gündogan sent Manchester into a frenzy with the fans shaking the stadium to the core. Somewhere Agüero has to be smiling over his creation, looking down on his team like Zeus from Olympus.
Moving back to Liverpool, by the time Gündoğan’s winner reached the Anfield crowd, Liverpool were still struggling to further break down Wolves’ backline. Substitute Salah would bury one goal before Andy Robertson would kill off the game. Liverpool would be denied a chance at the treble, as City held on for the win and a fourth title in five years.
Whew, exhales could be heard around the world, as the Prem finally came to an end with one of the best league finishes of late. City would be crowned as champions with Liverpool finding themselves just one tantalizing point behind.
That frenzy caused by a simple tap in is what sports are all about, a fanbase being sent into delirium over their team succeeding. Emotions running over them, like waves breaking over a ship’s bow, looking at one another in utter pride. Even Liverpool’s failure to win the title can bound fans, as these moments force them to dream of a brighter future, all together as one fanbase.
In these moments, there is a sense of unity and beauty that isn’t often felt in this increasingly isolated world and maybe just for a minute, people can feel unity. Connected to a global fanbase, there are so many different opportunities to find a home and sense of belonging.
One can escape the world for 90 minutes, all worries and stress paused, just to watch some people kick a ball around. It shouldn’t be important, but it is, for fans, lives revolve around a team and so much is invested in the team and community. Again, that is the beauty of this sport, it gives all a chance to experience something greater.
Well, just like that, another season of the Perm is over and what a season it was. From teams like Everton staving off relegation to West Ham looking like European spot contenders, there was something for everyone. Now, fans must wait an agonizing few months before we can all end up addicted to the Prem once more.
Featured image: Getty