The Sounds and Sights of Five Extraordinary Minutes
It seems that we hear all the time about a major sports team that hasn’t won a championship in so many years. In 2016 the Chicago Cubs of baseball won the top championship for the first time in 108 years. This year, the Houston Astros, also of baseball, won the championship for the first time since the team was established in 1962.
We owe it to our young football fans to relive the historic miracle win by Manchester City in 2012. It’s so easy to take things for granted; surely everyone remembers life before cell phones, the internet, fast food, Game of Thrones, slots online, and the Manchester City miracle of 2012.
It isn’t so! We present this quick history and retelling of the season, the great game, and the miracle victory that gave Man City its first league championship in 44 years.
Mediocrity Doubled and Trebled
Manchester City football has a long history, mostly of mediocrity in the top league including relegations speckled from time to time with excellence and championships. Before the miracle of 2012, Man City had last won the top league championship in 1968, even before the Premier League had officially been established.
Annually, it was most common to see Manchester City somewhere in the middle of the table. In 1963, the team was relegated after finishing 21st in Division 1. In three seasons in Division 2, they finished 6th, 11th, and then 1st earning promotion back to Division 1. After a 15th place finish in 1967, no one saw the sensational next year coming but the club won the Division 1 championship.
Alas, years of stagnation and mediocrity followed for the ensuing 42 years with the occasional hopeful sign marred by relegations, promotions, further relegations, another promotion, and always the sad sister next to the bloom of Manchester United.
In 2002 the Club achieved its last and hopefully final promotion. Nevertheless, mediocrity continued to reign until 2010 when the Club finished 5th followed by a finish in 3rd the following season.
2011-12 Highs, Lows, and a Soaring High
We all had high hopes for 2011-12 but with only seven games to go Man City lost to Arsenal and fell eight points behind United. Here is what Vincent Kompany said later:
“It started with that defeat at Arsenal, which to us meant the end of our title hopes. At that moment it was over. But we decided we had nothing to lose anymore. It kind of took a weight off our shoulders, and we started scoring goals and annihilating teams. United made a few mistakes and we got back in the race.”
United Lose Eight Points in Six Games?
No one really thought that United could squander eight points in six games but they did. They gave up two late goals to Everton to end in a draw. In the head to head match, City won 1-0 and the race to the finish was on in full force. On the last day of the Premier League season, the two Clubs were tied but City had the goal differential tie breaker. If both Clubs won, the title would be City’s.
United won their contest but City trailed late in their match. Their opponent that day was a poor Club: Queens Park Rangers or QPR for short. Then it became very late and city still trailed.
Win One Against a Relegation Prospect
The match had started well for City and they scored late in the first half to lead 1-0. But QPR faced relegation so were playing their hearts out. They scored in the 48th minute to tie, then in the 55th minute they lost Joey Barton, red carded for elbowing. Despite being a player down QPR scored again to take the lead.
Manchester United was protecting a 1-0 lead and was sure to win. Now City needed two goals to win!
Silencing a Stadium
The crowd grew silent. Typical City ran through the fans as time ticked away. But the players gathered one last gasp of energy. When that one failed to produce a goal, they grasped another final burst of energy. There was nothing typically City about those players on that day.
Henry Winter wrote about a man and son who left when the score was still 1-2 against City. The young boy was distraught. He would face his chums the next day and they would all gloat about United to his sad allegiance to City.
The referee announced five minutes of stoppage time. Enough time for a miracle but a miracle it would need to be. It was so unfair: United was about to win the league title for the 20th time and City was squandering away its first chance to win in 44 years by losing to a team about to be relegated. The crowd grew so silent, as if they were attending a funeral.
One Great Corner: Hope
Edin Dzeko had been hounded by Nedum Onuoha on every corner but in the 91st minute, he somehow managed to achieve a small measure of separation, the ball came toward him, and he leaped higher than he ever had to header in a goal. Four minutes remained in stoppage time and now City needed “only” one goal.
The equalizer goal was celebrated by players and fans alike but for the players there was no time for big celebrations. They went to the center and QPR began to stall. The referee was so annoyed by the unsportsmanlike tactic that he was about to add time.
Approaching the Goal
Sergio Aguero, City’s best scorer, gave the ball to Mario Balotelli and ran to the box, hoping for a return pass close to the goal. The pass came, Aguero outmaneuvered a defenseman, and scored.
The Greatest Memory
As young fans, you’ve no doubt begun to take for granted that City will fight for the league championship every year. Remember that no one had experienced such joy as we all felt that wonderful day in 2012 and no championship going forward will ever match that one.