10 years in the past to the day, the Premier League delivered essentially the most dramatic second in its historical past; essentially the most iconic and unbelievable season finale.
“Agueroooooo!” legendary commentator Martin Tyler exclaimed, as Manchester Metropolis’s famous person striker despatched the ball into Queens Park Rangers’ internet with nearly the final kick of the 2011-12 marketing campaign.
“I swear you’ll by no means see something like this ever once more,” Tyler added in an nearly breathless rush, “So watch it, drink it in …”
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It was not an awesome aim. It was hardly even a great aim. There was no technical excellence or particular person brilliance behind the second. However when it comes to influence on the gorgeous recreation, few objectives can stand alongside the Sergio Aguero strike that handed Metropolis a maiden Premier League title and ushered in a brand new period in English soccer.
Ten years on, Metropolis are set to unveil a statue of Aguero, the person who delivered their best achievement. And in honour of the event, Code journalist Adam Peacock convened a particular podcast concerning the recreation, titled The Aguero Objective: Drama and Delirium.
He’s joined by two males with understandably contrasting experiences of that sunny Sunday afternoon on the Etihad Stadium: Metropolis participant Joleon Lescott and Metropolis-turned-QPR participant Nedum Onuoha.
The season was already one for the ages. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United had been the defending champions, having received the league 4 occasions in 5 years. Manchester Metropolis had by no means received the Premier League – and even completed within the prime three. Their final title in England’s prime flight was all the way in which again in 1967-68.
However the 2008 possession takeover by sheik Mansour, a multi-billionaire and a member of the royal household of Abu Dhabi which boasts a wealth estimated at over $1 trillion, heralded a brand new period within the Manchester golf equipment’ rivalry. Within the two years to September 2010, Mansour splashed a staggering £320m on transfers. Within the following 12 months, they added nearly one other £100m on signings – together with a club-record price for Sergio Aguero within the low season previous to 2011-2012.
By the beginning of December, Metropolis was undefeated with 12 wins from 14 video games – scoring 48 objectives and conceding simply 13 within the course of. 5 factors forward of United in second, having overwhelmed them 6-1 at Previous Trafford – United’s worst loss since 1955.
Crimson Devils legend Paul Scholes emerged from retirement and shortly impressed a United revival, simply one in every of many twists and turns within the title race.
All the time-controversial Metropolis star Mario Balotelli was despatched off in a wild 1-0 defeat at Arsenal in April, simply one in every of many wild tales involving the Italian – together with setting his home on hearth in October 2011 when he lit fireworks in his personal rest room. Metropolis’s chase for a primary title in 44 years appeared over, as United led by eight factors with six video games to play. However they misplaced at Wigan and drew with Everton, and misplaced one other Manchester derby.
Immediately Manchester Metropolis had the lead getting into the ultimate day of the season – although that lead was solely on aim distinction.
Lescott, signed by Metropolis in 2009 as a part of that $A700m-plus signing spree, informed the podcast the workforce’s preparation was like each different week.
“The supervisor saved every thing the identical. I feel the gamers needed that anyway. The preparation was the identical when it comes to the coaching by way of the week, the extent of element that was given was the identical and the gamers’ utility was the identical, no-one was getting carried away … The main target was: ‘you recognize what must be achieved. Simply do your job.’”
Metropolis had been dealing with relegation-threatened QPR at residence, whereas United travelled to face Sunderland. As typical, each Premier League recreation within the ultimate spherical kicked off the identical time.
Queens Park Rangers defender Nedum Onuoha had spent 15 years at Manchester Metropolis, becoming a member of their Academy at age 10 and progressing by way of to the primary workforce. “This was my residence,” he informed the podcast of Metropolis.
Mancini had frozen him out as quickly because the supervisor arrived, and ultimately bought him to QPR in January of 2012. Just some months later, he was dealing with his former workforce and a supervisor he ‘had an actual disdain for’.
“That week, I simply saved considering of all of the completely different situations that might occur … What if I acquired relegated and we acquired battered? What if I acquired relegated on the sector I used to name my residence, and 40,000 persons are singing and principally laughing at me … It was demanding.”
Metropolis went to halftime 1-0 up because of defender Pablo Zabaleta’s thirty ninth minute aim – his solely aim of the season. Over in Sunderland, Wayne Rooney had scored within the twentieth minute for Manchester United.
That meant that every one Metropolis wanted to do to win the title was to carry onto their lead within the second half – a situation which might additionally imply QPR can be relegated.
Lescott says: “It was like we’d achieved it within the first half. We anticipated to be dominant … it wasn’t a shock we went in 1-0. Most likely a shock it wasn’t extra.”
Three minutes after halftime, every thing flipped on its head. Lescott made a poor defensive header, permitting Djibril Cissé to run into the field and rating previous Joe Hart. 1-1. And with United nonetheless main 1-0, their followers had been in ecstasy as they had been Premiers-elect.
Seven minutes later, it was one other Metropolis Academy product turned QPR participant who turned the sport on its head as soon as extra. All the time-fiery Joey Barton elbowed Metropolis striker Carlos Tevez off the ball, incomes a straight pink card from referee Mike Dean. QPR had been all the way down to 10 males – however Barton tried his degree finest to have a rival despatched off too. He kicked Sergio Aguero behind leg then tried to headbutt Vincent Kompany, earlier than being dragged away by teammates down the tunnel.
Lescott says: “I do know Joey was attempting entice somebody, however we had been all fairly mature. The one participant he in all probability may have (despatched off) was Mario (Balotelli). I feel Mario tried to have an altercation with him as he was getting towards the tunnel … It didn’t shock me no-one else was concerned from our facet, as a result of we simply weren’t like that.”
For Onuoha, Barton’s actions had been merely unbelievable.
“He was at all times a great participant … however a few of the stuff he did was insane.”
He added: “We wanted everybody, the truth is we in all probability wanted 12 males, realistically, to cease them. However to go all the way down to 10 and for that to be you, as one of many key gamers within the workforce at the moment? I used to be further pissed off.
“If it was an unfair choice you’d rally round him. However for many of us we simply thought: ‘What on earth is he doing? Why is he doing this now?’”
By some means, regardless of being a person down, QPR did the unthinkable and once more took the lead. Within the 66th minute, Armand Traoré crossed the ball to Jamie Mackie, and the unmarked artificial no mistake together with his header.
Metropolis gamers started to panic. Lescott says: “That was when the panic begin to set in … Now the ideas are wild, like: ‘I can’t go away the home. I don’t wish to go on vacation this summer season.’ The Euros had been coming, considering ‘I don’t wish to go’. I’m considering on the time: ‘that is simply me considering this’, however having spoken to the remainder of the workforce they had been considering the identical issues.”
Metropolis pushed on desperately, needing two objectives to overturn the 2-1 defeat and declare victory – and the league title. By some means, QPR held on repeatedly.
“At this level, Mancini had misplaced his thoughts,” Onuoha says. “He’s principally coming to the sideline simply to curse at his gamers. That’s what he was doing. That’s his complete tactical factor, simply inform them they’re all crap principally.”
Immediately it was into stoppage time – a full 5 minutes of it. Hope was working out. Metropolis followers even began to stroll out of the stadium.
Then, on Metropolis’s 18th nook of the match, substitute Edin Dzeko headed residence. 2-2, two minutes into the 5 added for stoppages.
Onuoha says: “There was a way of panic. Particularly for me as a result of I used to be alleged to be marking Dzeko, however like I had nothing left in my physique so I couldn’t soar.
“For a bit extra perception, I used to be on the membership from (ages) 10 to 25, there’s one image of me within the stadium, and it’s a pic of Edin Dzeko heading the ball immediately over me.”
Over in Stoke, the full-time whistle blew. Bolton Wanderers had misplaced and can be relegated as a substitute of QPR, whatever the consequence towards Metropolis. The QPR bench erupted in pleasure.
Many consider the QPR gamers on the pitch knew they had been secure from relegation. However Onuoha says that’s not true.
“The best way it labored, and this is the reason we get a little bit of criticism, a couple of folks assume myself and others stopped attempting as a result of we knew we had been secure. One or two folks on the sector may need recognized however they didn’t cross on the message, and the folks on the bench didn’t cross it on both. So we weren’t celebrating or something like that.”
In Sunderland, the full-time whistle additionally sounded. United had sealed their 1-0 win. They might be champions except Metropolis may rating once more.
Then, as Martin Tyler stated: “Manchester Metropolis are nonetheless alive right here. Balotelli …. AGUEROOOOO!”
93:20. 93 minutes and 20 seconds, a time that may go down in Metropolis folklore. Balotelli – so practically drawn right into a combat with Barton half an hour earlier, had come off the bench to arrange the winner. It was his solely Premier League help in 70 league appearances for Metropolis.
48,000 followers roared.
For Onuoha and his QPR teammates, who hadn’t heard concerning the consequence at Stoke that meant they had been secure from relegation, it was heartbreaking.
Onuoha says: “In case you look again upon the third aim, there are our bodies on the ground distraught as a result of we predict we’re taking place. Most of us thought we’d blown it. After 38 video games we’d blown it within the ultimate second within the final recreation of the season.”
90 seconds later, the whistle blew. Metropolis had received the league. Followers streamed onto the pitch – and within the insanity, a handful forgot which membership Onuoha now represented, yelling at him: ‘we’ve achieved it!’
“I needed to combat by way of a couple of Metropolis followers,” he says. “They’d gone so loopy with the joy, they’d forgotten I didn’t play for them.”
He can be invited into the Metropolis change-rooms after the sport, alongside one other Metropolis-turned-QPR participant in Shaun Wright-Phillips. He says there have been: “beers in our dressing room and champagne in Metropolis’s … one is a way of aid that we’ve earned the fitting to do it once more – and the opposite facet is jubilation.”
And regardless of his bitterness for the way in which Mancini discarded him so brutally earlier that season, he shook the supervisor’s hand.
A decade on, Lescott says the group that took half in that single good day for Metropolis nonetheless share a particular bond.
“There’s a bond there that I doubt is (ever) damaged. Run into, say, James Milner (now at Liverpool), all nonetheless shut.
“Big fondness for one another, we perceive what we achieved then … quickly as we see one another, it’s prompt, it’s prompt and good reminiscences, good reminiscences.”
A decade on, Metropolis stands on the point of claiming the league as soon as extra as one other basic title race – this time towards a special rival in Liverpool – reaches its zenith. It’s unlikely that battle of titans may match the sheer madness of 10 years on, however soccer followers can cross their fingers.