As the Premier League title race comes down to a last-day decider, football fans up and down the country will be desperate for a repeat of the unforgettable drama from back in 2012.
Almost a decade ago to the day, Manchester City completed the most remarkable of turnarounds in the dying seconds to clinch their first English top-flight title in 44 years and a maiden Premier League crown. So unique were the turn of events that day, we were sworn we would never see the like again.
Much like this Sunday, going into their final day, City were well aware that three points at the Etihad would be enough to seal the success, but it would prove to be far from plain-sailing. Though opponents QPR were expected to put up a fight given they were scrapping to ensure their Premier League survival, few could have anticipated what lay in store on that fateful day.
Heading into the season finale, Roberto Mancini ‘s side sat level on points with fierce city rivals Manchester United atop the Premier League standings – their far superior goal difference the only slender advantage they held over the Red Devils at the league’s summit. Wayne Rooney’s 20th-minute goal ensured United would do their bit to rain on City’s parade as Sir Alex Ferguson ‘s side claimed all three points at Sunderland to pile on the pressure.
Back in Manchester, Pablo Zabaleta settled the City nerves shortly before half-time, but it would turn out to be a joy short-lived. Djibril Cisse responded just three minutes into the second half before 10-man QPR, fresh from seeing Joey Barton lose his head and receiving his marching orders, took the most unlikely of leads through Jamie Mackie. The title race had been turned on its head.
As the seconds ticked away that afternoon, Mancini’s men were seeing Premier League history slipping through their fingers. The full-time whistle blew at the Stadium of Light and United’s players and stuff were visibly buoyed upon learning that City had capitulated. But the drama wasn’t finished just yet.
Two minutes into injury time, Edin Dzeko headed home to give City a lifeline and leave the club’s fans praying for the impossible. That dream then quickly became reality.
Having retrieved the ball almost immediately after QPR kicked-off, City piled forward desperately seeking the most extraordinary of winners. Nigel de Jong found Sergio Aguero, who then exchanged a one-two with the stumbling Mario Balotelli.
Continuing his run, the Argentine held his nerve as QPR’s defence desperately dived at his feet, dropping a shoulder before thumping home the winner to complete the comeback and evoke euphoria at the Etihad. Against all the odds, City turned things around to pull off one of the most iconic moments in football history.
“That goal for me is the most important of my life,” Aguero later told Sky Sports. “All the time, I watch that game and my family too, and my son. I think that goal will be all the time in [my] head.
“When I touched [the ball] before the goal, I thought: ‘Ok, maybe it’s a penalty’, the centre-back touched but not strongly, just a little bit. Then I thought: ‘I just have to shoot’ and when I shoot, the decision is to always shoot at strong as possible to the first post and I had to be lucky. Then for two or three days, I didn’t believe it.”
Upon the ball hitting the back of the net, Aguero whipped off his shirt and wheeled away swinging it around his head, before being mobbed by his disbelieving team-mates. Martin Tyler’s iconic “Aguerooooooo!” commentary only made the moment even more spine-tingling.
“The only thing I’ve ever been able to remember about that day with clarity is that the moment Sergio took a touch, I knew he’d score,” Tyler later told Manchester City’s official club website. “I’ve no reason for saying what I did when he did score and people have often suggested I must have had something up my sleeve, but how can you even imagine a scenario like that?
“I was aware when it went 2-2 that it could happen, but also not expecting it to. I’m a great believer that silence is part of what I do and people have timed the pause between me saying the last ‘o’ of Aguero until when I spoke again.”
While Aguero was bundled at one end, Joe Hart sprinted round in circles, arms outstretched, screaming his head off at the other. On the sidelines, Mancini hot-footed it over to assistant Brian Kid and coach David Platt before embracing the pair in emotional scenes.
“This is an incredible moment,” the Italian said shortly after City’s stunning comeback. “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.
“Five minutes from the end I didn’t think we’d win this game. But we deserved to win this and deserved to win the title. We were on top for 20 games. I think for us it was really important to start winning this championship. Manchester City can have a big future now.”
And so it proved. The triumph was a catalyst in City’s ascent to the game’s summit. On Sunday, they can add yet another Premier League title to their growing list of honours, but you can be sure they will be hoping to clinch it in for a less-stressful circumstances.