Pep Guardiola described Liverpool as "one of the most perfect teams I have seen in my life" and is thrilled the Premier League title race is heading for a "fair" conclusion.

Guardiola's Manchester City side fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at West Ham on Sunday, with Riyad Mahrez missing a late penalty to clinch all three points.

It means City hold a four-point lead over the quadruple-chasing Reds, who still have two games to play and will ensure the race for the title goes to the wire as long as they avoid defeat against Southampton on Tuesday – albeit a draw would mean Jurgen Klopp's side would need a seven-goal swing to usurp their rivals.

For Guardiola, the scenario heading into a dramatic final week of the domestic season is perfect.

"I said to the players after the game that we could not expect any different against a team fighting to win the Premier League that is one of the most perfect teams I have seen in my life," said the City boss.

"Against this Liverpool you cannot win the league a month ago or two or three fixtures ago. You have to fight until the end.

"I said [to the players] today not to be said because you gave a really good performance and it is fair against this opponent to arrive on the final day to decide who is the best, because both teams are too good."

Jack Grealish was the man to spark City's second-half revival at the London Stadium and for the attacking midfielder there is an intriguing plot twist given the Citizens face Aston Villa on Sunday, the team he left for the Etihad Stadium in a £100million deal.

The England midfielder says there can be no time for sentiment as he aims to earn a first piece of major silverware with City.

"I can't wait and it's going to be a great day. It just had to be against Aston Villa, didn't it? It couldn't have been any other game," Grealish said.

"But that doesn't matter. It's not about me and it's not about who we're playing against. It's about the team and it's about the club. We are going to go out there and try to win and get all three points.

"It's going to be different for me. I've never had that before – I've never had a game on the last day to win a title."

Pep Guardiola saw Manchester City squander a glorious chance to all but make sure of the Premier League title, and their quest could go to the final day.

City rallied from two goals down to draw 2-2 at West Ham, but Riyad Mahrez's late penalty miss might yet be a telling moment in the race for silverware.

Tottenham piled pressure on Arsenal in the battle for fourth after a narrow win over a Burnley side who would have been devastated by Leeds United's late leveller against Brighton and Hove Albion, shaking up the relegation battle.

Everton might have seen the visit of Brentford as a chance to banish their own worries about dropping into the second tier, but a home defeat keeps the Toffees on unsteady ground, as Opta data tells the story of the day.

West Ham 2-2 Manchester City: Bowen's bullseye strikes and Mahrez's miss keep title race alive

Jarrod Bowen's double carried West Ham into a 2-0 interval lead, but Jack Grealish and Vladimir Coufal's own goal hauled City level.

This match almost produced a Premier League first for City; however, Mahrez's spot-kick was saved by Lukasz Fabianski in the closing stages to mean they could not complete the turnaround.

This was only the second time City had avoided defeat from two or more down at half-time (D2 L51), but that probably felt like scant consolation, given Liverpool are back in the hunt, providing the FA Cup winners collect three points at Southampton on Tuesday.

Mahrez has missed two penalties in all competitions for City – his first was against Liverpool in October 2018. Between that and the miss at the London Stadium, the Algerian had converted nine consecutive penalties.

Bowen has scored 12 times and provided 10 assists in the Premier League this season, with his 22 goal involvements the third most in a single campaign in the competition by a West Ham player, after Paolo Di Canio (29 in 1999-00) and John Hartson (23 in 1997-98).

Fabianski, the toast of east London and large parts of Liverpool, saved a penalty for the 10th time in the Premier League. Only David James (13) and Thomas Sorensen (12) have saved more in the competition.

Leeds United 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Late Struijk lifts Marsch men

Pascal Struijk headed a last-gasp leveller to negate the impact of Danny Welbeck's opener as Leeds gave themselves a relegation lifeline, climbing above Burnley to reach 17th place.

This felt significant, with Leeds avoiding defeat in a Premier League home game after conceding the opening goal for the first time since October (1-1 v Wolves), having lost each of their last seven such games.

Former Manchester United man Welbeck was looking like delivering three points for Brighton, and his first-half goal means the ex-England international has scored in both of his two Premier League appearances against Leeds. Indeed, they are the only opponent he has scored in his first two Premier League games against.

The Leeds late show has become a habit. Only Manchester City (9) have scored more goals in the 90th minute or stoppage time than Leeds (7) in the Premier League this season, with all seven of their goals in this period being scored by different players (Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford, Joe Gelhardt, Daniel James, Raphinha, Rodrigo and Struijk).

Tottenham 1-0 Burnley: Cool-eye Kane keeps Spurs in hunt for fourth

When Harry Kane stepped up for a penalty that would have ramifications at each end of the table, the outcome was entirely predictable. Of course Kane scored, just as he now has with each of the last 21 penalties he has taken in all competitions for Tottenham, excluding shoot-outs, and each of his last 15 in the Premier League.

That match-winning spot-kick for Tottenham, after 52 minutes and 36 seconds of play, was the second-latest first-half goal scored in a Premier League game since Opta has exact times available (from 2006-07), behind only Trincao’s strike for Wolves against Leeds in March this year (55mins 11secs).

Kane has scored more Premier League goals against Burnley than any other player, with his ninth strike against the Clarets seeing him overtake Mahrez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (both eight). Burnley are the fourth side that Kane is the outright top Premier League goalscorer against, along with Arsenal (13 goals), Leicester (17) and West Brom (nine).

Burnley, who have games against Aston Villa and Newcastle United to come, need to find at least one point to stand hope of survival. Points at Tottenham have been hard to come by for Burnley, so this defeat came as little surprise. They have lost nine of their last 10 away league games at Spurs (D1).

Everton 2-3 Brentford: Red, red, whine

Everton had Jarrad Branthwaite and Salomon Rondon sent off in this one, with boss Frank Lampard complaining afterwards: "The reality is we're on the bad end of a lot of decisions this season."

Nineteen-year-old Branthwaite became the first teenager to receive a red card in a Premier League game for Everton since a 17-year-old Wayne Rooney in December 2002 against Birmingham City. Indeed, Everton have been shown more red cards than any other side in Premier League history (104).

There are more unwanted statistics starting to emerge in Everton's dismal season. They have conceded 59 goals now, their joint-most in a 38-game Premier League campaign alongside 2000-01.

Seamus Coleman, who put the ball into his own net for a first-half Brentford equaliser, has scored more Premier League own goals (5) than any other Everton player, while the Toffees have put through their own net the most often in Premier League history (58).

Brentford, who twice trailed after Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison scored either side of Coleman's own goal, have gained the most points from losing positions in the Premier League this term (15).

This was just the fourth match in Premier League history to see a first-half red card (Branthwaite), own goal (Coleman) and penalty (Richarlison), after Coventry v Wimbledon (November 1995), Charlton v Aston Villa (April 2001) and Tottenham v Fulham (February 2003).

Pep Guardiola has urged Manchester City fans to "go to the streets" ahead of the Premier League leaders' final game of the season against Aston Villa.

City found themselves 2-0 down to West Ham at half-time on Sunday but fought back to draw 2-2.

However, City missed a chance to win it late on when Riyad Mahrez saw a penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski. It is only the second penalty the Algeria international has missed during his time with the club, having also squandered an opportunity from 12 yards against Liverpool in October 2018.

Fabianski, meanwhile, has saved 10 Premier League penalties, with only David James (13) and Thomas Sorensen (12) stopping more spot-kicks in the competition.

That draw lifts City four points above Liverpool, who won the FA Cup on Saturday by beating Chelsea on penalties, with one match left to play.

It comes next Sunday, against a Liverpool great, as Steven Gerrard takes his Aston Villa team to the Etihad Stadium. The Reds, meanwhile, face Southampton on Tuesday and then host Wolves in their final game.

Should Southampton claim an unlikely win, the title will be City's, but any other result means it is heading to the last day - something that Guardiola is relishing.

"Next week our stadium will be sold out, will give them our lives and they will give theirs, all together," he told a news conference.

"To do it is an incredible privilege, after many years, incredible. To have our chance with our people, to win one game to be champions. I'm looking forward to it.

"If they lose or win it depends on us, do the most perfect game we possibly can do, all the people, all blue people in Manchester, go to the streets and go to the stadium because they know we're going to give everything to win that game and they will be so proud."

City trailed by two or more goals at half-time for the 53rd time in the Premier League, with this only the second time they have avoided defeat from such a position (D2 L51), while they remain unbeaten away from home in the top flight since losing their opening match away to Tottenham.

Manchester City came from two goals to draw 2-2 with West Ham but Premier League title rivals Liverpool were handed hope thanks to Riyad Mahrez's late missed penalty.

The Reds celebrated an FA Cup triumph on Saturday and their chances of an unprecedented quadruple looked very much alive after Jarrod Bowen's double put West Ham 2-0 up at the break.

Yet Jack Grealish pulled one back for City who, despite more shaky defending, drew level when Vladimir Coufal headed into his own goal.

The stage looked set for Mahrez to seal a brilliant comeback win when Craig Dawson's foul on Gabriel Jesus was spotted by VAR, but Lukasz Fabianski made a strong save to keep Liverpool, who are four points back with a game in hand, in the title hunt.

City had control of possession early on but West Ham were dangerous on the counter and that tactic paid dividends in the 24th minute when Bowen beat the offside trap, rounded Ederson and coolly squeezed home.

A shocked City initially struggled to respond, though Jesus' dipping shot almost found the bottom-left corner in the 36th minute.

Yet West Ham struck again before the interval – Bowen engineering space on the edge of the box and drilling a crisp finish beyond Ederson.

City's response came inside four minutes of the restart, Grealish's volley deflecting in off Dawson.

Grealish brilliantly teed up a chance for Bernardo Silva that drew a superb stop from Fabianski, though shambolic defending might have cost City had Bowen or Michail Antonio being more clinical.

West Ham were made to pay with 21 minutes left – Coufal heading Mahrez's free-kick beyond Fabianski.

Aymeric Laporte diverted a goal-bound Bowen shot wide before City were awarded a golden opportunity to win it when Dawson brought down Jesus.

Mahrez stepped up but Fabianski guessed the right way, much to Pep Guardiola's frustration.


What does it mean? Going down to the wire

City would have moved six points clear with a win, and though Liverpool have two games remaining, they would have required a significant swing in goal difference.

As it is, Liverpool – who face Southampton on Tuesday – might well be relying on an old Anfield hero, as Steven Gerrard takes his Aston Villa side to the Etihad Stadium on the final day of the season.

West Ham, who said goodbye to Mark Noble as he came on for his final home appearance in the second half, are now sure of seventh place and European football next season and could still pip Manchester United to sixth.

Brilliant Bowen forever blowing bubbles

Bowen is the fourth West Ham player to score 10+ home goals in a single Premier League campaign after Tony Cottee in 1994-95, John Hartson in 1997-98, and Paolo Di Canio in 1999-00, while only Harry Kane (26) has scored more goals in all competitions amongst Englishmen in the Premier League this season than the Hammers' winger (18).

Mahrez fluffs his lines

Mahrez has been reliable from the penalty spot this season and is enjoying a fine campaign, but in a clutch moment the Algeria winger failed to deliver. His penalty was struck hard, but too close to Fabianski, who did react well to make the save to his left.

What's next?

City round off their season against Villa, while West Ham visit Brighton and Hove Albion in their final game.

Borussia Dortmund bade farewell to several players on an emotional day at Signal Iduna Park, with Erling Haaland signing off in style.

Haaland is moving to Manchester City ahead of the 2022-23 season, with that move confirmed this week.

The 21-year-old – who joined Dortmund from Salzburg in 2019-20 – was presented with a wreath prior to kick-off on Saturday, as Dortmund faced Hertha Berlin in their final Bundesliga game of the season.

He was not the only player given an ovation before the match, with Axel Witsel and Dan-Axel Zagadou, who are leaving the club following the expiration of their contracts, and departing loanees Marin Pongracic and Reinier Jesus also paraded on the pitch, along with Marcel Schmelzer, who has retired.

Long-time sporting director Michael Zorc is also retiring, and was given a huge send-off by the Dortmund crowd.

The enthusiasm in the stands was not initially matched on the pitch, as relegation-threatened Hertha took an 18th-minute lead through Ishak Belfodil's penalty.

However, Haaland got his farewell goal with 22 minutes of normal time remaining, coolly slamming in an 86th Dortmund strike from the spot, in what was his 89th appearance for the club.

Zagadou and Witsel were both subbed off with the game winding down and, fittingly, it was the latter's replacement who netted Dortmund's winner.

Marco Rose insisted Dortmund would "not stop playing football" in the wake of Haaland's departure and 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko showed the future is bright as he converted from Jude Bellingham's sublime pass.

Haaland was able to enjoy a standing ovation as he made way, with Dortmund's 2-1 victory also ensuring Hertha will be in the relegation play-off.

Dortmund's place in second was already sealed, but below them, Freiburg's attempt to get into the Champions League fell just short as they lost 2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen, who took third, while RB Leipzig finished fourth.

Freiburg still have the DFB-Pokal final against Leipzig to look forward to but ultimately slipped down to sixth, with Taiwo Awoniyi's late penalty sending Union Berlin into fifth with a 3-2 win over VfL Bochum.

Toni Kroos had a friendly prod at Manchester City and Sergio Aguero after the Premier League club unveiled a statue in honour of their former striker.

Aguero, who left City last year and has since retired due to a heart condition, is the club's record goalscorer. 

On the 10th anniversary of Aguero's last-gasp, title-clinching winner against QPR back in 2012, City unveiled a statue of Aguero's famous celebration.

However, the statue arguably looks more like Real Madrid midfielder Kroos, who picked up on that resemblance.

"Sure?" Kroos tweeted in response to a tweet from BBC Sport journalist Simon Stone, which included a photo of the statue.

It would not be the first time a statue of a player has drawn some ridicule – Cristiano Ronaldo, anyone? – but it may be the first time it has looked so similar to another star name.

Pep Guardiola insisted Manchester City are not experiencing a personality crisis as he aimed a startling put-down at former Manchester United stars Patrice Evra and Dimitar Berbatov.

The City manager was riled by criticism from Evra and Berbatov, now both working as pundits, after City surrendered a winning position to go out at Real Madrid's hands in the Champions League semi-finals.

Evra claimed Guardiola "can’t train people with personality", while Berbatov offered a response that was not far from Guardiola's own assessment, albeit saying City "had to be more concentrated and focused" in the closing moments.

There was also criticism from former Milan and Madrid star Clarence Seedorf, who said City lacked the necessary "mentality" to come through such a test, comparing them to Paris Saint-Germain.

City were 5-3 ahead on aggregate going into the closing minutes against Madrid on May 4, only to concede a quickfire double to Rodrygo, before Karim Benzema hit a penalty winner in extra time.

It was a dizzying turnaround at the Santiago Bernabeu, but City have responded by thrashing Newcastle United 5-0 and picking apart Wolves 5-1 to reassert their Premier League supremacy over Champions League finalists Liverpool.

Guardiola denies City have any issues with their attitude, saying the approach that brought the back-to-back heavy league wins was "the same character that lost to Madrid in the last two or three minutes".

"The former players like Dimitar Berbatov, Clarence Seedorf, Patrice Evra... these type of people they were there," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City's clash with West Ham on Sunday.

"I played against them and I didn't see this kind of personality when we destroyed them in the Champions League final against United."

That was an apparent reference to Guardiola's Barcelona beating United 2-0 in the 2009 Champions League final, when Evra and Berbatov both featured on the losing team at the Stadio Olimpico as the Catalan giants sealed a treble. The teams also met at the same stage in 2011, but Berbatov was not involved in that game, which the Blaugrana won 3-1.

"[They say] we don't have personality because we concede in the last minutes, and after the last two games we have personality," Guardiola added.

"Personality is what we have done in the last five years. Maybe Liverpool is going to win all four titles or just one. Am I going to say they don't have personality or that they had a bad season?

"Of course they have and of course they are good, but sometimes in football, it happens.

"It is football, you cannot control it. When you always arrive in the latter stages, semi-finals, finals, it is incredible. This for me, because we arrive until the end, playing a lot of games, this is the most important thing."

Pep Guardiola acknowledged a win over West Ham would put Manchester City on the brink of the Premier League title, telling his team not to be distracted by speculation over his future.

City need just four points from a trip to West Ham and a home encounter with Aston Villa to win their fourth league title under the former Barcelona boss, while three points could be enough after Guardiola's men opened up a significant goal-difference advantage over Liverpool with a 5-1 win at Wolves.

The defending champions became the first team in English top-flight history to win five successive games by three goals or more with that victory, in which Kevin De Bruyne became the fourth different City player to hit four goals in a Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

Speaking on the day City revealed a statue of Aguero at the Etihad Stadium on the 10th anniversary of his famous title-winning goal against QPR, Guardiola said he would not mind a repeat of that incredible 2011-12 triumph, but he said nothing could compare to City's first Premier League title win.

He also described Sunday's trip to West Ham as a "final", where a win would put his side on the brink of the title.

"It can happen if it finishes that way, why not?" Guardiola said. "But it will be incomparable. The first time is always the first time; even if we score in the 93rd minute and 20 seconds, it will be the second time.

"The first time is always special in everything we do in our lives. Arriving in this moment, it's important to finish well and try to win.

"We need four points, six points to finish as champion, and I think everybody knows with a win in West Ham it will be almost, almost done, with the goal difference and many things.

"It's absolutely a final, as it was at Wolves, where we performed incredibly well, and we have to try to do it again."

City are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League games, winning eight and drawing two, and have not lost on any of their last 12 Premier League meetings with the Hammers (10 wins, two draws).

Guardiola's team have suffered several injuries to key defenders in recent weeks, with John Stones, Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias ruled out for the rest of the campaign, while Aymeric Laporte was substituted during the second half at Molineux.

Although the City boss said his team were lucky not to have suffered these injuries earlier in the season, he said he trusted his players to cope in two vital end-of-season contests.

"I said many times if we'd had to handle with these absences for many, many games, months, we'd be in big trouble, with a big problem," he added.

"For one or two games, the players will do their best, even players not playing in their [normal] position. The concentration, the focus when you play in that position is higher, and like we saw against Wolves, they can do it."

Guardiola's own future has been the subject of much speculation of late, with the Spaniard telling Sky Sports on Thursday that it was "not time" to discuss a new contract with City.

With Liverpool extending Jurgen Klopp's contract to run until 2026 last month, speculation abounded over whether Guardiola would follow suit, but he stressed he is only focused on ending the season well.

"If I don't know what's going to happen in the next two games, imagine trying to figure out what's going to happen in the future!" he told a news conference.

"All of you when you ask me that question – 'What's going to happen?' – my answer is always the same: 'I don't know.' I'd love to say we're going to do well in the next years, but I don't know.

"Things in football change so quickly. When you believe or think it's sorted, it's good, it's in control, it gives you a good punch in your face. At the same time, when everything looks like a disaster, it's drama, a nightmare, one win can change everything.

"Before it was just Wolves, now it's just West Ham in my mind. It's 11 months of work to arrive in this moment. We cannot be distracted by anything else but trying to win the games."

Kevin De Bruyne and Son Heung-min have joined Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold in being nominated for the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

De Bruyne, who won the award in 2019-20 despite Manchester City missing out on the title to Liverpool that season, is enjoying his best goalscoring campaign for the club.

He netted four goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves on Wednesday, taking him to 19 in all competitions.

Salah is the only other past winner to be up for the award, having scored 22 goals and provided 13 assists (both league-high tallies) in another outstanding campaign as Liverpool battle City for the title.

Fellow Reds star Alexander-Arnold is also on the shortlist after racking up 12 assists in 31 appearances, as is Tottenham forward Son, who scored his 21st league goal of the campaign in Spurs' 3-0 win over Arsenal on Thursday.

Despite hitting 18 and 15 league goals respectively this season, Manchester United and Spurs strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane are among the highest-profile players to miss out being nominated.

The other players on the eight-man shortlist are City defender Joao Cancelo, Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka, Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse, and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

Bowen is one of just three Premier League players to record double figures for goals and assists this season (both 10, along with Salah and Chelsea's Mason Mount).

Meanwhile, both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are in contention to be named Manager of the Season at the end of another enthralling title race between their teams.

Guardiola has already won the award on three occasions (in 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2020-21), the same amount as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. Only Alex Ferguson, with 11, has won it more often.

Klopp won the award when he led Liverpool to their first Premier League title in 2019-20, while the other three nominees all manage sides currently in the bottom half of the table.

Brentford's Thomas Frank is among them after leading the Bees to safety in their first top-flight season since 1946-47, as is Patrick Viera after an impressive first campaign with Crystal Palace.

Newcastle United's Eddie Howe is the final boss on the five-man shortlist, after the Magpies became the first side to go winless through their first 14 games in a Premier League campaign and avoid relegation (three had done so and gone down - Swindon Town in 1993-94, QPR in 2012-13, and Sheffield United in 2020-21).

Public votes will contribute towards deciding the winner of each award, with Premier League club captains also getting a vote on the players' award and a "panel of football experts" helping to choose the winning manager.

Pep Guardiola says any extension to his Manchester City contract will not be agreed until next year, insisting now is not the time to discuss his future.

City require just four points from their final two games to secure the fourth Premier League title of Guardiola's reign at the Etihad Stadium after thrashing Wolves 5-1 on Wednesday.

Title rivals Liverpool extended manager Jurgen Klopp's contract until 2026 last month, sparking speculation City could look to do the same with Guardiola, whose current deal expires at the end of next season.

But Guardiola says any new contract will have to wait until next year, even though he revealed he would be happy to stay for another decade if he was certain City would continue to perform at their current level.

"If I extend the contract, it will be at the end of the next season," he told Sky Sports. "Before then, it's not going to happen. 

"It's many years and I have to see how the team and ourselves, how we are together. Knowing it, I would stay 10 more years. 

"But we have to take time for that, absolutely. It's not time, absolutely in this season, or during the next season."

City look increasingly likely to wrap up another domestic title after becoming the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive league games by at least three goals.

However, their European woes continued when they fell to a stunning 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals earlier in May.

Guardiola will have gone 12 years without winning European football's biggest prize by the time he gets another opportunity to win the competition, but insists continental success will not dictate his future.

Asked whether he would only stay if City win the Champions League next term, he responded: "Absolutely not. We compete, for the margins, extremely well in the Champions League. 

"In my life, we won the Champions League in Barcelona with seven players who came from the academy. Nothing changed my life. I was happy for that.

"Yes, I'm disappointed, we wanted to play the final, but it's not going to change my future or my past. The reason why we came here to England, it's already done. We wanted to do it, we did it."

Sergio Aguero said it was the goal that "changed everything" as he returned to Manchester City on Friday for the unveiling of a statue to recognise his famous title-winning strike.

The Argentinian hit City's stoppage-time winner against QPR on May 13, 2012, earning a 3-2 win that delivered a first top-flight title for the club since the 1967-68 season.

It marked the beginning of a spell of dominance for City, who are on the cusp of achieving a sixth Premier League crown in 11 seasons.

Aguero, who went on to become City's record scorer, left the club at the end of last season to join Barcelona and has since retired after a heart condition was detected.

He was guest of honour at the Etihad Stadium as a statue in his likeness was revealed, a full 10 years to the day since the goal against QPR.

The 33-year-old described that as the standout goal of his career.

Speaking to Sky Sports News and BBC Sport, Aguero said of his latest honour: "For me, it is fantastic. I'm very happy for the statue. Now I'm enjoying it, you know.

"It's special. For me, that moment changed my life, it changed the club, everything. It's the best moment in my life. That moment will always be in my heart."

"We don't know what [would have] happened if we lost the Premier League that year, so that year changed everything."

When the Premier League asked its Twitter followers on Friday whether Aguero's goal was "the most iconic moment" in its 30-year history, Aguero replied to say, "Of course", adding a laughter emoji.

A little over two minutes before the moment that will forever define his career, Manchester City hero Sergio Aguero showed sharpness in the QPR goalmouth that would not have been out of place at Old Trafford.

Old Trafford cricket ground that is, just down the road from City's bitter rivals Manchester United and their home of the same name.

As Edin Dzeko's equaliser from David Silva's right-wing corner bounced back off the netting, Aguero pounced, snaffling it like a short-leg fielder and darting back to the centre circle for City's final tilt at the improbable. It was 2-2, the Premier League title could still be won.

There was certainly nothing wrong with striker Aguero's movement after Joey Barton brazenly tried to dead leg him – one of many surreal and key incidents that fed into a frenzied and famous race against the clock on May 13, 2012.

Ten years on, as a statue of Aguero is revealed, this is a reminder of the special moment that brought City their first top-flight league title in 44 years.

The whole story is now as well-worn as any in football history.

On the cusp of a first top-flight title for 44 years, Robert Mancini's Manchester City faced relegation-threatened QPR on the final day of the season. In their previous 18 Premier League home matches that season, they had won 17 and drawn the other – the most recent of those being a 1-0 win over United that tipped a titanic Mancunian tussle back towards the blue side of town.

City simply needed to match United's result at Sunderland and led 1-0 at the interval thanks to Pablo Zabaleta, only for second-half goals from Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie to turn the contest on its head.

It remained 2-1 heading into stoppage time despite QPR operating with 10 men. City youth product Barton was dismissed for tussling with Carlos Tevez and responded to Mike Dean's red card by thumping his knee into Aguero's thigh before aiming a headbutt at Vincent Kompany. Fireworks enthusiast Mario Balotelli poured some petrol on this particular bonfire by confronting the combustible Barton as he stomped towards the tunnel.

Aside from that significant blemish, QPR's discipline was impeccable. Despite ceding 81.3 possession overall and 84.1 per cent during the second half, they only made seven fouls. Stoppages were infrequent as City thrashed and flailed with increasing desperation and diminishing artistry around the opposition penalty area.

Without Barton's meltdown, there is little chance five minutes of stoppage time - or the three minutes and 20 seconds they ultimately required - would have been signalled. It was time City desperately needed and time they could put to good use with their top scorer's fast-twitch fibres bristling.

Barton was not the only QPR man with City connections. His team-mates Shaun Wright-Phillips and Nedum Onuoha had also graduated through Jim Cassell's Platt Lane youth system, while Rangers boss Mark Hughes was Mancini's immediate predecessor, having been axed shortly before Christmas in 2009.

Hughes, of course, also played for United with distinction across two spells, and those loyalties struck a chord as news came through Bolton Wanderers had failed to beat Stoke City, meaning the Londoners were safe irrespective of the outcome at the Etihad Stadium.

"[City] got back on level terms and I always remember, at that point, I knew we were safe because the other result came in," Hughes told the Coaches Voice in 2020.

"I'm thinking, 'I wouldn't mind United winning, if I'm honest'. It's 2-2 and Jay Bothroyd looked over, asking what we wanted them to do [from the restart]. The players understood the [Bolton] game was over and we'd stayed up. We just said kick it as far as you can, right in the corner and the game's over."

Hughes' recollections from that point credit City with a poise they absolutely lacked. Rarely can a team have scored twice in this space of two minutes and – save for a crucial few seconds – played so shambolically.

Bothroyd's hoof found touch and scampering Joe Hart ran out of his goal to take the throw-in. The England goalkeeper almost missed the pitch.

Gael Clichy carried the ball down the flank, only for his attempted cross to turn into a block tackle with Mackie. Samir Nasri's aimless, floated effort that followed did little more than give Clint Hill a ninth successful clearance of the afternoon.

Nasri then excelled himself by shepherding the ball out for a QPR throw-in. Just 40 seconds before that explosion of ecstasy there was fury and anguish in the stands. Aguero watched it all from roughly the QPR penalty spot. Apparently he'd seen quite enough.

Aguero honed his lethal skills playing against bigger boys in Buenos Aires on the neighbourhood potrero – the hard gravel and mud neighbourhood pitches that football purists in Argentina bemoan are a diminishing presence.

"When you play you have to think fast. Who to take on, who not," Aguero said when recalling those days in a 2018 documentary for City's in-house television channel. "You know who is going to play dirty, who isn't.

"You start to realise what you can do on the pitch and what you can't."

Reflecting further in the 2019 book 'Pep's City' by Pol Ballus and Lu Martin, he further explained the proving ground that readied him for Barton and others.

"Getting kicked black and blue was all part of the game," he said. "You held on to the ball any way you could.

"Running with the ball was a whole different concept for us. I'd be up against big, tough boys and I was always the smallest. But I learned how to survive."

Aguero remembered those matches were played for the prize of a peso, which would garner one of his favourite sweet treats, an alfajor or dulce de leche.

As United's players took in full-time and three points at the Stadium of Light, and Nigel de Jong brought the ball forward in Manchester to the soundtrack of QPR celebrations – their fans aware of Bolton's fate – the stakes were somewhat higher.

Vacating his spot in a penalty area already crowded by substitutes Dzeko and Balotelli, along with a marauding Kompany, Aguero took possession from De Jong 30 yards from goal.

He faced up to a compact QPR back four, with the visitors' four midfielders all in his immediate vicinity.

A shuffling touch to his left engineered space outside Shaun Derry, but Aguero needed help. Ideally from someone reliable, given the complete lack of any margin for error.

Balotelli was on the pitch in a Manchester City shirt for the first time in over a month.

Mancini had not trusted his wayward protege since a red card in a 1-0 Easter Sunday defeat at Arsenal left City eight points behind United with six games to play. Tevez represented a far more dependable option.

But with nowhere left to turn, Aguero dared and prayed for Mario to be super.

Introduced in the 76th minute, Balotelli gave the impression he had not just been banished from Premier League arenas, but football pitches altogether since his previous game.

The Italy striker managed to run through seven goal attempts – two on target, five blocked – during a frenzied cameo. It was probably as well Aguero found him with his back to goal, inside the D and grappling with Anton Ferdinand.

"I tried to control the ball and I had a contact from the defender and the ball went a little bit far from my foot," Balotelli told City TV five years on. "I thought in that half second there is maybe going to be a little bit of space for Sergio."

If Balotelli had stayed upright, the likelihood is QPR would have seen through their final piece of dogged tireless defending. In being forced on to his backside for the only assist of his Premier League career, he created opportunity and chaos.

Facing his own goal, Derry had to hurdle a prone Balotelli, while Wright-Phillips' route back to defend was also compromised. With his centre-back partner grounded, Hill held his position square on, while Kompany's haring towards the six-yard box dragged left-back Taye Taiwo with him.

A pocket of space opened up. A spot of turf Balotelli was able to locate from his sedentary position. As limbs flailed around him and a tight defence scattered, Aguero was thinking fast.

Argentina's tradition of tough, uncompromising neighbourhood football goes hand in hand with the mystique and mythology that cloaks the country's national sport.

A playing style grounded in skill and improvisation – La Nuestra, which translates as "our way" – was locked into the collective consciousness during the first half of the 20th century. The pre-eminent football magazine El Grafico, served to deepen this romantic attachment, with depictions of the pibe – literally a kid or urchin, whose rough and ready footballing technique combined street smarts and skill and was something of an archetype. Typically they would dribble in the gambeta style, a description that implies close control, cunning and deceit of opponents.

The idea that the likes of Diego Maradona, Ariel Ortega, Lionel Messi and all those other squat, explosive and technically brilliant attackers from Argentina immersed themselves in the yellowed pages of El Grafico archive is far-fetched, but the style is unquestionably embedded. Think of the amount of barrelling, dribbling goals such players have produced – close control, small pauses and faints as thighs piston their way through defences.

As the walls were closing in on City's title bid, Aguero showed himself to be a proud product of this lineage. When Balotelli began his battle against gravity, he deftly checked his run behind and around Wright-Phillips to open up a path to the penalty area.

Letting the pass roll, he shaped to shoot, drawing a scampering Taiwo, who left his Kompany decoy a little too late to remain in control. Aguero did not actually touch Balotelli's return pass until his body position persuaded a rash slide tackle that he nudged beyond with the outside of his right boot.

With Taiwo suitably gambeta'd, there came one last stroke of fortune.

"I touched it again and saw I was close to the goal, so I said 'I'll shoot'. The worst thing was that I wanted to shoot hard across goal and it went to the near post, I don't know what happened," Aguero told TyC Sports – the latter sentiment at least aligning him with every soul inside the Etihad Stadium that day.

"After watching it back, I realised that if I had shot across goal a defender could have blocked it. I celebrated the goal and told everybody, 'I hit it so well!'."

Goal 23 of a personal Premier League tally that reached 184, one of 130 with Aguero's ferocious right boot, understandably left an indelible impression on the suddenly defeated Hughes.

"Of all the games I've been involved in, that noise at that moment when that goal went in is different to anything I've ever heard before or since," Hughes said.

"It was just unbelievable sound – different sound to a football crowd. It was a mixture of screaming and noise. It was just an unbelievable moment."

That racket has since been replayed thousands of times across the world. A goal on a tightrope that altered the course of English football, which began with gifting the opposition a 92nd-minute throw-in and ended thanks to a miscue after the main protagonist's strike partner fell over.

It is the Premier League's most famous goal – a moment as synonymous with Manchester as cotton mills and the Hacienda, and yet Argentinian to its very bones.

Whether 10 years on, 20 years on, or 50 years on, expect to see it replayed another few thousand times. On the blue side of Manchester, it stands as an immortal moment.

England midfielder Kalvin Phillips is reportedly on his way out of Leeds United, with Manchester United, Aston Villa and West Ham said to be the parties most interested in prying him away.

Phillips, 26, has been with Leeds since 2010, but Football Insider has reported he has no interest in remaining with the club next season, even if they remain in the Premier League.

The tough midfielder followed in the footsteps of Wilfried Zaha and Jack Butland as the only English players in the 21st century to earn a senior cap while having never played in any country's top division, and confirmed his class at Euro 2020, starting every game and earning the title of England's 2020-21 Men's Player of the Year.

 

TOP STORY – PHILLIPS GETS READY FOR EXCITING NEW CHAPTER

Believed to be valued at £60million, this will be the first time in Phillips' career that he has a chance to shape his own future and pick a situation he feels can elevate him into the conversation of the world's top midfielders.

There will be a Paul Pogba-sized hole in the centre of United's line-up, Villa have signalled their intent with their move for Philippe Coutinho, and David Moyes reportedly has visions of owning the English centre-mid pairing of Phillips and Declan Rice – or replacing the latter if they cannot retain his services through upcoming the transfer window.

Phillips missed four months of this season – from December to March – with a serious hamstring injury, restricting him to just one goal and one assist from 21 club appearances across the Premier League and Carabao Cup.

 

ROUND-UP

Newcastle have made Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin a priority target in the upcoming transfer window, according to the Telegraph.

– Fichajes is reporting Bayern Munich have entered the race for Paul Pogba, while The Mirror claims Juventus are confident about the Frenchman returning to his former Italian club.

– According to Give Me Sport, Chelsea are looking to bring in Sevilla's Jules Kounde to replace outgoing defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

– Marca is reporting some of the world's biggest clubs, including Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Arsenal and Milan are chasing 19-year-old Racing striker Charly Alcaraz.

– The Athletic claims that if Raheem Sterling is to leave Manchester City in the upcoming transfer window, it will not be to Premier League clubs Arsenal or Tottenham, instead favouring one of Europe's top teams in Champions League contention.

Erling Haaland's departure will not mean Borussia Dortmund "stop playing football", head coach Marco Rose declared while wishing the soon-to-be Manchester City forward well for the future.

City have agreed a deal to sign Haaland, who had been one of the most sought-after players in the world.

The 21-year-old will now follow in the footsteps of his father Alf-Inge Haaland, who played for City between 2000 and 2003.

Haaland has netted 85 goals since making his Dortmund debut in January 2020, with 28 of those coming from 29 games in all competitions this season.

Across the top five European leagues, only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has a better ratio (1.13) of goals per 90 minutes in all competitions than Haaland's 1.1.

 

The move to City is subject to personal terms, though that is unlikely to present an issue, with Pep Guardiola's side all set to add a world-class striker to their star-studded squad.

Dortmund signed Salzburg youngster Karim Adeyemi – a former team-mate of Haaland's – as the Norwegian's replacement, and while Rose wishes the latter well in Manchester, he knows BVB will move on.

"Borussia Dortmund will not stop playing football after Erling leaves us. He decided to do his next step with City, we wish him all the best for that," Rose told a news conference ahead of Saturday's final game of the season, at home to relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin.

"I think he gave us a lot, gave us goals, gave us energy, he's a player who always wants to win.

"I think he still can improve, he is still young but we wish him all the best on his way. I've known him a little bit longer, I had him at Salzburg too, so we will follow him, I think we will meet again, I hope we will meet again. All the best to Erling Haaland."

On signing Adeyemi, Rose said: "He's brutally fast and has a good finish, giving us a lot of flexibility on the offensive.

"Of course, he's still young, so we shouldn't overload him. We'll help him get used to BVB quickly."

Dortmund, who are assured of second place, have lost two of their last three Bundesliga home matches (W1), as many as in their previous 17 league outings at Signal Iduna Park combined.

The last time BVB suffered consecutive home defeats in the league was in 2020 (three in a row).

Pep Guardiola labelled Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City's "key man" after the midfielder scored four in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves, while he expressed his excitement to manage Erling Haaland next season.

City ran riot at Molineux to restore their three-point lead over Liverpool at the Premier League summit, and now need just four points from their final two games to win a second consecutive league title.

De Bruyne became the fourth different player to score four goals for City in a Premier League match (after Edin Dzeko, Gabriel Jesus, and Sergio Aguero – who did so on three occasions), as City bolstered their goal difference, which could yet prove to be crucial in the title race.

City are now unbeaten in 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws), and have become the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive games by a margin of three or more goals.

Guardiola's men also became the first team to have five or more shots on target while scoring each in a Premier League game since Liverpool in December 2019 (a 5-2 win against Everton), thanks in large part to De Bruyne's incredible display of finishing.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the win, Guardiola hailed the midfielder as "incredible" after he reached 19 goals for the season in all competitions, saying he had been City's most important player in the run-in.

"The way he's playing in the last two or three months, especially in the Premier League, has been outstanding. In the Champions League as well," he said. "He has been our key man in the last part of the season. 

"It's not just what he creates and the goals and everything, I'm happy because he always had a sense for the assists and was so generous, always thinking what's best for the team.

"But we always tried to push him, [saying] 'you have to win games, you have to score goals', and this year I think is his most prolific season in this sense."

City were widely criticised after falling to a 6-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals last week, but responded with consecutive thrashings of Newcastle United and Wolves.

Guardiola was keen to praise his team's character after they produced a dominant performance on their first away trip since Madrid.

"Did you have any doubts after what these guys have done in the last five years? They have personality, they have character, they have everything," he added. 

"We were in control, we started really well, scored a goal, and one moment where we didn't defend the transition properly we conceded a goal [Leander Dendoncker's equaliser]. After, we found the goal quick and it helped us a lot."

Although City have already hit 94 Premier League goals this season, their attack will be further bolstered after the announcement that Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland has agreed a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said he was excited to work with the Norway star, who has hit 85 goals in all competitions since joining Dortmund in January 2020, and believes the 21-year-old will have no problem adapting in England.

"It's a decision for the club to make a good signing for the future, he'll come for many, many years, hopefully. I'm pretty sure he'll adapt perfectly to our team, but it will be next season," he added on Haaland.

"I'm excited in my job and of course, I like to work with good players, because the players make you a good manager. 

"Of course, he's an incredible young talent with a perfect age, and I'm pretty sure we're going to help him settle as quickly as possible."

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