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Manchester City captures drama and English title with two goals in extra time

MANCHESTER, England — In the final moments of the English Premier League's most dramatic season yet, Manchester City had just enough time to produce one final, stunning twist.

With the club's title hopes fading, with fans anxiously tearing at their hair as stubborn Queens Park Rangers clung to a shocking 2-1 lead after 90 minutes, City threw all of its attacking might forward to secure one of soccer's greatest comebacks.

Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero scored in injury time to clinch a 3-2 victory to secure the club's first league title since 1968, topping crosstown rival Manchester United on goal difference.

"It's a crazy finish for a crazy season," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "I've never seen a final like this."

No one had.

City, which trailed United by eight points just weeks earlier, looked to have thrown it away by letting QPR — down to 10 men after a red card — rally from 1-0 down to take the lead in the second half while United finished a 1-0 win at Sunderland.

But Dzeko headed in a goal to make it 2-2 in the second minute of stoppage time. Aguero then clinched the title when he slalomed through the QPR defense and blasted the ball into the net. As the Man City bench went wild in celebration, Aguero — the son-in-law of Diego Maradona — tore his shirt off and was mobbed by his teammates.

"He was crying on the floor," captain Vincent Kompany said. "All the guys were pouring their eyes out. You don't see strong personalities like that showing their emotion so often."

Moments earlier, United — owned by the Glazer family that owns the Buccaneers — had completed its victory and were lingering along with its traveling fans, ready to celebrate title No. 20, extending its record.

Instead, a party 44 years in the making burst into life in the blue-clad half of Manchester as fans flooded the field and exploded blue smoke canisters.

"Miracles do happen in Manchester," Kompany said. "This time it's on this side of the road."

Now United's Red Devils — on the other side of the road — will have to live with the fact that the club once dismissed by manager Alex Ferguson as a "noisy neighbor" is now a serious threat to their supremacy.

"It's a cruel way (to lose the title)," Ferguson said. "We've experienced many ups and downs in the 25 years I've been here, most of them have been great. We've won the title three times on the last day; today we nearly did it."

United had won 12 titles since City had last won the English championship in 1968. City had been relegated and promoted several times since and even spent 1998-99 in the third tier. But City became a credible title challenger after a takeover by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour, who has invested more than $1 billion in three years hoping to build a powerhouse.

Viewers in America got to see the drama unfold as never before as all 10 games aired live simultaneously here, seven on television and the rest online.

There was more on the line than the title. Arsenal won 3-2 at West Bromwich Albion to clinch third place and joins the two Manchester clubs in the group stage of next season's lucrative European Champions League.

And QPR, despite its loss, was assured of EPL survival, which is estimated to be worth at least $40 million. Bolton, which needed to win to jump QPR for 17th place, tied 2-2 at Stoke City and was relegated.

But at the top, this was the first time the English title was decided in such dramatic circumstances since 1989, when Arsenal won 2-0 at Liverpool on the final day. Arsenal and Liverpool tied in points and goal difference but Arsenal owned the next tiebreaker, total goals.

The second goal in that game, scored by Michael Thomas in the last minute, was a centerpiece moment in Fever Pitch, a 1997 movie starring Colin Firth based on the book of the same name by Nick Hornby.

The scriptwriters might already be at work trying to capture the drama seen Sunday.

SPAIN: Real Madrid became the first team to earn 100 points in a season in any of Europe's "big four" leagues (Spain, England, Italy and Germany) with a 4-1 victory over visiting Mallorca.

Manchester City captures drama and English title with two goals in extra time 05/13/12 [Last modified: Sunday, May 13, 2012 10:33pm]
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