MANCHESTER: The Manchester derby went to City. Next, it hopes, is the Premier League crown.
Manchester City finished a sweep of its local rivals Monday when Vincent Kompany’s powerful header lifted it past Manchester United 1-0 to take the Premier League lead with two games remaining.
In what had been billed as the biggest Manchester derby ever, Kompany connected off David Silva’s corner kick for the only goal in first-half stoppage time at the Etihad Stadium. City then held on for a potentially title-deciding victory; it leads United on goal difference and once again has matters in its own hands, having erased an eight-point deficit in three weeks.
”Absolutely buzzing. … We’ve been waiting for this moment,” Kompany said. ”It’s far from over, and we know that, but just to give our fans two wins over Manchester United this season – we have to finish it off.”
City still has a difficult job remaining as it next visits fifth-place Newcastle United, then hosts relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers in the remaining games. United finishes against Swansea at home and Sunderland away.
”It’s great to win tonight, but Newcastle is now our focus,” City goalkeeper Joe Hart said.
City has an 8-goal differential over United.
”I think that we deserved to win this game, we scored, we played well and we had other chances to score in the second half,” city manager Roberto Mancini said.
As the crosstown rivals have been locked in a two-way fight for the title for most of the season, this game had been hyped even more than others in the 131-year history of matches. The entertainment level was not nearly as high as the stakes.
The game featured few clear scoring chances for either side, and the tension on the pitch spilled over to the sideline in the second half. United manager Alex Ferguson and City counterpart Mancini got into a heated exchange after a tough challenge by Nigel de Jong on Danny Welbeck.
With both managers making hand gestures to suggest the other should stop talking, Ferguson eventually had to be dragged back to his own technical area. City assistant coach David Platt restrained Mancini.
”Sir Alex told me something not kind,” Mancini said. ”But I can understand, because at that point, tension is high.”
Ferguson said he was upset that Mancini was yelling too much at the match officials.
”It was feisty. It was a competitive game which we expected, not a lot of goal chances,” Ferguson said. ”We are disappointed we never tested the goalkeeper; to be honest, our crossing was poor.”
While United ventured forward in the opening minutes, it was City that controlled possession in the first half and came close in the 25th minute. Sergio Aguero volleyed off target from an angle. That chance had the City supporters on their feet – including Aguero’s father-in-law, Argentina great Diego Maradona, watching from an executive box.
United seemed happy to soak up City’s attacks knowing a draw would all but end City’s title hopes. That plan backfired in first-half stoppage time.
Silva whipped in a corner kick from the right flank and Kompany got away from Chris Smalling to give City the lead with a firm header – ensuring the teams went in for halftime with the home fans waving their blue-and-white flags above their heads in jubilation.
”I guess a lot of predictions go wrong, but I remember someone texting me today and saying ‘You’re going to score a goal today,’ and I thought he was a lunatic,” Kompany said.
Uncharacteristically, United failed to create clear chances and Hart had little to do in the City goal.
”We had control of some parts of the game, but not enough to cause any damage,” Ferguson said.
United’s frustration continued as City’s defense held firm, while YaYa Toure curled a left-footed effort just wide in the 82nd as gaps opened up in midfield.
Gael Clichy had a shot saved by David De Gea in the United goal in the 88th and Samir Nasri thumped the turf in anger as he took too many touches before being tackled in front of goal in the 90th.
Five minutes of stoppage time was not enough for United to find a trademark equalizer and City’s fans – including Maradona – erupted in celebration at the final whistle. (AP)