Brighton 1-4 Manchester City: Talking points as Premier League champions reign and retain

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Aymeric Laporte and Man City celebrate the title-winning goal.

Manchester City became the first team in a decade to retain the Premier League title after a nervy end to the season, beating Brighton 4-1 to pip Liverpool to the crown by a point.

Brighton gave them a scare by taking the lead on Sunday, raising Liverpool‘s hopes after they had gotten an early strike against Wolves, but goals from Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez, and Ilkay Gundogan ensured Pep Guardiola’s side completed a feat not done since Manchester United won a third straight title in 2008/2009.

Here are the talking points from the win which brought an end to a gripping title battle.

LAPORTE HAS HIS SAY IN VAN DIJK’S SEASON

The word on Laporte this season has been that he’s the second-best defender in the league. That’s high praise in itself, but constantly hearing that there’s a player better than you can’t be fun.

Virgil van Dijk has been immense for Liverpool, arguably the sole reason City even had title rivals, and when Laporte’s mistakes cost his team a shot at the Champions League as he gifted Tottenham two goals in the madcap second leg of the quarter-final, the contrast between best and second-best could not have been starker – not least because Van Dijk’s team have made the final of that competition, for the second straight season.

Liverpool’s main man would win the PFA Player of the Year award soon after Laporte’s horror show, as if to rub it in. But ultimately, although Van Dijk ends the season having anchored the best defence in the league, he doesn’t have a Premier League winner’s medal to show for it. Laporte does, having had the final word on that front. It was his goal that put City back in front on Sunday after Aguero had cancelled out Glenn Murray’s opener.

MAHREZ’S SWEET REDEMPTION

Until Sunday Mahrez’s most significant contribution to the title race was actually in Liverpool’s favour. He missed an 85th-minute penalty at Anfield in October in a 0-0 draw, a moment that was looming large when the Reds took the lead on Sunday.

No one knows how much that miss has played on the Algerian’s mind this season, his first at the club after he became City’s record signing last summer. Scoring the winning penalty in the shootout in the League Cup final against Chelsea would not have counted for much as consolation had Guardiola’s side lost out on the title.

So assisting the go-ahead goal and then scoring what was essentially the title clincher, a vintage strike – albeit on his right foot – as Mahrez left a defender for dead with a dribble before shooting from outside the box to make it 3-1 and put the doubts to bed, must have been a satisfying moment.

CITY TAKING PREMIER LEAGUE TO NEW HEIGHTS

Until two seasons ago, the record for points in a Premier League season was 95. This year, a team has topped that mark and not won the title.

That’s the standard City have set. Last year it was becoming the first team to earn 100 points. This time, they’ve lost two games more in comparison but still ended the campaign on 98 points, as they matched the previous season’s win total of 32 – a Premier League record.

Going by those stats, a team has the leeway to fail to win just five games to beat this City side. For the record, Arsenal’s Invincibles side drew 12 games, the Chelsea team that hit that 95-point mark drew eight and lost one, and Manchester United’s Treble winners drew 13 and lost three. Liverpool this season matched that 2004-05 Chelsea side by losing only once, but drew seven times.

The bar has been well and truly raised. Liverpool may have pushed them to the brink this season, but a year after winning the league by 19 points, City have taken a punch from the best England had to offer and still ended up on top.

The message to everyone else is clear. It’s going to take something monumental to beat Guardiola’s all-conquering side.

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Man City clinch back-to-back Premier League titles after win over Brighton

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Manchester City overcame an early fright to roar past Brighton and wrap up the Premier League title.

Pep Guardiola’s side recovered from going behind to a Glenn Murray header to run out 4-1 winners and pip Liverpool to the crown.

Any title jitters were eased within 83 seconds of Murray’s 27th-minute opener as Sergio Aguero, scorer of the dramatic clincher in 2012, reprised that famous strike with an instant equaliser.

Further goals from Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan then started the party in the away end as Liverpool were forced to settle for a valiant second.

It was a remarkable title race which lasted until the final day, yet was oddly bereft of twists and turns as City and Liverpool relentlessly racked up win after win after win.

As it turned out Liverpool won their last nine but City’s 14-match winning streak, a record end to a top-flight season, ensured the Reds’ wait for the title will tick into a 30th year.

Over nine months and 38 games each, the two juggernauts clocked up 195 points between them as they disappeared over the horizon.

Liverpool’s final total of 97 would have seen them take the title at a canter in every other Premier League season, barring the last. Yet they still could not catch this incredible City side.

The football gods have had a busy week, and they took Sunday off. Liverpool, it seems, had used up their quota of miracles against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals.

Brighton, safe from relegation as of last week but in dismal form, always looked like being compliant opponents for City.

Yet an early snap-shot from Alireza Jahanbakhsh, which fizzed narrowly wide, had Guardiola down on his haunches, as if the Spaniard sensed all was not entirely as it should be.

Word then arrived, via Brighton’s fans, that Liverpool were ahead against Wolves at Anfield when Murray stunned the visitors, heading in at the near post from a Pascal Gross corner.

The lead lasted less than a minute and a half, though. David Silva slipped the ball through to Aguero, who was being played onside by Lewis Dunk.

The Argentinian duly obliged with his 32nd goal of the season in all competitions, blasting the ball through the legs of Maty Ryan.

At this stage Liverpool still sat on top of the ‘as it stands’ table, but not for long.

After Brighton keeper Ryan saved from Mahrez at his near post, Murray left Laporte all alone at the corner to nod home.

The jeopardy, all 10 or so minutes of it, was fun while it lasted. Yet all the time there was one goal in it Brighton had a puncher’s chance, and Liverpool still had some hope.

That hope was extinguished when Mahrez, who was not having the best of games, popped up on the edge of the area, effortlessly slipped past the sliding Dunk and slammed the ball home.

Gundogan sent a brilliant free-kick nestling into the top corner to seal the deal in the 72nd minute.

It was ultimately a seaside stroll, the routine coronation Liverpool feared.

But City’s triumph will be defined not by swatting aside Brighton, but by Vincent Kompany’s winner against Leicester, or Kyle Walker’s stunner against Newcastle, or inflicting Liverpool’s only league defeat of the season with the help of a gap on the goal-line of 1.12 centimetres.

In claiming the club’s sixth title, and a fourth in the last eight seasons, Guardiola’s side also became the first to retain the Premier League trophy since Manchester United 10 years ago.

A 32nd win of the season also equalled the top-flight record, set by City last season.

Now only Watford, in next weekend’s FA Cup final, stand in the way of an unprecedented domestic treble for this incredible side.

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Arsenal's Granit Xhaka believes Premier League's quality is reflected in Europe

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Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka believes the Premier League’s top six clubs would all be at home in the Champions League.

For the first time, this season’s Champions League and Europa League finals will be contested by teams from the same country as England dominates UEFA’s continental competitions.

Liverpool and Tottenham both secured memorable second-leg comebacks to set-up the first all-English Champions League final since 2008.

Meanwhile, Xhaka’s Arsenal will meet Chelsea in Baku after the Gunners eased past Valencia and their London rivals progressed with a penalty shootout win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

With Manchester City favourites to retain the Premier League and Manchester United, although finishing the season with a whimper, also showing they can mix it with Europe’s best after turning around their Champions League round of 16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain, Xhaka feels all could cut it in the competition.

“Every team that can get to a final is strong enough so, we know Chelsea, we play a lot against them,” he said.

“Four teams in the final shows everyone what a league the Premier League is and we hope we are ready for the final.

“You should have to go for the first six from the Premier League into the Champions League, so strong is the league.

“It is only four teams, four teams in the final now and so we can be proud.”

Unai Emery’s Arsenal need to win the Europa League to seal a return to the Champions League as their top-four ambitions were all-but ended with a disappointing home draw against Brighton last week.

The Spaniard, appointed as Arsene Wenger’s successor last year, lifted the trophy three seasons in a row as manger of Sevilla and now Xhaka wants to add silverware to Emery’s first campaign in England.

“Of course, every trophy and every title is important,” he said.

“It is important if you take the title here and go to the Champions League. Of course we want to be in the Champions League through the Premier League but that is the past and we have to look forward now and we will see in three weeks.”

With both Arsenal and Chelsea having to travel to Baku for the final on May 29, the journey for plenty of fans will be a long one – if they are lucky enough to land a ticket.

UEFA have only issued around 6,000 tickets per club but Xhaka insists the players have to put everything to one side and worry only about bringing the trophy back to the Emirates Stadium.

Emery.

Emery.

“We can’t change anything,” added the Switzerland international.

“It is not our job to say something about this – it is one game, it is a final and the better team win.

“I don’t know when we (will) go to Baku but it is one game. It is not about Baku, or we play in Europe or somewhere else.

“You have to be ready in this 90 minutes and you have to be ready in this moment.

“I think history is nice – if you can be in the history of this amazing club it is something to make you proud but first we have to win.”

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