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City celebrate Premier League title with 1-0 victory over Chelsea

Rob Dawson, Correspondent
Sunday May 21, 2023

Ilkay Gündogan lifts the Premier League trophy as his teammates celebrate behind him. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Manchester City celebrated their Premier League title success on Sunday, beating Chelsea 1-0 with an early goal by Julian Alvarez in the team's home finale at a sun-drenched Etihad Stadium.

Treble-chasing City, who wrapped up the title when second-placed Arsenal were beaten at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, have won 12 successive games in the top flight.

Forward Jack Grealish was asked if City, who were eight points behind Arsenal in late March, have felt invincible over the past few weeks.

"Yeah, we have. It's mad because I spoke to some of the lads and said imagine if someone had said that to win the league we would need to win 12 games in a row," Grealish told Sky Sports, with celebrations still going strong on the pitch behind him.

"I'm not saying I didn't think we could do it but it was going to be difficult, but we have so much talent in this squad and at the moment we just feel unstoppable."

They have 88 points from 36 matches, seven more than Arsenal who have just one match remaining. Frank Lampard's struggling Chelsea side are languishing in 12th spot with 43 points.

"It feels unreal right now, I'm so happy," said City's goal-scoring machine Erling Haaland, briefly ignoring the interviewer to dance.

"The memories I will have for the rest of my life, we have been fighting so hard."

Alvarez scored in the 12th minute for a largely second-string City side, slipping the ball under goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from a pass by Kyle Walker. He also had another goal chalked off for a handball in the build-up.

Alvarez's winner meant City had scored 100 goals at The Etihad this season, equalling the record -- which they set in 2018-19 -- for most home goals scored in all competitions in a single season by an English top-flight club.

With nothing on the line on Sunday and two huge games on the horizon -- the FA Cup and Champions League finals -- City manager Pep Guardiola left his big guns, including goal-scoring machine Erling Haaland on the bench for most of the game.

Guardiola, who claimed his 10th major trophy at City, made nine changes to the side that throttled Real Madrid in their Champions League semifinal, second leg on Wednesday.

City still dominated, proving they are a well-oiled machine no matter which parts the mastermind manager has to work with.

"I can't actually speak highly enough of the manager," Grealish said. "Listen, he's a bit weird the way he sort of knows everything, some games I'm thinking: what's he going to come up with today? And he comes up with different tactics every game. It's a pleasure to work with him. I love him."

City were crowned champions for the third season in a row and fifth in six years a day earlier than expected when Arsenal's 1-0 defeat at Forest doused any remaining hope the Londoners had of catching them.

"It was a great feeling," midfielder Kalvin Phillips told Sky Sports after making his first Premier League start for City. "I was happy because we won the league and I knew there might be a chance I could play. I have enjoyed every moment.

"It has been unbelievably tough this season and probably the lowest point confidence-wise in my career."

The mood on Sunday was festive. Chelsea sportingly gave the City players, who had watched the Arsenal game together the previous evening, a guard of honour before kickoff while thousands of fans rushed onto the field after the final whistle.

Rather than spending a few minutes to soak up the atmosphere, the players were quickly shepherded by security down the tunnel.

Despite announcements to leave the pitch immediately, nobody was in a hurry and the mass of sky blue fans lit flares and pulled at the goalposts. One fan hoisted a banner that read "The Treble is On."

Haaland was a late substitute and did not extend his record of 36 goals in a single Premier League season.

"I don't know what to say, I didn't plan to say anything," Norway striker Haaland said. "I feel a special connection with the fans... 36 goals, Premier League trophy, debut season, two finals left, not a bad start."

Raheem Sterling nearly equalised in the second half but John Stones made a spectacular sliding save after the ex-City forward beat goalkeeper Stefan Ortega.

Stones wrapped a friendly arm around Sterling after his near-miss, while City fans saluted their former player with a standing ovation when he was substituted.


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