How Pep Guardiola won the ‘toughest title’ of his career with Manchester City
In the end, it took City 14 consecutive wins to lift the title — any fewer would have seen Liverpool crowned champion for the first time since 1990.
“Incredible” was the word Pep Guardiola used to describe his team’s achievement this season in collecting 98 points after winning the 2017/2018 title with 100 points.
“We made the standard higher than last season and Liverpool helped us.,” said Guardiola, who has now won league titles in eight of his 10 seasons as a manager with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and City. “To win this title we had to win 14 in a row. We couldn’t lose one point.
“It’s the toughest title we have won in all my career, by far.”
So how exactly did the season arrive at this point, with two sides so consistently excellent throughout the year? These are the key moments that shaped an enthralling title race.
October 7: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City
Manchester City wasted a glorious opportunity to claim a first win in 15 years at Anfield after Riyad Mahrez missed an 85th-minute penalty.
Mahrez fired high and wide of the goal after teammate Leroy Sane was fouled by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.
His miss left both teams unbeaten after eight games, with City top of the pile ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool on goal difference.
Points: Manchester City 20, Liverpool 20
December 2: Liverpool 1-0 Everton
Better late than never, Liverpool sneaked past local rival Everton courtesy of Divock Origi’s 96th minute winner.
Origi, making his first Premier League appearance since August 2017, netted from close-range after a mistake by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The dramatic scenes at the end of the contest were too much for some to handle with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp running onto the pitch to celebrate — an act he later apologized for.
The win moved Liverpool to within two points of Manchester City with 14 games of the season having been played.
December 8: Chelsea 2-0 Manchester City
City suffered its first defeat of the Premier League season as Chelsea claimed a surprise victory at Stamford Bridge.
Goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz brought an end to City’s 21-game unbeaten league run stretching back to April 2018, and a sequence of 14 unbeaten games away from home.
City boss Pep Guardiola refused to blame his players for the defeat, insisting they had been “fantastic.”
Points: Liverpool 42, Manchester City 41
December 22: Manchester City 2-3 Crystal Palace
City suffered its first home defeat of the season as Crystal Palace pulled off a stunning 3-2 win at the Etihad.
Trailing to Ilkay Gundogan’s 27th-minute strike, Palace roared back to lead 3-1 with Andros Townsend’s exquisite strike a contender for goal of the season.
Kevin De Bruyne pulled one back with five minutes remaining but Palace held on to record its first win at City for 28 years.
The defeat, City’s first at home in the league all season, halted a run of nine successive league victories at the Etihad for Guardiola’s side.
Points: Liverpool 48, Manchester City 44
Dec 29: Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal
Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick as Liverpool came from behind to thrash Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield.
The home side led 4-1 at the interval with Firmino’s quickfire double canceling out Ainsley Maitland Niles’ opener for Arsenal, before Sadio Mane and Mo Salah got in on the act.
Firmino completed his treble from the penalty spot in the second half to leave Liverpool nine points clear of second place Tottenham and 10 ahead of City.
Points: Liverpool 54, Manchester City 44
January 3: Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
Leroy Sane’s strike, 18 minutes from time, secured all three points for City from a game of fine margins at the Etihad.
Liverpool was denied the opening goal of the game in the first half when Mane’s effort was cleared off the line by John Stones with the ball just 1.12 cm from going over.
Having gone so close, it was even more galling for Liverpool when it fell behind to Sergio Aguero’s 40th minute strike. Liverpool equalized after the break through Firmino but Sane’s strike sealed the points for Guardiola’s men.
Points: Liverpool 54, Manchester City 50
January 30: Liverpool 1-1 Leicester
Liverpool missed the opportunity to move seven points clear of Manchester City after being held to a 1-1 draw by Leicester at Anfield.
After taking a third minute lead through Mane, Klopp’s men failed to impose themselves on the contest with a snow-affected pitch causing problems for both sets of players.
Harry Maguire’s equalizer, just before half time, denied the home side all three points and the opportunity to capitalize on Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat by Newcastle 24 hours earlier.
Points: Liverpool 61, Manchester City 56
February 10: Manchester City 6-0 Chelsea
Aguero scored a hat-trick and Manchester City scored four goals inside opening 25 minutes on its way to thrashing Chelsea 6-0.
The result took City back to the top of the Premier League on goal difference, though having played a game more than Liverpool.
Aguero’s hat-trick, his 11th in the Premier League, equaled the record held by former Blackburn and Newcastle forward Alan Shearer.
Points: Manchester City 65, Liverpool 65
February 24: Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool
Liverpool endured a frustrating afternoon at Old Trafford after failing to beat a Manchester United side ravaged by injury.
The home side had to make three substitutions in the first half because of injuries to key players, but still managed to prevent Liverpool from scoring.
In fact, Klopp’s side barely threatened, managing just one attempt on target despite enjoying 65% of possession.
The draw took Liverpool above Manchester City and back to the top of the table but only by a single point with 11 games remaining.
Points: Liverpool 66, Manchester City 65
March 3: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Everton took great delight in preventing Liverpool from returning to the top of the Premier League table after holding its near neighbor to a goalless draw at Goodison Park.
Salah was twice denied as Everton goalkeeper Pickford and his defense frustrated Liverpool’s attempts to find a breakthrough.
The result left Liverpool in second place on 70 points, one behind City, with nine league games remaining.
Points: Manchester City 71, Liverpool 70
April 20: Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham
City returned to the top with a narrow 1-0 win over Tottenham just days after the London club had ended Guardiola’s hopes of winning the Champions League.
In a tight contest, Phil Foden’s fifth minute header was enough to secure all three points for the home side.
Spurs had chances of its own but failed to find a way through, despite having scored three times at the Etihad days earlier on its way to securing a 4-4 draw on aggregate to qualify for the Champions League semifinal.
City’s victory took its tally to 86 and a point clear of Liverpool with four games remaining.
Points: Manchester City 86, Liverpool 85
April 24: Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City
Manchester City eased to a 2-0 victory over struggling neighbor Manchester United in a game that once again highlighted the gap in quality between the two rivals.
Goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane secured the points as Guardiola became the first manager to win three consecutive away Premier League games at Old Trafford.
The win took City back to the top on 89 points, one ahead of Liverpool, with three games remaining.
It was the 28th occasion that the lead had changed hands at the top of the Premier League, the joint-most alongside the 2000/2001 campaign.
Points: Manchester City 89, Liverpool 88
May 4: Newcastle 2-3 Liverpool
Leading through Virgil van Dijk’s early header, Liverpool were caught cold by the home side with Christian Atsu firing home from close range to send St James’ Park into a frenzy.
Salah’s clever finish gave Liverpool the lead for the second time before Newcastle hit back nine minutes after the interval when Salomon Rondon’s fierce effort flew into the corner of the net.
But with the clock beginning to tick down, Divock Origi, on in place of the injured Salah, headed an 86th minute winner to secure a priceless victory for the visiting side and take it back to the top of the Premier League table.
Points: Liverpool 94, Manchester City 92
May 6: Manchester City 1-0 Leicester City
Kompany’s 70th minute effort broke the tension as Leicester threatened to steal a point and leave Liverpool in pole position with just one league game of the season remaining.
But Kompany’s goal secured a 13th consecutive Premier League win for his team and took City back to the top of the league, a point ahead of Liverpool.
It was the Belgian’s first goal from outside of the penalty area for the club since arriving in English football 11 years ago.
Points: Manchester City 95, Liverpool 94
May 12: Brighton 1-4 Manchester City
An amazing season appeared to be coming to a fittingly dramatic conclusion when lowly Brighton took the lead against City midway through the first half — Glenn Murray nodding in a header from the near post after a corner.
With Liverpool leading against Wolves, for a moment the title belonged to the Reds. But only for a matter of minutes.
Sergio Aguero quickly equalized, before Aymeric Laporte headed in to give City the lead at halftime.
Further goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez wrapped up a 4-1 win and, with that, the title headed to Manchester.
Points: Manchester City 98, Liverpool 97