Football: Manchester City retain Premier League title after 4-1 away win at Brighton

 Manchester City players and staff celebrate with the Premier League trophy after the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester City at the AMEX Stadium.
Manchester City players and staff celebrate with the Premier League trophy after the English Premier League soccer match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester City at the AMEX Stadium.PHOTO: DPA
Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan scores the team's fourth goal against Brighton & Hove Albion at The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain on May 12, 2019.
Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan scores the team's fourth goal against Brighton & Hove Albion at The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain on May 12, 2019.

LONDON (AFP) - Manchester City retained the Premier League title in style on Sunday (May 12), holding their nerve to come from behind against Brighton and see off a charging Liverpool after a thrilling campaign.

Pep Guardiola's team thumped Brighton 4-1 away to finish on 98 points - the second-highest total in Premier League history - as Liverpool beat Wolves 2-0 at Anfield to finish a single, agonising, point adrift.

City, who strung together 14 league wins at the end of the season, are the first side to retain the title since their bitter rivals Manchester United managed the feat in 2009, and remain on course for the first domestic treble in English football history.

This is City's fourth Premier League title and sixth overall in England's top flight, tying them with Chelsea and Sunderland. Only Manchester United (20), Liverpool (18), Arsenal (13), Everton (nine) and Aston Villa (seven) have more league titles.

But Guardiola's team of aristocrats did not have it all their own way on a day of drama on England's south coast, in keeping with an astonishing season in which the lead switched hands time after time.

Liverpool drew first blood on Sunday, with Sadio Mane striking in the 17th minute to put them mathematically top of the table and on course for their first English top-flight title since 1990, before the Premier League era even started.

City fans' nerves were shredded even further when Glenn Murray put Brighton in front from a corner in the 27th minute, resulting in a huge roar at Anfield.

 
 
 

But those cheers were quickly muted, with Guardiola's side level just 83 seconds later, Sergio Aguero staying onside and keeping his cool to finish after a brilliant ball from David Silva.

Ten minutes later, the unmarked Aymeric Laporte rose to head in Riyad Mahrez's corner to complete the turnaround for City.

Guardiola's side continued to dominate at the start of the second half and were rewarded when Mahrez smashed in a third goal with 27 minutes to go.

Ilkay Gundogan then blasted home a free kick to put the result beyond doubt.

City broke a host of Premier League records in romping to the title last season, becoming the first team in English top-flight history to reach 100 points and finishing a record 19 points clear of closest rivals Manchester United.

This term has been a totally different campaign, with Guardiola's men forced to dig deep to see off the relentless challenge of Liverpool, who lost just one Premier League game all season.

The champions had ground out a number of 1-0 victories in recent weeks, showing they have added steel to their style.

The outcome was cruel on Liverpool, whose points tally is the third-highest in Premier League history.

Jurgen Klopp's side travelled to face City at the Etihad in January with the chance to open up a 10-point lead but the defending champions won 2-1 in what turned out to be the pivotal match of the campaign.

Liverpool suffered a blip in late January and February, when they were held to a series of draws, but they found their form again and relentlessly harried City, finishing with nine straight league wins.

Klopp's team will have to put the disappointment behind them as they prepare to face Premier League rivals Spurs in the Champions League final in Madrid on June 1.

City captain Vincent Kompany said this Premier League title win had been the "hardest" he had experienced.

"Back to back... I think it was the hardest, most tough Premier League ever," he told Sky Sports. "Liverpool were exceptional. I don't meant to rub it in, it is what it is, they didn't deserve to lose.

"It makes me so much more happy that we played such a great team all season. We had our backs to the wall, we won at the Etihad and today we were able to stay in front."

Asked if he was aware of the score at Anfield when Liverpool scored early on, Kompany said: "Honestly, I didn't know. We heard the Brighton fans singing '1-0 to Liverpool' just at the moment we conceded so we knew then but we've done it before.

"We were creating chances, finding the gaps, imposing ourselves. Though the pitch was slow I felt we were magnificent. We did everything we needed to do in a game such as today."

Kompany said City would now focus on next week's FA Cup final and the prospect of an unprecedented domestic treble.

"It's a combination of a great group of players, great staff and our incredible desire to over-achieve," he said. "Because we've got such a good team over-achieving is difficult but we're looking forward to the FA Cup final now, that would be unprecedented.

"We'll go and celebrate but we're also thinking of that next game on Saturday."

Elsewhere on the final day of Premier League action, Tottenham made mathematically certain of a place in the top four, drawing 2-2 against Everton.

Arsenal beat Burnley 3-1 while fellow Europa League finalists Chelsea were held to a goalless draw at Leicester.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United finished their season with a whimper, losing 2-0 at home to relegated Cardiff.

There were also wins for Crystal Palace, Newcastle and West Ham. Southampton and Huddersfield drew 1-1.