Manchester City lifted the Premier League trophy amid jubilant scenes despite Huddersfield gaining a vital point in their battle to avoid relegation with a goalless draw at Etihad Stadium.
Walking out to a guard of honour as thousands of blue and white flags fluttered in the stands, Pep Guardiola’s side had been expected to collect a routine three points, as the champions faced the 16th-placed Terriers with celebration the tone of the day.
But City could not produce the style of football fans have become so accustomed to this season, with Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus going closest in a game of few clear-cut chances.
And while Huddersfield players will have watched the trophy presentation knowing their place in the top flight is not yet secure, they produced a resolute performance worthy of a Premier League future.
As the final whistle sounded, City fans proved they cared little for the result on the day as they spilled on to the pitch on a special occasion for east Manchester, delaying the trophy presentation.
It was not quite a perfect performance for City on the podium either as the trophy was knocked off the plinth while players jumped on Yaya Toure, the veteran Ivory Coast midfielder who will depart the club at the end of the season.
But no harm was done as captain Vincent Kompany lifted the silverware aloft – his third Premier League title as a Man City player.
The Terriers had done their best to spoil the party and contained City in the first half, although De Bruyne almost opened the scoring for the hosts on two occasions.
Alex Pritchard came agonisingly close for the visitors, unleashing a drive from 25 yards out that an outstretched Ederson could only push around the post.
There were few obvious chances for either side after the break as Huddersfield became ever more defensive in pursuit of a precious point, Jesus heading one of City’s better opportunities high over the bar as the clock approached 80 minutes.
And as the nerves started to get to the Huddersfield fans, City continued to press, and almost snatched the win three minutes into stoppage time when Nicolas Otamendi’s curled effort edged just wide of the post.
A City season to remember
While City’s coronation may be the main talking point of the day, their record-breaking run to the title deserves another mention.
More records could yet fall in their final two matches of the season, against Brighton and Southampton, with only one more goal needed to equal the highest tally in a Premier League season – the 103 scored by Chelsea in the 2009-10 campaign.
For City fans, it is a title-winning campaign that will no doubt go down in club folklore, turning a 15-point deficit to champions Chelsea last season into a runaway success just a matter of months later.
With only two league defeats to his side’s name, Guardiola has quickly learned key lessons from his first season in charge in English football.
If he undoubtedly has vast spending money at his disposal, his talent as a coach has shone through this season as he continually brought out the very best in his players while rejuvenating the old guard at the same time.
Raheem Sterling has perhaps benefited most from the Spaniard’s tutelage, having enjoyed the most consistent season of his career with 18 goals to date. Sunday was an uncharacteristically quiet day for the 23-year-old – he was one of only three home players who failed to have a shot.
Guardiola now faces his next big challenge – bring back-to-back Premier League titles to the Etihad while making City successful on the European stage. Pull that off and he will be on the way to going down as one of the greatest managers the Premier League has seen.
Confidence-booster for Terriers
For David Wagner’s Huddersfield, ambitions for next season are more modest – and first they must ensure they are in the same division.
Almost a year ago, the Terriers were living a fairytale after securing promotion to the top flight for the first time since 1972.
Twelve months later they are scrapping to keep that fairytale going. Victory over the champions would have guaranteed their safety – but that was always likely to stretch credulity a bit too far.
They were not prepared to sit back and let City revel in their glory, however. They started strongly and refused to allow their opponents to play their own way, with Aaron Mooy and Pritchard proving nuisances for the home defence.
They started the second half on the front foot too, and with the unlikeliest of points gained, this is a performance from which they will take confidence heading into their final two fixtures.
Three points clear of the relegation zone, their fate is still in their own hands – but with Chelsea and Arsenal their remaining opponents, they can take nothing for granted.
Still, relegation scraps can sometimes bring out the very best in teams under pressure and Wagner’s men will have their tails up entering a big week for the club.
Man of the match was Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield).
How Man City reacted
Manager Pep Guardiola, speaking to Sky Sports: “England is a special place and is so tough. Today we saw it. You never know if you are going to win, but I had no doubt what I had to do.
“You win or lose, you have to try and do what you believe. Today was proof we can do better, 11 players were playing in the Premier League.
“We lost a bit of focus, but that is normal. To make back-to-back titles in this league will be tough, but we accept the challenge.”
Captain Vincent Kompany, speaking to Sky Sports: “The celebrations, this team deserves more than ever. We had many players who had been on and off this season and it has had no impact on the season and is credit to the coaching staff.”
Defender John Stones, speaking to Sky Sports: “It’s literally a dream come true. Me and Kyle Walker were saying it’s why we came here. I never knew what it would be like to lift the title and it’s a dream come true.”
Forward Raheem Sterling, speaking to Sky Sports: “We have done it and let’s go again. Now we have lifted this, it is an amazing feeling.”
A rare goalless day for Guardiola – the stats
- Manchester City are without a home league win against Huddersfield since November 1987 (D2 L2), although this was the first such meeting since 1999.
- Indeed, that victory in 1987 was a 10-1 mauling, but City have not scored a single goal in any of their four home league matches against the Terriers since.
- Man City have only failed to score in two previous home Premier League games under Guardiola – vs Stoke in March 2017 and vs Man Utd in April 2017.
- This was only Guardiola’s 25th 0-0 draw as a manager of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, in what was his 519th game.
- Huddersfield are the first side since Chelsea in April 2014 to stop the team at the top of the table from scoring at home in the Premier League (Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea).
- The Terriers are also the first promoted side to stop Manchester City scoring at the Etihad since Reading won 2-0 in February 2007.
- Huddersfield have failed to score in 20 of their 36 Premier League games this season. Only two sides have ever failed to score in more – Derby County (22 in 2007-08) and Leeds United (21 in 1996-97).
- In fact, Huddersfield have been goalless in 13 Premier League away trips this season – a joint-record (also Norwich City 1994-95, Southampton 1998-99 and Middlesbrough 2002-03).
- Scott Malone’s 91st-minute strike was Huddersfield’s first shot since the 30th minute and the first shot on target in the game since the 35th minute.