Premier League title race: If Manchester City gift Liverpool the title they will join the list of sporting calamities

If they do not take a point at home to West Ham to secure the Premier League title, they will join the list of the biggest chokers in sport

On Merseyside they will dredge up all the old stories. How Bayern Munich printed travel information for the 1981 European Cup final before they blew the semi-final against Liverpool.

Of how Jean van der Velde, needing only a double bogie to win the Open at Carnoustie, found himself ankle deep in water. Those with a deep sense of history might like to mention the Wimbledon semi-finals of 1927 when Bill Tilden found himself winning 6-2, 6-2, 5-1 and, 30-0 up, still failed to make the final.

They are likely to be straws in the wind. If Manchester City do not take a point at home to West Ham to secure the Premier League title, they will join Van der Velde, Tilden and various South African cricket teams on the list of the biggest chokers in sport.

The message from the City dressing room in the wake of Wednesday night's 4-0 win over Aston Villa was uncompromising. The celebrations could wait until the final whistle on Sunday. The memories of Queen's Park Rangers were altogether too fresh.

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini urges his troops on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini urges his troops on  

That match is depicted on photographs 20 feet high on the Etihad Stadium walls. Had Sergio Aguero not scored with the final kick of the season to win it 3-2, that match and its images would have been buried into the deepest recesses of the club. Nobody would ever have talked of it.

The image Andrea Pirlo painted of the Milan dressing room after they squandered a 3-0 lead to Liverpool in the Champions League final would have been theirs. "Insomnia, rage, depression, a sense of nothingness. I no longer felt like a footballer, and that was devastating enough," wrote Pirlo in his autobiography. "Worse, I no longer felt like a man."

Pablo Zabaleta knows how close Manchester City came to being infected with what Pirlo called "Istanbul syndrome". It is why he claimed the club could not relax, even at this late stage.

"Every single player knows we have done nothing yet," said the Argentine defender. "Most of our players have been here for more than two years so we have experienced that final game against Queen's Park Rangers and don't want it again. The inspiration is that we know we are 90 minutes from another title."

 

West Ham, however, are slightly different from Queen's Park Rangers. In May 2012, Mark Hughes's side came to Manchester knowing that if they lost and Bolton won, they would be relegated. City had to match Manchester United's result at Sunderland. Here, Manuel Pellegrini's side can afford to drop two points and still win it on goal difference.

Nevertheless, West Ham sides with nothing to play for have twice denied Manchester United league titles. On the final day of the 1994-95 season, Alex Ferguson observed: "I cannot believe that this 5ft 5in winger [Michael Hughes] could cut in across our defence and side-foot the ball home."

The United manager was rather less philosophical three years earlier when he had stood in the press room at Upton Park and shouted that it was "obscene" that an already-relegated West Ham should have denied his team a title that had been so obviously theirs.

Liverpool's biggest hope might be the crowd, not their own but Manchester City's. The Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night was a strange place.

It was not full because a man threatening to hurl himself from a motorway bridge had paralysed Manchester's traffic and those who made it there were as nervous and anxious as Liverpool's fans had been at Anfield when the usual early knockout blow failed to arrive against Chelsea.

By the interval, City had still not broken down Aston Villa and the players walked off not to boos but to shakes of the head.

"We were talking about this at half time," said Zabaleta. "We needed to score to be a little bit calm and to calm the fans. When you are in that situation you can be a little nervous but the manager told us to keep moving the ball and we would get one chance to score – and that's how it was.

"We never felt nervous. Passion was the key to winning that game. We knew Aston Villa were a very disciplined team and that they would defend with players behind the ball and were doing a very good job tactically."

He expects West Ham to do the same on Sunday and he expects Pellegrini to respond in the same way, ordering his full-backs to attack from the flanks – a move that triggered the first and decisive goal on Wednesday night.

They probably need only one against a side that has never recorded a league victory at the Etihad Stadium but, until it arrives, they will dream on Merseyside about Van der Velde, Bill Tilden and all the other defeats snatched from the jaws of victory.

Suggested Topics
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?