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
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam