Anton Ferdinand opens up on ‘bittersweet’ reaction to Sergio Aguero title winner

Aguero struck at the death to beat QPR and secure the title a decade ago

Andy Hampson
Tuesday 10 May 2022 10:00
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It is 10 years this week since Sergio Aguero’s title-clinching winner against QPR (Dave Thompson/PA)
It is 10 years this week since Sergio Aguero’s title-clinching winner against QPR (Dave Thompson/PA)

After Sergio Aguero scored the most dramatic goal in the history of the Premier League a decade ago, few people left the Etihad Stadium unhappy.

Manchester City and their supporters were delirious after a last-gasp winner against QPR that not only secured the club’s first league title in 44 years but snatched it from the grasp of arch-rivals Manchester United.

Ordinarily QPR, who had led 2-1 heading into injury time only to lose 3-2, would have left the Etihad Stadium shattered and shell-shocked but, with relegation avoided amid the last-day theatre, they too could mostly celebrate.

Even Mike Dean, the referee, has said he considers the game the most memorable of his career.

Yet for Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand, the emotions were decidedly mixed.

Obviously the centre-back was pleased his side had beaten the drop – confirmed after Bolton failed to beat Stoke – but the result deprived his brother Rio, the United defender, of another league winner’s medal.

To make matters worse, he also blamed himself for the goal.

“I was devastated that I wasn’t able to help Rio deliver another trophy,” Ferdinand told the PA news agency. “If we’d have won that game Rio would have would have retired with seven titles rather than six.

“I was happy that I’d done my job to keep QPR in the Premier League, which was fantastic, but after that I was kicking myself.

“It was bittersweet for me and I took it quite hard in terms of that being my fault. It was backs against the wall, under the cosh, defend, defend, defend, and we did it well until the last five to eight minutes.

“That Aguero goal – the one that gets the headlines, the moment of Martin Tyler screaming, ‘Agueroooo’ – was my fault. I beat myself up about that goal.

“When the ball was played into (Mario) Balotelli I didn’t need to go and win it. I tried to win the ball, which evidently forced him the way of where Aguero was.

It was bittersweet for me and I took it quite hard in terms of that being my fault.

Anton Ferdinand

“If I’d just put pressure on him and let him go backwards Aguero wouldn’t have seen that ball.

“I’m normally quite a patient defender but for some reason, probably the emotions of the game, the way we were defending for our lives, made me do something that normally I wouldn’t do, and that led to a goal.”

City, who topped the table on goal difference, had gone into the game needing to match United’s result at Sunderland to take the crown.

They were on course at half-time having taken the lead through Pablo Zabaleta but things changed after the break as Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie replied for Rangers.

This handed the initiative to United, who led at the Stadium of Light, and it stayed that way until stoppage time when battling QPR, reduced to 10 men after the sending off of Joey Barton early in the second half, were finally breached in the face of relentless pressure.

First Edin Dzeko set up a grandstand finish when he headed home from a corner and then, amid incredible tension, Balotelli fed Aguero and the Argentinian skipped around Taye Taiwo to blast past Paddy Kenny.

“It was a crazy day,” said Ferdinand. “The fact it’s 10 years ago makes me feel old. It feels like yesterday if I’m honest.

“When we turned up – I can only speak for myself and not others – I felt a bit disrespected by the way that Man City had gone about it. It was like a carnival atmosphere, like they’d already won it.

The sending off of Joey Barton (right) eventually caught up with the visitors (Peter Byrne/PA)

“That motivated me to go, ‘OK, let’s ruin the party’, and, once you get into the game, you don’t think about anything else. All I was thinking about was staying in the Premier League for QPR.

“It was a crazy, crazy game where we ended up going ahead at a crucial time. We came out second half and were really, really good, had control of bits of the game.

“We went 2-1 up (but) it was like a training game after that, where we just had attack versus defence.”

Ferdinand has no doubt the dismissal of former City midfielder Barton after an off-the-ball clash with Carlos Tevez – which led to further chaotic scenes as he left the field – was a key turning point in the game.

“I think if he stays on the pitch, we win that game,” said Ferdinand. “He will tell you it was silly. You can watch it and know that it was silly.

“Sometimes, with someone of Joey’s character, when you get in the thick of things and when you are emotionally involved in the game, like like we all were, you lose your temper.

“If you took that out of Joey he wouldn’t have been the same player, he would not have had the career he had. That’s a fact.

“We knew and accepted that, and you’d rather have him on your team than not, but that was a major turning point in the game.”

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Rangers continued to frustrate City and Ferdinand could sense the pressure was getting to the home side’s manager, Roberto Mancini, as time ticked away.

“I just remember it being so surreal,” he said. “Mancini thought they had lost it. He was on the touchline, swearing at his players, trying to give them information but then just swearing at them.

“We kept soaking up the pressure but obviously Dzeko scored the goal from a corner which we could have defended better, 100 per cent.”

Ferdinand (centre) did celebrate survival but his feelings were mixed (Dave Thompson/PA)

What followed when the clock showed 93 minutes and 20 seconds, as Aguero struck and set off on a jubilant celebratory run waving his shirt in the air, could have been heart-breaking for QPR.

Events elsewhere meant it would not be, and visiting fans could join the party, but for Ferdinand it will always be a source of regret.

“I don’t mind watching it (back) because effectively I’d done my job for QPR, we’d kept them in the Premier League,” he said.

“But blood is thicker than anything and if I could have delivered another medal for Rio, the household would have been a fantastic place for for everyone.

“Of course he would never have held that against me but that’s just the way we are as brothers.”

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