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Manchester City bounced back from the brink to salvage a 2-2 draw away to West Ham United to put them four points clear at the top of the Premier League. Pep Guardiola’s side pulled off an incredible second-half turnaround to put themselves in pole position to reclaim the title ahead of Liverpool, but will be ruing missing out on all three points after a late penalty miss.
Jarrod Bowen was the star of the show, first rounding Ederson to give the hosts the lead and then doubling his tally with an incisive low finish just before the interval. But Man City fought back valiantly, first through Jack Grealish on 48 minutes and then an own goal from Vladimir Coufal with 20 minutes to go to equalise.
Riyad Mahrez then had a chance to win it late on with a penalty but saw his penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski. Express Sport looks at five things we learned from the London Stadium on a huge day in the title race.
City find their gritty side
It wasn’t the free-flowing football that football fans have become accustomed to watching from Manchester City. But in a title race, when it comes to deciding which team are champions, results are the only important thing. And here, City showed just how much they wanted it.
Pep Guardiola must have delivered a rousing talk at half-time after watching his side go two goals down and facing a nervy final day. But just three minutes after the break, Grealish thundered home his volley and his side kept pushing, kept knocking at the door. Eventually, West Ham broke their own resistance through Coufal’s own goal, but it had been coming.
Much has been said about how Liverpool can grind out a win when the circumstances demand it. But the leaders showed their mettle here today, and if they do become champions next week, this result may be the most important of them all.
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Grealish responds at last
For all of the talk about how Erling Haaland’s arrival will force out Gabriel Jesus or Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish may need to watch over his shoulder. The winger cost a club-record £100m fee to sign from Aston Villa last summer but it has not been a campaign to smile about for the 26-year-old.
It has been a difficult transition for Grealish, going from the leading playmaker in a mid-table team to being left on the periphery in a left-wing role. But quite simply, he has not delivered the same levels as his City team-mates. Guardiola’s men have scored 94 goals in the Premier League this season and before this game, Grealish has only had a direct hand in five of them (two goals, three assists). For a player of his calibre, that is not good enough.
But his goal got City back in the match at 2-1 to relieve some of the pressure, thumping home a volley from Rodri’s knockdown. And if it proves to contribute to City’s eventual title success, Grealish may feel all of the suffering from the past 10 months was worth it.
VAR needs work
In a title race where the margins can be so tight, there cannot be any excuse for officials missing a clear penalty, especially when there is a video review system to assist them in making a decision. Manchester City will be wondering why they were not awarded a penalty in the first half following a collision between Gabriel Jesus and Kurt Zouma.
The Brazilian striker looked certain to pull the trigger when he met Rodri’s knockdown, but the 25-year-old collapsed to the floor clutching his leg after claiming contact from Zouma – and nothing was given. The incident was reviewed by VAR and play was allowed to go on rather swiftly. But when the replays were shown, it only took two angles for it to become clear that contact was made and that it was enough to cause Jesus to fall down.
Quite what the VAR officials were watching is anyone’s guess, but given how some incidents have been reviewed for several minutes, one has to ask why the same treatment was not applied here. With two games left and Man City involved in a title race, taking longer to reach the right decision is an inconvenience that officials should be willing to bear with.