Captain, leader, legend. Look, that other gentleman has retired now, so the position is vacant, and who deserves it more than Vincent Kompany?
He was meant to have been phased out long ago. He wasn’t Pep Guardiola‘s type. Yet here he is, three years into the revolution, scoring the goal that leaves Manchester City in the box seat for arguably the greatest title showdown.
What a goal, too. Not a centre-half’s goal, that is for certain. A spectacular. A goal that will be remembered and replayed decades from now. Kompany has scored plenty of headers from set-pieces, plenty of standard contributions from a player with his skill set. This was different. This was Paul Breitner 1974 World Cup different. This was a goal defenders dream of scoring.
Kompany collected the ball around 35 yards from Leicester’s goal. It doesn’t matter who from. It was a square pass, one of the million City make as they move and shape the play around the opposition box. Kompany was expected to move it on, too. Leicester dropped off a little, let him have it. He’s not going to shoot from there, is he? If he is, well good luck with that. We’ll take them all day.
So Kompany advanced maybe five yards and pow. The ball left his right foot like a tracer missile, straight into Kasper Schmeichel’s top left-hand corner. It was Kompany’s first goal since April 7, 2018, and as the saying goes, it was worth waiting for.
Indeed, if he never scores one again, nobody around these parts will mind. There was already an argument that Kompany might be among City’s greatest players from any era. This is the type of goal that gets statues cast. It was his Aguerooo moment – because, at that point, City looked to be faltering.
Leicester had already gone further into the match without conceding than any visitor to the Etihad this season. They were organised and determined and City were frustrated. They were forcing Leicester deeper and deeper in search of the goal that would hand the title advantage to Liverpool, but the tension in the stadium was growing.
PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko; Silva (Stones 90), Gundogan, Foden (Sane 56); Bernardo Silva, Aguero (Gabriel Jesus 86), Sterling
Subs not used: Muric, Danilo, Mahrez, Otamendi
Goal: Kompany 70
Booked: Silva, Gabriel Jesus
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Leicester City (4-1-4-1): Schmeichel; Ricardo, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Ndidi; Albrighton (Gray 85), Tielemans (Barnes 75), Choudhury, Maddison (Iheanacho 80); Vardy
Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Mendy, Fuchs
Booked: Maguire, Iheanacho
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
Season at a glance:
- Premier League
Team P GD Pts 1 Manchester City 37 69 95 2 Liverpool 37 65 94 3 Chelsea 37 24 71 4 Tottenham Hotspur 37 28 70 5 Arsenal 37 20 67 6 Manchester United 37 13 66 7 Wolverhampton Wanderers 37 3 57 8 Everton 37 8 53 9 Leicester City 37 3 51 10 Watford 37 -4 50 11 West Ham United 37 -6 49 12 Crystal Palace 37 -4 46 13 Bournemouth 37 -12 45 14 Newcastle United 37 -10 42 15 Burnley 37 -21 40 16 Southampton 37 -20 38 17 Brighton and Hove Albion 37 -22 36 18 Cardiff City 37 -37 31 19 Fulham 37 -43 26 20 Huddersfield Town 37 -54 15
Ilkay Gundogan came close with a shot, Schmeichel made a fine save from Aguero – then Leicester broke and James Maddison could have scored, or at least slipped in Marc Albrighton who was in a superior position. Was this going to be the night one of the title duellists blinked? And then: it looks like we’ve got Kompany.
There were 20 minutes remaining. It was far from comfortable but City held on. Win at Brighton and the title is theirs. That won’t be easy either. Nothing is, when it’s like this.
DEAN WAS RIGHT NOT TO SHOW SILVA A RED
MARK CLATTENBERG: David Silva committed a careless foul on James Maddison when already on a yellow card, but it didn’t deserve a second caution.
The Spaniard’s booking for an earlier foul on Youri Tielemans during a Leicester break was a clear yellow, a deliberate trip, and the Manchester City star could have no complaints when Mike Dean showed yellow.
However, that does not mean his next foul should result in a red card, just because he has already been booked. He should be afforded the same treatment as any player in that they can commit three or four careless fouls before being cautioned.
City captain Vincent Kompany was booked following a reckless challenge on Maddison. His studs were low so a yellow was correct.
Liverpool players had talked about praying for a miracle after Saturday’s win over Newcastle, but it really isn’t a miraculous occurrence that Leicester compete with Manchester City.
Leicester are a good team, restored under Brendan Rodgers after the disaffection of Claude Puel’s brief era, and they have long been capable of causing City problems. Add to that the tension of needing to win every game, and this was never going to be easy for City.
From some distance out it looked like the toughest fixture either of the potential title winners had to get through – even more problematic than Manchester United away, given the form of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
So it proved. Manchester City were goalless at half-time at Old Trafford, and against Burnley, too, but this felt different. Leicester are dangerous on the counter attack, so there was always the hint of vulnerability, and while City were sluggish by their standards in those games and looked as if they might respond to a shake of the reins from Guardiola come half-time, they played well and at a high tempo here – but couldn’t find a way through.
Rodgers is a smart coach, too. He lay traps, dropping off when Ederson had the ball and letting City’s defenders distribute. The goalkeeper probably has the best feet of any of City’s back line, but his balls into midfield were negated this way. Sure enough, there was frustration in the City ranks as the minutes slipped away.
They wanted more from referee Mike Dean. In particular they wanted Leicester goalkeeper Schmeichel sanctioned for time-wasting. The announcement of a single minute in first-half injury time brought a furious reaction from the locals. Plainly, the tension was rising.
It was hard to argue with the first two names in the book, mind – both City players. David Silva was shown a yellow card for a cynical challenge on Youri Tielemans, Kompany for a spectacular foul on Maddison, that was more mistimed than dirty, but sent the Leicester man into orbit.
Kompany rose to the occasion elsewhere with a quite magnificent full stretch block to charge down an eighth minute shot from Marc Albrighton. It was a night for big gestures of commitment.
Bernardo Silva made plenty. Raheem Sterling is the Footballer of the Year, and by some margin, but in the final weeks of the season Silva’s form has if anything been more influential. His battle with Ben Chilwell along the flank was the most intriguing of the night, and credit to the England man that he did not get a proper chasing.
On occasions, though, Silva was sublime, cutting in and out, beating one, two, three men – going back and beating the odd one again. He looked the City player most likely to make something happen – even if their best chance of the first-half came from a set piece.
It was a corner from the left, met by Sergio Aguero with a glancing header and for a split second it seemed as if goal-line technology would come to City’s rescue as happened at Turf Moor. The ball had struck the bar before it dropped and Schmeichel clawed it clear and, to the naked eye, it looked as if it had crossed. No signal for Dean, though, and replays showed, no goal. City did not get as close as that in the remainder of the half, for all their pressure.
Again, Guardiola preferred teenager Phil Foden to £60m of Riyad Mahrez – and it is hard to think harshly of any spoiling tactic from Leicester when City can take their most creative player, and leave him on the bench – and in the 11th minute, he threatened to repeat his vital goal here against Tottenham, taking an upfield pass from Oleksandr Zinchenko on his chest, but turning and shooting straight at Schmeichel.
That aside, the best of it was a low effort from David Silva, that acted like a grubber ball in rugby but with greater venom, skimming the surface of the pitch and travelling just wide.
As the game wore on, however, the home crowd grew quieter, tenser, more apprehensive. Leicester were everything Liverpool had hoped. Not miraculous; just good and well organised. Very much like Leicester, in fact.