Winning a league title, as conventional wisdom has it, is not unlike running a marathon. In 2012, the Premier League marathon finished with a breathtaking two-minute sprint.
It was the most thrilling two-minute span in the most exciting season of the world's most exciting league for several years. For that reason, those two minutes—and the drama that they held—form my favorite world football moment of 2012.
On May 13, Manchester City entered the final day of the English Premier League season needing only a win over Queens Park Rangers to clinch the club's first league title since 1968. It should have been easy.
QPR, who were hovering around the relegation zone, had the league's worst away record. City had the league's best home record.
And yet, as the match headed to second-half stoppage time, City trailed 2-1 at the Etihad, despite QPR playing a man down following Joey Barton's dismissal. Manchester United, meanwhile, had easily won at Sunderland and looked destined for yet another title.
City's title dreams seemed to be turning into another nightmare. Then, City turned the Premier League on its head.
Substitute Edin Dzeko headed in the equalizer in the second minute of stoppage time. With seconds left, City launched a final attack, needing a goal to keep the dream alive.
The ball flew forward, and after Mario Balotelli played it on, Sergio Aguero sped to the right side of the box with a skillful first touch. He finished coolly at the far post, almost as if City were playing a midseason match with half the match left to play.
But this was no ordinary match, and Aguero's calm finish capped a remarkably dramatic comeback that handed City their first title in 44 years. In two minutes, City had managed to turn what would have been a desperately disappointing defeat into an era-defining and title-winning 3-2 victory.
In the process, Roberto Mancini's team produced dramatic tension worthy of their rivals' famous night in Barcelona in 1999—but it never should have been so.
The final stats revealed that City took 44 shots (15 on target) to QPR's three (all three of which hit the target). City held 81 percent of possession and took an astounding 19 corners.
But sometimes in football the sprint can be more important than the marathon's first 25 miles. And thanks to two blisteringly exciting minutes in May, Manchester City were champions of England—at the expense of their most hated rivals.
I'm no fan of Manchester City nor will I ever celebrate a title victory for the pathologically ungrateful Samir Nasri, but this was a match that transcended team allegiances. The drama and significance combined to make it an all-time great moment for any football fan.
Other moments in 2012 featured comparable drama. Chelsea rode their luck and capitalized on their chances throughout a stirring run to the Champions League title.
Others moments in 2012 featured arguably more poignant storylines. Zambia's run to the African Cup of Nations title rallied a nation and brought emotional closure to its worst sporting moment.
But City's inspiring comeback had both theatrics and significance. It was both a gratifying sporting spectacle and momentous occasion. None who watched it will ever forget.
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