Manchester City vs. West Ham United: 6 Things We Learned
Many people believe that the 1980 United States men's hockey team won the gold medal at Lake Placid against the Soviet Union.
That is not true.
The Americans created their chance to win gold on home soil by beating the Russians. However, after their "Miracle," the Americans still had to beat Finland to finish the job.
In the 2004 movie that dramatized the Americans' championship journey, there is a famous scene where head coach Herb Brooks addresses his team as they are down 2-1 to the Finns after two periods. Brooks had to find something to tell his players to inspire them, something to motivate them.
Fear often works.
"If you lose this game," Brooks said, "you'll take it to your graves."
Manchester City's position entering their final match of the season was comparable. City had done the heavy lifting in their prior two matches at Goodison Park against Everton and at home against Aston Villa.
City only needed to secure a point against a much weaker West Ham United side to bring the Premier League trophy back to the blue side of Manchester.
A loss to the Hammers, though, would surely follow this group of Sky Blues into history and perhaps into the great beyond.
Here are six takeaways from Manchester City 2-0 West Ham United.
Manchester City Supporters Are Still Scared of Their Own Shadows
Manchester City needed a resolute, positive response from the Etihad faithful to help carry the Sky Blues over the line.
They got it. Sort of.
City took some time to get into the match and so did the people in the stands. Particularly in the first 10 to 15 minutes, every mishit pass or shaky challenge from a Citizen elicited unsteady sounds from the stands.
In fairness, the City faithful had been here before. They saw their side carelessly blow two FA Cup campaigns in the past two seasons against Wigan Athletic.
And the last time the Sky Blues had a chance to win the league at home on the final day of the season, they were less than convincing.
Only two or more goals in the first 20 minutes were going to make the thousands of blue Mancunians happy.
Those goals did not come, but good news soon did.
Good News Travels Really Fast in the Digital Age
Not so long ago, fans in the grounds of Premier League matches received score updates from other matches two ways: stadium announcement or portable radio.
In the smartphone age, though, nothing that happens anywhere in the Premier League stays secret for very long.
Thirty-some miles from the Etihad, Liverpool were engaged with Newcastle United. The Magpies are in complete disarray as a club and had as much to play for against the Reds as West Ham did against City: nothing.
So naturally, Newcastle struck first at Anfield in the 20th minute through a Martin Skrtel own goal.
The 0-1 scoreline at Anfield brought the first release of exhilirated relief from the Etihad partisans. If Liverpool did anything but win, City's result would be irrelevant.
In a way, then, learning of the Newcastle goal in real time felt nearly as good to the City supporters as a City goal could.
"Nearly" being the operative word.
Samir Nasri's Resurgence Under Manuel Pellegrini Continues Unabated
Most of the managerial crimes former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini committed in the run-up to his dismissal at the end of last season were relative misdemeanors.
Mancini's sides were a bit too defensive for a club with so many powerful offensive options. A larger issue for Mancini was his inability to draw effective football out of expensive acquisition Samir Nasri, with whom Mancini quarrelled often and notoriously.
That sniping, remarkably, goes on.
Manuel Pellegrini has brought many valuable qualities to Manchester as City's manager. The most important, perhaps, being his ability to extract the best from each of his players and avoid unproductive spats with his talented charges.
Near the top of the list of players Pellegrini has worked magic with this season is Nasri, who has been reborn in the Chilean's regime.
Pellegrini's great work with Nasri bore sweet fruit against West Ham. The Hammers spent much of the first half of this match against City doing a credible Aston Villa impression, packing the box and watching City ping the ball around in impotent frustration.
As with the Villa match, it would require a moment of exquisite quality to pick the lock. Nasri provided it.
The Frenchman's strike in the 39th minute released much of whatever tension remained in the Etihad. The fact that it came from a seemingly harmless play underscored the extent of Nasri's talent.
Put simply, Nasri would never have scored that goal if Mancini were still at the helm at City. Probably because Nasri would not even have been in the XI to begin with.
And Here's to You, Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany's 49th minute poke home doubled Manchester City's lead over West Ham and set the stands alight with joy.
Seeing City's talismanic captain seize the chance so clinically was certainly satisfying for Sky Blues supporters who love Kompany the way Chelsea supporters love John Terry and the way Manchester United fans love Paul Scholes.
Kompany is the embodiment of what City fans imagine their club to be, i.e., one of the best in the sport and a credit to it at the same time.
Did Kompany's goal win the Premier League? No. There were still 40-odd minutes to see out.
But any side with a two-goal lead at home to West Ham with Kompany at the back are as good a bet as you are ever likely to find.
City fans love their club and their captain; it was an unforgettable day for both.
Liverpool's Goals Came Too Late to Matter
Back at Anfield, City's 2-0 lead over West Ham combined with Liverpool's unimaginable home deficit had the normally raucous Merseyside ground resembling a morgue.
While it did not take Liverpool long to correct things, it was far too late by the time they did.
Liverpool struck twice in three minutes after the hour mark, and when Newcastle's Shola Ameobi saw red in the 66th minute the Reds' three points were all but assured.
Looking back, though, Liverpool will surely rue not having posted those two goals in the first 20 minutes of their match with Newcastle.
Had Liverpool established a dominant position over Newcastle early, it could have planted a seed of doubt in City. Particularly as the goals were not coming quickly for the Sky Blues.
Instead, by the time Liverpool took control over the Magpies, City were already 2-0 up and well on their way to securing the trophy.
Manchester City Deserve Enormous Credit for Doing a Professional Job on West Ham
Maybe City fans could have been forgiven for their nerves entering this match. City's performance on the last day of the season against a hapless Queens Park Rangers side with the title on the line in 2012 was both not very good and just good enough.
More than anything, City's supporters had to be dreading a repeat of that skittish, iffy performance against West Ham this time around.
As it turned out, the Sky Blues faithful had nothing to fear.
City possessed the ball for 68 percent of the match. They took 28 shots, putting a quarter of them on target and scoring twice. They took 12 corner kicks to West Ham's one.
There have been more dominant performances in the Premier League this season, but none with a league title at stake.
Manchester City 2-0 West Ham United exemplified what a championship side's greatness should look like. Needing a dominant performance, City produced exactly that.
Truthfully, City never looked for even one minute in this match like they were ever in any real trouble.
For the second time in the past few seasons, Manchester United have been compelled to ship the league trophy to their noisy neighbours.
And the sound coming from the blue side of Manchester is deafening these days.