By ROB HARRIS AP Global Soccer Writer
MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City clinched a sixth Premier League title in 11 seasons on Sunday by scoring three times in five minutes to come from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-2 in the finale and hold off Liverpool’s challenge.
After starting the day in first place, City was at risk of an historic choke when it conceded twice to trail 2-0 at home to Villa. It took İlkay Gündoğan’s header to begin the comeback in the 76th and Rodri equalized two minutes later by placing the ball through a tight gap into the bottom corner.
The Etihad Stadium erupted in celebrations in the 81st when Gündoğan tapped in Kevin De Bruyne’s cross.
The importance of that goal became clearer moments later. Liverpool had been locked at 1-1 against Wolverhampton but Mohamed Salah then put the second-place team 2-1 in front in the 84th minute. That scoreline would have taken Liverpool into first place had City not just mounted its fightback to take the lead.
The jeopardy was still there — with Andy Robertson sealing Liverpool’s 3-1 win — while City would have conceded the title had it conceded a late equalizer.
But Pep Guardiola’s side held on for the win in a thrilling climax, retaining the trophy on the final day in a manner that was more jittery than expected considering City briefly had a 14-point lead in January.
City’s fourth championship success in five seasons produced a first for Guardiola. It’s the first time City has sealed the title in front of its own fans who spilled onto the field in their thousands at the final whistle against Villa.
“It was an unbelievable game,” Gündoğan said. “We are human beings and, after going 2-0 down, the chances were just very, very small. But we had to do the simple things and scoring two goals quickly and then having 10 minutes to score the third one gave us the right lift.
“It was about getting that goal and then the momentum was on our side then were able to score three goals in just a few minutes. These are the days you look back to, it was an unbelievable game.”
Although it went down to the wire, this one came without any of the anguish of 10 years ago when City’s first Premier League title was only clinched in the final minutes of the season.
That success, which produced City’s first championship crown in 44 years — with Roberto Mancini as manager — ushered in the era of dominance enjoyed by a club transformed by the influx of investment from Abu Dhabi.
City is now enjoying the steady stream of titles it once had to watch crosstown rival United gather up under Alex Ferguson. The rise of City coincided with the retirement of the Scot — who won the Premier League 13 times from 1993 to 2013 — and the decline of Manchester United.
The teams entered the final round on Sunday with City 32 points ahead of United and with Liverpool the greater threat to Guardiola’s side. In the last five seasons, the only time City didn’t win the trophy was when Liverpool’s 30-year title drought ended in 2020.
But it will be another season ending with City unable to win the biggest prize in European football — the Champions League — while Liverpool will be contesting the final against Real Madrid on May 28.