Paradise for Manchester City, England's new top dogs
LONDON (Reuters) - England woke up to a new name on the Premier League trophy on Monday, while thousands of Manchester City fans rose with sore heads and smiles on their faces, after the most gripping title race for more than 20 years ended in almost surreal fashion.
City's remarkable comeback in stoppage time to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 amid scenes of delirium at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday meant they edged out Manchester United on goal difference to win their first title for 44 years.
Argentine Sergio Aguero was hailed as the hero, his goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time earning City a victory that had looked beyond them when QPR led 2-1.
Front and back covers of every British newspaper carried photos of the dramatic finale to the season, one which backed up the Premier League's claim to be the most exciting and unpredictable in world football.
"Paradise City" was the choice of the Guardian's sports section front page over a full-page photo of Aguero, shirt ripped off, celebrating with Edin Dzeko, whose goal had brought City level at 2-2 just minutes before Aguero struck gold.
"Miracle Manc" proclaimed The Sun's front page, describing how City manager Roberto Mancini had prayed in church hours before kickoff, while the Daily Express back page featured captain Vincent Kompany holding aloft the trophy.
"Over the Blue Moon" ran the headline, a reference to City's nostalgic fan anthem that at times on Sunday had looked the ideal choice for what threatened to be a day of heartbreak.
City's win was seen as a breakthrough by many commentators, the club finally shaking off the inferiority complex they have suffered in the shadow on neighbours United, who for most of the past two decades have been top dogs in the north west.
The Abu Dhabi takeover of City in 2008, pumping in hundreds of millions of pounds into the transfer kitty, has transformed the fortunes of the club and last season's FA Cup final victory was widely expected to have marked the start of an era of dominance and trophy-filled years for the club.
There was still an element of the "old City" in the season finale though, when their time-honoured ability to mess things up added another layer of drama to an already nail-biting title run-in.
"Mancini's crazy gang make every last second count" was the headline on the back page of The Times, while some television stations aired footage of City fans who had left the stadium too early scaling walls to get back in as the late drama unfolded.
It was reminiscent of scenes in 1999 when City trailed Gillingham in the old Division Two (third tier) playoff final at Wembley before stoppage time goals hauled them level and they won on penalties.
"Goodbye to the ghosts of 44 years of misery" ran the Daily Mirror, summing up how far the club has travelled since the dark days of languishing in the football wilderness.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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