Premier League 2018/19 season: The 10 defining moments
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Last Updated: 11/05/19 1:51pm
It's been one of those seasons.
Humiliation, sackings, bizarre mistakes, heroic goals, new arenas and, of course, the technology debate. The 2018/19 Premier League season has provided us with enough drama to get through the slow summer months, and here, we round up the 10 defining moments...
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The game of the season
Arsenal 4-2 Tottenham, December 2
Two penalties, a red card, six goals and an almighty touchline scuffle.
Unbeaten in 18 games going into the north London derby, this win convinced many that Unai Emery was taking Arsenal in the right direction. The 90 minutes encapsulated Arsenal's season; defensively still brittle but devastating in attack, with an added grit and determination that they'd previously been criticised for lacking. Lucas Torreira, Emery's fourth signing, was the star.
Not only had Arsenal changed, the Emirates had too. The house that Arsene Wenger built had turned into a monotonous cathedral of false hope. For the first time in years, it was now a cauldron.
"I've hated coming here in the last couple of years, in some ways, because there's been an apathy and an atmosphere that this great club doesn't deserve," said Gary Neville. "Today it was completely different and it has shocked me."
Origi sparks wild celebrations
Liverpool 1-0 Everton, December 2
On the same day, another derby was playing out to a different tune.
It was over. Virgil van Dijk turned away in disgust at his 96th-minute mis-hit looped into the air and the key to Everton's team coach was in the ignition. But for a reason still unknown, Jordan Pickford reached up, the ball bounced twice on the crossbar and dropped to Divock Origi to break Blue hearts. Bizarre doesn't really cover it.
Then there was madness. Jurgen Klopp piled onto the pitch to celebrate - to the annoyance of many - a last-gasp Liverpool win which became their trademark in spring to stay clinging on in the title race.
In a seven-game period in spring, Liverpool won no less than four games with goals in the last 10 minutes - against Fulham (away, 2-1), Tottenham (home, 2-1), Southampton (away, 3-1) and Newcastle, again through Origi (away, 3-2). A never-say-die attitude which has given us an unrelenting title race.
Mourinho's last stand
Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd, December 16
Outclassed, outfought, outplayed. If there was one game that summed up Jose Mourinho's time at Manchester United, this was it.
Xherdan Shaqiri's double may have come late, but this was a United performance lacking in any physicality or quality. Liverpool recorded 36 shots, the most United have faced since Opta started recording the data 16 years ago, with Mourinho blaming "injury-prone" players.
"We have lots of problems related with physicality. We have lots of players that I could consider 'injury-prones', because some of our players are always injured. And it's not with me, it was before me."
He may have been right, but it was the last of his many excuses. The post-mortem resulted in Mourinho's sacking two days later, though many criticised the players for packing it in weeks before.
Five months on, parallels remain…
Millimetres out, millimetres in
Man City 2-1 Liverpool, January 3 and Burnley 0-1 Man City, April 28
It would have rivalled Origi for most bizarre goal of the season, and it may well have given Liverpool an insurmountable lead in the title race.
With City and Liverpool goalless, Sadio Mane's low effort hit the post, John Stones hit his clearance against his own goalkeeper Ederson, before somehow stretching back to clear off the line by just 11m with the help of the goal-line decision system. A dizzy Stones breathed a huge sigh of relief, but the real hero was technology.
To the naked eye, the ball looks in, but referee Anthony Taylor's watch did not vibrate, and City went on to win 2-1 and cut Liverpool's lead to four. It could have been 10.
Later in the season, GDS came to City's aid again as Sergio Aguero's winner against Burnley in late April squeezed in by just 2.9cm. Hawk-Eye should collect a medal on Sunday if City win the title.
How good? This good
Man City 6-0 Chelsea, February 10
Powerful, clinical and simply irresistible, watch the first 25 minutes of this, and you'll realise just how good Pep's City team are. Even if they don't retain the Premier League title on Sunday, registering 95+ points and 90+ goals in consecutive seasons is a feat we may never see again.
City were 4-0 up with barely a quarter gone, but to many, it wasn't a surprise. It seemed City were in behind Chelsea with every exhale of breath, their trademark wingers constantly ghosting into space and punishing the opposition in an unforgiving and playful manner. It was a joy to watch.
City went top on goal difference, and despite playing one more game than Liverpool, this win made them title favourites.
It felt like a runaway train, and it was. They've won every Premier League game since.
Warnock fumes, but clarity will come...
Cardiff 1-2 Chelsea, March 31
Though the decision to introduce VAR to the Premier League next season was taken months before, this game summed up just what impact it will have on results and clubs' fate from now on.
Cardiff were 1-0 up with six minutes remaining, having already been denied two penalties, and heading to within two points of safety. Then came mayhem.
Cesar Azpilicueta equalised from an offside position, Antonio Rudiger escaped a red card for a last-man foul, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek compounded matters with a last-gasp winner. It may have also saved Maurizio Sarri's job.
The decisions left Neil Warnock with his head in his hands, staring down referee Craig Pawson after the game in one of the most iconic pictures of the season. Cardiff lost six of their next seven before relegation was confirmed.
But VAR will settle these disputes next season. Of course it will…
Spurs return home
Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace, April 3
Spurs were becoming a laughing stock during the first half of the season as the stadium delay took up headline after headline; the 1-0 defeat by Man City at Wembley in October, played on a marsh that had felt the force of NFL just 24 hours before, was a low point.
But by April, it was all worth it. After two test events, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium opened its gates to top-flight football on April 3 as Spurs beat Crystal Palace 2-0, prompting wonderment and even tears from the home fans, and high praise from all outside the club.
A jaw-dropping single-tier South Stand is the highlight, a 17,500 capacity bank which will roar Spurs on for decades to come.
Mauricio Pochettino called it the "best stadium in the world." Of course, he would, but many with no affiliation to Spurs have said the same. Will it be the home of the best in Europe come June 1?
'I'm furious, to be honest'
Everton 4-0 Man Utd, April 21
It's been an odd season for Manchester United. A poor start saw Mourinho sacked, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer then put a smile on everyone's face, but just two wins in 11 since their heroics in Paris has them back to square one. United have plateaued.
After their 4-0 defeat by Everton in mid-April, Gary Neville launched a scathing attack on the United squad, which reverberated throughout football.
"I'm furious, to be honest with you," Neville told Sky Sports. "The fact that [Solskjaer] has had to go over and apologise for them.
"I've often said about clubs in the last seven years, if you've got weeds in the garden then you've got to get rid of them. But there is some Japanese knotweed at that football club and it is attacking the foundations of the house and needs dealing with properly."
Their struggle since Sir Alex Ferguson left remains one of the biggest stories in English football, and United are left with yet another season of transformation needed.
'Please don't shoot'
Man City 1-0 Leicester, May 6
"Don't shoot, pass the ball!" - Pep Guardiola
"I was just thinking to myself: 'Don't shoot.'" - Raheem Sterling
"I said: 'Vinny, pass me the ball!'" - Bernardo Silva
"Don't do this Vinny, please don't do this, just pass." - Oleksandr Zinchenko
"I told you not to shoot!" - Sergio Aguero
He shot. He scored. And with it he may have won the title for Manchester City.
With 20 minutes remaining, Vincent Kompany's 30-yard rocket gave City a nervy 1-0 win over Leicester on Monday, a goal which will go down as one of the most memorable, and unlikely, in Premier League history.
A colossal known for his leadership from the back, this was Kompany's first shot on target from outside the penalty area since December 2013.
It was a shot born out of frustration and impatience, but more than anything, belief.
"Where do you want your statue?" bellowed Gary Neville.
The title finale
Brighton vs Man City and Liverpool vs Wolves, May 12
The odds are with City to become the first side to retain the title for a decade, but there's a feeling in the air after a week of heroics in the Premier League and Europe.
Either way, these sides must be celebrated for providing one of the most persistent title races in years; to both register well over 90 points, score nearly 200 goals between them and concede less than 50 is something we have never seen before and may never see again.
Attention now turns to the south coast and Merseyside, and it's fitting that this battle comes down to the final hour.