THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Premier League ~ Man City take the title as Bolton go down
The superlatives have been exhausted already. It wasn't that Manchester City won their first top-flight title since 1968, nor that they did it by beating their cross-city rivals on goal difference that was most remarkable. Instead, it was the manner of their victory over Queens Park Rangers: two stoppage time goals to take victory and the title when all looked lost, that will mean this Premier League season is recounted endlessly in “greatest” lists from now on. City were poor. They struggled to break down a dogged QPR defence and became frantic, aimless and ever more edgy as time wore on.

Despite Joey Barton, Mark Hughes's side did their own job almost to perfection. They frustrated their opponents and took the two chances that came their way. One of City's 19 corners was going to find Edin Dzeko's head eventually, but it was the burst of speed, deft touch and powerful shot of Sergio Aguero that sealed the title. 

At the other end of the table, Bolton's 11-year stay in the top division ended with a disappointing 2-2 draw at Stoke City. Owen Coyle's side were already relegated when Aguero's goal went in, as they needed to win to move above QPR. “We feel aggrieved at the way events transpired today," said Coyle. "For the first goal, Adam Bogdan had the ball in both hands and Jonathan Walters has headed him on his elbow to release the ball. It is as clear a foul as you are going to see. The penalty is such a soft award. Adam did well to save the first effort but when Crouch is looking to go past, Adam is not even looking at him and Crouch has stumbled into him.” Bolton will now be looking to bounce straight back up from the Championship.

League One ~ Advantage Huddersfield in play-off semi-final
Huddersfield Town will head into tomorrow's play-off second leg at the Galpharm Stadium with a 2-0 advantage over MK Dons. Jordan Rhodes's first goal for five games and a Jack Hunt strike put the Terriers well on their way to the sixth trip to Wembley in their history. Their manager, Simon Grayson, called it the best performance since he took over from Lee Clark in February but cautioned that the job is not done yet. “We need to be focused physically and mentally in our preparation because we haven’t achieved anything yet. But the players are totally aware of what we need to do and we certainly won’t allow any complacency, because we have to replicate what we did in this match.”

Before the game MK Dons manager Karl Robinson said: “We know where we’ll be at. We’re going to Wembley.” His side will need a big turnaround when they travel to Yorkshire tomorrow night to make that happen but Robinson remained confident. “We can play better,” he said. “That’s the best they’ve got.”

League Two ~ Cheltenham take a big step towards Wembley

Cheltenham were victorious over Torquay United at Whaddon Road Sunday as they looked to end their three-year stay in League Two. Both sides had spend much of the season pushing for automatic promotion before falling away but Cheltenham had the slightly better form going into the game, as Torquay failed to win any of their final five games of the season. Goalscorer Jermaine McGlashan said: "I seem to like playing in front of the TV cameras. I get nervous, but nerves are good and if we get the first goal at Torquay we will be able to smell Wembley, which would be unbelievable."

FA Trophy ~ York warm up for Wembley with a win at Wembley
York City began their important week in fine style by beating Newport County 2-0 in the FA Trophy final at Wembley. Goals from Matty Blair and Lanre Oyebanjo sealed York's first ever trophy victory in a national knockout tournament – a wait that has lasted 90 years. It was the 100th match at Wembley since it was redeveloped and City will be hoping for the same result in its 102nd. Next Sunday the Minstermen will return to the stadium to take on Luton Town in the Conference play-off final.

La Liga ~ Villarreal go from Champions League to relegation

Villarreal were consigned to the second tier of Spanish football at the end of a dramatic final day in La Liga. The team knows as the Yellow Submarines looked safe as they were holding Atlético Madrid to a goalless draw but an 88th-minute goal for the Europa League winners, coupled with an injury-time goal for Rayo Vallecano at Granada, sent them down. Villarreal started the season in the Champions League having finished fourth last time out but now face life outside the top flights for the first time since 1999-2000. "We have gone down because we haven't done well," Diego Lopez, the club's Spanish international goalkeeper said. "Today's game was evidence of that." Tom Hocking

Comments (9)
Comment by drew_whitworth 2012-05-14 12:13:43

I know everyone was rightly distracted by what happened at the other end of the table but let's remember also that this was the first year in a very long time that none of the newly promoted clubs in the Premiership went straight back down.

Comment by Barnstoneworth 2012-05-14 12:58:21

Congratulations are also due to Dartford, whose impressive new stadium will host Blue Square Premier football next season.

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2012-05-14 15:21:06

Drew Whitworth:

"this was the first year in a very long time that none of the newly promoted clubs in the Premiership went straight back down"

First time since 2001 - when Blackburn and Bolton were promoted, funnily enough.

Comment by ingoldale 2012-05-14 15:25:29

@Barnstoneworth Yes! I can't wait to go following the Mighty Mariners. I've had a look online and it looks fantastic! Commiserations must go to our Lincolnshire neighbours, Gainsborough, who lost arguably the biggest game in their history (since dropping out of the fooball league) in the Conference North play-off final in front of a 3000 crowd. Well done to Nuneaton ho will be joining Dartford in the Conference.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-14 16:03:43

Someone said recently here that in France Olivier Giroud is one to watch. To judge from the way he set up Montpelier's 94th minute winner against Lille last night, they were right. It was pure class. Now, with a three-point lead over PSG and a visit to relegated Auxerre to come, it is Montpelier's to lose.

When a title is decided at the death and on goal difference, there are so many ifs and buts as you look back through the season. Maybe the final twist was the fact that Stoke v Bolton finished before City v QPR. Not that United can complain - when you lose at home to Blackburn, let a two-goal lead slip against Everton, lose at Wigan and play for a draw at your main rivals, you are the architects of your own fate.

There were tearful scenes in Turin and Milan as various golden oldies bowed out. Alessandro del Piero was applauded by all, including his opponents and the referee, as he ended his 19-year stay at Juventus (with next Sunday's Coppa Italia v Napoli as his very last appearance) with a trademark goal in a routine 3-1 win over Atalanta. Meanwhile Milan said goodbye to Nesta, Zambrotta, Gattuso, Seedorf and Inzaghi, who (of course) got the winner in the 2-1 victory over Novara in his 300th appearance for the club. Gattuso had particularly harsh words for today's younger players. According to him they no longer listen to their elders, they answer them back.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-14 17:52:05

Udinese and their coach Francesco Guidolin also deserve a mention for a second successive Champions League qualification following their 2-0 win at Catania. It has been obtained at the expense of big city clubs Lazio, Napoli, Inter and Roma. The Nerazzurri are faced with the Europa League qualifiers, with Roma out of Europe altogether. Udinese consistently punch above their weight, though it's a pity that they do so with so few Italians. But one of them is the incomparable Antonio di Natale who, in the twilight of his career, is in Cesare Prandelli's list of 32 players from whom the 23 for EURO 2012 will be selected.

Comment by ingoldale 2012-05-14 19:23:42

@geobra I was on about Giroud. He is indeed brilliant.

Comment by madmickyf 2012-05-16 04:49:46

Shame that Bolton couldn't win and go above QPR who don't deserve to be in the Premier League, at least MK Dungs have now been knocked out of the Play-offs (again). Congrats to York on winning the Trophy, they will be up against it on Sunday as the crowd will be almost 80% Luton fans judging by the latest ticket sales!

Comment by jameswba 2012-05-16 09:25:11

'Shame that Bolton couldn't win and go above QPR...' That was my instinct too. Then I realised that QPR's 'goal that wasn't' at the Reebok would have been endlessly cited as the reason for their relegation. Thus yet more tedious debates on the need for goal-line technology because of 'how much is at stake'.

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