It felt symbolic of an occasion that did not quite go entirely to plan but still had a happy ending.
As Manchester City’s players mobbed their departing teammate Yaya Toure, the Premier League trophy was knocked off its stance. No damage was done, and it was duly lifted by Vincent Kompany a couple of minutes later.
Typical City, some might say. There was a time when they were a pratfall-prone club. Now the occasional mishap and the second anti-climactic occasion in a month still comes in the context of a season where they are setting new standards of footballing and numerical excellence.
Once again, the Etihad Stadium prepared for a landmark occasion that did not materialise. Just as the title was not secured in April’s Manchester derby, the Premier League’s most prestigious records did not fall as Huddersfield Town secured a laudable, and potentially invaluable, stalemate.
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Both sides may have reasons to celebrate at the end of the season, but, with a pitch invasion greeting the final whistle, this was still a day for City to savour.
“An amazing feeling,” said Raheem Sterling. “Literally a dream come true,” said John Stones, another to get his hands on the Premier League trophy for the first time.
Pep Guardiola was given the bumps by his players. “England is special, it’s so tough,” said the Catalan, savouring a first English title to add to the six he secured in Spain and Germany. “I think here it’s more difficult.” He has been a catalyst.
“We can’t forget the impact of the gaffer,” Kompany said. Guardiola’s philosophy has been crucial. “I didn’t have doubts about what we had to do, or try to do,” the manager said.
Over a season, they have succeeded in spectacular style. This was a day for City’s past and present. Their 1968 title winners joined with Huddersfield to form a guard of honour for their 2018 counterparts.
City’s previous two Premier League titles were sealed on the last day. “This feels different,” said captain Kompany.
There was a celebratory air, a swirl of blue and white flags. Perhaps it was why Guardiola’s men lacked their usual intensity. “Too many things surrounded the team that meant that we missed a little bit of focus,” the manager said.
So Brighton and Hove Albion’s visit on Wednesday could instead be when City break Chelsea’s records of 95 points, 30 wins and 102 goals. It also means they cannot afford to drop any more points if they are to become the first side in the history of the English top flight to post 100 points in a season.
Instead, there were different sorts of statistical landmarks. Huddersfield became the first side to stop City from scoring at the Etihad Stadium in the league this season; in all competitions, only Wolves had done.
Indeed, only Everton and Manchester United had denied them three points at home in the top flight. “We kept a clean sheet and that says everything,” manager David Wagner said.
Uncharacteristically, City only mustered two efforts on target. Jonas Lossl saved well from David Silva after a slick move and also denied Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian was among those to fire wide, with substitutes Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy and, at the last, Nicolas Otamendi.
Yet while Christopher Schindler hooked the ball off his own line when Lossl spilled Leroy Sane’s corner and there was a point, with 20 minutes remaining, when Ederson was the only player within 80 yards of the City goal, Huddersfield’s defiance brought a deserved draw.
They may confound expectations this season. They did so on Sunday, and not merely in the result. Wagner reinforced his rearguard by selecting a back five, but they had the sense of adventure to pose a threat.
Ederson made fine saves from Florent Hadergjonaj and Alex Pritchard before, in the final minute, parrying Scott Malone’s crisp strike when the substitute had a glorious chance.
“We don’t want to be greedy but it was possible to win,” Wagner. said “This was not a stolen point.” His side have already beaten Manchester United. “It was on the same level,” Wagner said.
There was a theory they would not take a point from their final three games; instead, with meetings against Chelsea and Arsenal to come, similar obduracy against the elite could propel them to safety.