Ilkay Gündogan hailed Manchester City’s ‘incredible’ Premier League victory as the German midfielder came off the bench to ignite their amazing struggle to defeat Aston Villa 3-2 on the final day of the season.
Pep Guardiola’s side were in serious danger of losing the title after losing by two goals at the Etihad Stadium and a win was required to ensure Liverpool would win the trophy.
But German international Gundogan proved to be City’s super substitute as he headed home to save them in the 76th minute.
After Rodri equalized, it was Gundogan who wrote his name in City’s history books by winning in the 81st minute after a cross from Kevin De Bruyne.
City finished just one point ahead of Liverpool, who beat Wolverhampton 3-1 in their last game, and Gundogan admitted he was almost speechless after the dramatic denouement.
“It was an incredible game,” Gundogan said.
“We are people and after losing 2-0 the chances were very, very small. But we needed to do the simple things and score two goals quickly and then have 10 minutes to score the third, which gave us the right lift.
“It was about scoring that goal and then the momentum was on our side and we were able to score three goals in just a few minutes. These are the days you look back, it was an incredible game.”
Gundogan paid tribute to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, for whom he played at Borussia Dortmund, for pushing City to the limit before failing to achieve an unprecedented quad.
In January, Liverpool were 14 points behind City, and only Gündoğan’s last-breath heroism prevented the Reds from stealing the title.
“I know it’s hard to say, but if Liverpool didn’t play the way they play, incredible football and success, I don’t think this league could be as attractive,” Gundogan said.
“Even though they finished behind us, I think they had an incredible season. We’ve pushed each other to the limit again.”
– “A Little Panic” –
City midfielder De Bruyne was at his best when his team needed him most, but the Premier League’s best player admitted he began to panic as time went on.
“We tried to remain as calm as possible, but sometimes there was a little panic. Maybe a couple of times! This is normal in this situation. It’s so different,” de Bruyne said.
“You just go for it, you still lose. You want to make a difference and that’s what we did.
“When the score was 2-1, the whole situation changed for me. The stadium, the atmosphere, the players have changed. We never looked back.
“It’s difficult because Liverpool push you so far and you have to be on top all the time.”
City striker Jack Grealish became Premier League champion for the first time since signing from Villa last year for a UK record £100m ($124m).
Grealish struggled to replicate his Villa form in a City shirt and he vowed to improve after a difficult first season at Manchester.
“When I signed here, people asked me, ‘Do you want to win the Champions League or the Premier League?'” Grealish said.
“For me, it has always been the Premier League. I’ve never won it before and I’m so happy I almost cried.”
“I stepped out of my comfort zone to come here. That was hard. Much more difficult than I thought. But today just makes up for it.
“I know that I can continue, and I will definitely do it. I feel like I played my part in the games.”