The Premier League's Super Bowl ends in a draw, and sets up 7 dramatic, do-or-die weeks

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There was no confetti. No trophy. No commemorative caps, concerts or celebrities. In the end, at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, in the closest thing the English Premier League will ever have to a Super Bowl, there wasn't even a winner.

Liverpool and Manchester City played 90 exhilarating, enthralling minutes that threatened to tip a title race, but didn't.

They ended 2-2, with Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane canceling out first-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus. City's lead atop the table held at one solitary point. A decisive moment, and a definitive conclusion, never arrived.

And in a way, that left tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of fans worldwide feeling unfulfilled.

Super Bowls, after all, aren't supposed to end without elation and devastation.

Super Bowls aren't supposed to end with Riyad Mahrez, in the final minute of stoppage time, staring down Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, a legendary match at the mercy of his magical left foot, but sailing his chipped shot several feet over the crossbar.

Super Bowls aren't supposed to end with businesslike hugs and respectful applause — from both sets of supporters, in recognition of the spectacle they'd just witnessed.

They aren't supposed to end with the two head coaches, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, joking with one another on an empty pitch 30 minutes after the final whistle.

But this Super Bowl, instead, will give way to the Premier League's version of an NCAA tournament, a seven-game, month-and-a-half-long sprint that might as well be a single elimination tournament.

There won't be a singular title game. If City and Liverpool each win out, the Citizens will be champions once again. But there will be weekly drama and crippling pressure. There'll be a knowledge, which will double as an intense fear, that any one moment, any one decision, any one mistake could win or lose the title.

And nobody knows when, or what, it will be.

"I would like to know it," Guardiola said postgame when asked about the deciding factor. "But I don’t."

That, for months and decades, is what has made the Premier League special. It's the double-round-robin gift that keeps on giving. It doesn't always produce a Super Bowl, or even late-season drama. But it amplifies every weekend, every match, every minute. It has conditioned fans and media to treat every contest between title contenders like an NBA Finals game, even if it happens in November.

This season, though, delivered the best of both worlds. Thirty rounds of potentially decisive, incessantly compelling soccer built toward one titanic clash. It matched the two clubs responsible for the four most prolific seasons in Premier League history. It pitted City, which had claimed 338 points since August 2018, against Liverpool and its 337 — 69 more than the next closest challenger. It featured Guardiola and Klopp, the sport's two most worshipped coaches who, in 22 meetings, had drawn eight and won six each.

It generated Super Bowl-like media attention and anticipation. And on Sunday afternoon, it didn't disappoint.

Fifty thousand standing fans greeted its arrival, and some never sat. Four minutes in, they teetered on tip-toes, waiting to explode, as Alisson sprung off his line to deny Raheem Sterling. But 30 seconds later, City ambushed Liverpool with a quick free kick. De Bruyne charged forward, and watched his deflected shot ping in off the post. City players pumped their fists feverishly. A blue smoke bomb flew onto the field. The Etihad erupted as if this might be the decisive moment.

There were, though, 85 frantic minutes still to endure.

Liverpool responded eight minutes later. Klopp celebrated wildly, as if relieved, perhaps influenced by an acute awareness that City had not blown a lead all season. And the game, thereafter, rarely relented. The 50,000 fans roared or groaned at every change of possession. Their nerves clenched at every foray forward, every loose defensive-third touch, every penalty-area ricochet. Their hearts skipped beats as City goalkeeper Ederson very nearly walked the ball into his own net.

City seized the game, commanded the ball, and broke Liverpool's high defensive line again and again. But the Reds, despite the impossible stress imposed on them, constantly threatened to snatch control against the run of play. Mo Salah strode forward, and fright rippled through the Etihad. Trent Alexander-Arnold went for goal from midfield. City's defenders, like Liverpool's, tread carefully in the penalty area, petrified by a potentially costly mistake.

City's quality grabbed the lead again in the 36th minute, and seemed likely to push them four points clear at the top of the league. "We deserved to win," De Bruyne would later say, and he was probably right. He was the catalyst, pumping audacious passes side to side and back to front. Phil Foden was fearless. Joao Cancelo was magnificent. Jesus was the best version of himself.

But 45 seconds after halftime, Salah and Mane combined with peerless precision, and equalized.

The hosts pushed for a winner. Raheem Sterling scored, but a video review revealed that his shoulder was inches offside. Jesus beat Alisson again, but not the four Liverpool defenders who'd congregated on the goal line. Virgil van Dijk stood tall. Mahrez, with one of the game's last kicks, nearly punctured Liverpool's resistance, but shrunk in the spotlight.

The Reds, whom Guardiola recently called a "pain in the ass," rode out the storm, and when a referee's whistle finally brought calm, there they were, still standing.

“They are so annoying, honestly," Guardiola later said with a smile.

He was proud of his players. Klopp, though, was more satisfied with the result.

"I would’ve loved to win," he told NBC Sports. "But I’m happy that we didn’t lose."

He compared Sunday to a boxing match. He knew, with a draw, that Liverpool had earned a few more.

He'll need help from inferior fighters. City, he knows, must drop points against Brighton, Wolves, Watford, Leeds, Newcastle, West Ham or Aston Villa if Liverpool are to stand a chance.

But he knows his team will push the defending champs.

“We [have] pushed each other on insane levels in the last few years,” Klopp said earlier this season.

With both still standing after Sunday, they'll continue to push, and push back, and they'll eventually arrive at a conclusion that the biggest EPL match in eight years didn't quite bring.

Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Liverpool, at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Sunday, April 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Liverpool, at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Sunday, April 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Jon Super)