Manchester City leapfrogs Liverpool, nears Premier League title by beating Manchester United

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Bernardo Silva scored the game winner Wednesday in <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/teams/manchester-city/" data-ylk="slk:Manchester City">Manchester City</a>'s 2-0 victory over against <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/teams/manchester-united/" data-ylk="slk:Manchester United">Manchester United</a> that could end up giving City its second straight Premier League title. (Jon Super/AP)
Bernardo Silva scored the game winner Wednesday in Manchester City's 2-0 victory over against Manchester United that could end up giving City its second straight Premier League title. (Jon Super/AP)

Manchester City is in pole position to retain its Premier League crown following Wednesday’s electric 2-0 win over rival Manchester United in the 178th meeting between the local foes.

After a mostly even first half, Bernardo Silva put the visitors ahead for good nine minutes into the second when he turned United defender Luke Shaw inside-out and fired past keeper David de Gea at the near post:

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Leroy Sane then gave Pep Guardiola’s side some badly needed breathing room when he doubled the visitors advantage in the 65th minute.

Raheem Sterling completed a strong run up the right side by laying the ball on a platter with a diagonal feed for Sane to power through de Gea with a shot that the United keeper — who committed a grievous error last week in Barcelona as his team was bounced from the Champions League — would probably want back:

The victory edged Manchester City past Liverpool and back into first place by a point, a potentially insurmountable blow to the Reds’ hopes of winning its first English title in 30 years. City and Liverpool both have three league games remaining this season.

Manchester United made it a game ...

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made five changes to the lineup that capitulated 4-0 at Everton on Sunday, challenging the holdovers and replacements alike to respond. That game plan worked to perfection over most the opening 45 minutes. With City pressing high and United determined to attack every time an opportunity presented itself, the match was a back-and-forth affair during the first half-hour.

The home team desperately needed to score that all-important first goal, though. It didn’t come. Their best chance came in the 16th minute, when Paul Pogba found Jesse Lingard over the top. Lingard volleyed Pogba’s near-perfect pass, but the shot sailed harmlessly wide of Ederson Moraes’ goal.

As time went on and the contest still scoreless, the hosts relentless early pace began to catch with them. City began to assert itself as United’s players tired. And they were lucky that Raheem Serling didn’t send the visitors into the intermission ahead:

Officially, United walked into the dressing room having registered both shots on goal, including the only effort on target. In reality, the writing was already on the wall.

... But City was just too good

Whatever the stat sheet said, City was the better team in the first half. Sterling’s opportunity wasn’t the only one.

De Gea barely stopped Silva’s wicked blast just 19 minutes in that was hit right at him. Had it dipped a foot or two in any direction, it could’ve knocked the stuffing out of Solskjaer’s team and effectively sealed the outcome then and there:

Pep Guardiola and Co. can only beat themselves now

The slim lead atop the table means that as long as City wins its final three games, it will repeat as Premier League champion for the first time in club history. A domestic treble also remains possible.

But Guardiola’s team still needs to actually go out and win its final three games to guarantee a fourth Premier trophy in eight seasons (and a second under the Spanish manager). First, City must avoid a slip-up on Sunday at Burnley. They’ll then travel to Leicester before closing out the 2018-19 campaign away to a Brighton team that could well be fighting for their top-flight lives.

It’s not quite a forgone conclusion. But after beating Tottenham and Manchester United in the week since Spurs dashed its own Champions League ambitions, only an idiot would bet against Manchester City now.

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