Man City beat Chelsea to celebrate EPL title triumph
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan lifts the trophy as Manchester City players celebrate winning the title at the presentation ceremony following the English Premier League football match against Chelsea at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, on Sunday. (Photo: AFP)

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) — Manchester City fans flooded the Etihad pitch as the English champions celebrated a third-consecutive English Premier League title by beating Chelsea 1-0 on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's men clinched a fifth title in six seasons on Saturday when second-place Arsenal were beaten 1-0 at Nottingham Forest.

That gave Guardiola the luxury of resting most of his star names, with one eye on the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League finals next month as City go for the treble.

City's domestic dominance has seen them hailed as one of the best sides English football has ever seen.

But Guardiola acknowledged there is still work to do by beating Inter Milan to conquer Europe for the first time in the club's history, next month.

"We had the feeling we have done something special," he said.

"To be considered one of the greatest teams, we have to win in Europe — the Champions League. Otherwise, people will say our time was not complete here."

Admiration for the quality of City's football in seven seasons under Guardiola has also been accompanied by questions over their financing.

A takeover by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour in 2008 transformed the club's fortunes but City face more than 100 Premier League charges for alleged breaches of financial rules between 2009 and 2018.

The strength of squad City has assembled was exemplified by Julian Alvarez — who has spent most of the season as Erling Haaland's understudy — scoring his 17th goal of the campaign to extend the English champions' unbeaten run in all competitions to 24 games.

Guardiola made nine changes in all from the side that thrashed Real Madrid 4-0 in midweek.

The youthful hosts were still too sharp for the beleaguered visitors early on and took the lead on 12 minutes.

Alvarez continued his stunning season for club and country as the Argentine World Cup winner swept home Cole Palmer's pass.

Defeat confirmed that Chelsea will end a miserable campaign in the bottom half of the table and with their lowest-ever Premier League points tally.

A familiar lack of cutting edge in front of goal showed why the Blues have struggled under three different managers this season.

Raheem Sterling should have marked his return to the Etihad with at least one goal but was denied by a fine save by Stefan Ortega when one-on-one with the German goalkeeper.

Moments later Conor Gallagher headed onto the post with just Ortega to beat.

But the lack of jeopardy for both sides shone through as the majority of the game was played out at a snail's pace under the unusually baking Manchester sun.

Not that the home fans minded as they serenaded their side with cries of "championees" and bounced around doing the Poznan celebration with their backs to the pitch.

Chelsea had the better chances in the second half to at least avoid a seventh defeat in nine games under caretaker boss Frank Lampard.

Even when the stand-in City goalkeeper Ortega was finally beaten by Sterling, John Stones was on hand to clear off the line.

Guardiola gave the home crowd what they wanted by unleashing Haaland from the bench 20 minutes from time.

But the Norwegian was made to wait for his 53rd goal of the season as City serenely played out the final stages to open up a seven-point lead at the top of the table with two games remaining, to Arsenal's one.

"These are the memories I will remember for the rest of my life," said Haaland. "Debut season, 36 [league] goals, Premier League trophy, and two more finals to come. Not bad."

A festive afternoon was marred at full time as thousands of fans spilled onto the pitch despite pleas from the club to remain in the stands.

After a lengthy delay the trophy presentation could proceed as Guardiola's men claimed their reward for a 12-game winning league run when it mattered most at the end of the season.

"You work 11 months to see this. It is a day to celebrate with the fans and the family. It is amazing," said City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.

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