Top matches of 2012 - No.1: City's dramatic final day

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The stunning, spectacular and the sentimental, nzherald.co.nz lists the top ten sporting matches of 2012.

Number 1: Man City's dramatic title win
Sunday May 13th, 2012

The mission was quite simple for Manchester City.

They needed to defeat Queens Park Rangers - the team with the worst away record in the Premier League - on the final day of the 2011/12 season, and then they could celebrate their first league title in 44 years.

What transpired was arguably the greatest, most dramatic game, and day, in the history of English football.

City knew a slip-up would open the door for cross-town rivals Manchester United to claim their 11th Premier League title with a win at Sunderland, and after Wayne Rooney put the Red Devils 1-0 up early in the first half, the pressure was firmly on Roberto Mancini's men.

But Pablo Zabaleta put City hearts at ease with a goal late in the first half. The parties started, the tears of joy flowed, the writing was on the wall.

But QPR didn't read the script, and City soon found themselves trailing 2-1 following an action packed second half that included a Joey Barton red-card for losing the plot and head-butting Carlos Tevez.

United were still winning at Sunderland and the club's official Twitter feed summed up the sense of agony and desperation around the ground.

'Ten minutes left and City fans praying for something to break for the Blues,' it said. 'Please don't let it be our hearts.'

With every tick of second-half stoppage time, 47,000 hearts pounded ever faster. They were starting to fear the worst.

Even when Edin Dzeko equalised after a minute and 15 seconds of stoppage time, it seemed City's time was up.

But then came the moment that secured Aguero's place among City legends. The Argentina striker rode the challenge of Nedum Onuoha before beating Paddy Kenny with a quite brilliant finish that crowned two remarkable stoppage-time minutes.

The wild, roller-coaster of emotions will long live in the memory of all who witnessed the most exciting 90 minutes in premier league history.

What they said:

Vincent Kompany, Manchester City captain:
When Edin scored that goal, it reminded me of so many other moments during the season when we've done this before - come back from bad positions. There was no reason not to believe.

Gareth Barry (City):
Once we got the equaliser, their fans started celebrating and there were signals going on to the pitch that they were safe anyway. Whatever happened, we just had to find another gear.

Rio Ferdinand (United):
I got the word during the game that City had scored to make it 2-2. After our game finished, it went flat and silent at Sunderland. Everyone was just waiting.

Sergio Aguero (City):
I really thought that Mario was going to have a go himself but he just moved it on one more, if you like, and it fell at my feet. I just thought: 'Hit the target, hit it as hard as you can and hit the target.'

Martin Tyler (commentator):
As soon as Aguero took a touch of the ball, I knew he was going to score. It was a fraction of a second, not long enough to prepare words to fit the moment, but maybe just long enough for me to get some air into my lungs to react the way I did. Because of the way I said 'Aguero' during the commentary, I've been told that the City megastore ran out of 'O's at one point due to all of the 'Agueroooooooo' shirts that were printed.

Vincent Kompany: It's one big blur. I just remember jumping on top of Sergio when he scored the goal. He was crying on the floor and other guys were pouring their eyes out - these guys are strong personalities so you don't see them getting emotional often.

Phil Jones (United):
We thought we'd done it, then we hadn't - it was crazy. You went from high to low in the space of about ten seconds. I just remember the manager telling us after the game: 'Always remember this experience and don't let it happen again.'

APNZ Editor Chris Reed
"Hurrah for mysky. Were we still reliant on VCRs, my tape of Sergio Aguero's extraordinary goal would have snapped months ago.

"Had I blagged a ticket for the match I would have flown back for the weekend. I didn't, and so it was I was perched on my couch early that Monday morning, the volume frustratingly muted in deference to my heavily pregnant wife tucked up in bed just beyond the lounge room wall.

"She was roused by my celebration of Pablo Zabaleta's opener late in the first half and joined me on the couch. She was cheering Edin Dezko's header as the seconds ticked away. And she almost went into labour when Aguero poked home his career-defining goal. I ran up and down the hall screaming. She sat on the coach screaming. It was a wonder the neighbours didn't call the police.

"That we beat the Scum, as M** U***** are known in the city most of their fans visit once a fortnight at best, was an added bonus. There's a great YouTube clip of the moment their fans and players, smug at Sunderland, heard we'd won. I relish every second of their pain. God knows City fans have dealt with enough over the years.

"I was one of the few hundred at York, on the Saturday before Christmas 1998, when we lost 2-1 to leave us languishing at our lowest point, mid-table in the third tier. This was a moment of vindication for keeping the faith during the years of dross and loss. This was how it feels to be City, about our return to the peak of English, and therefore world, football.

"I drank a bottle of champagne in 10 minutes and eventually rolled into work several hours late. We had a girl. Despite my best efforts I couldn't find a female derivation of Sergio in the baby name books. I nearly got away with Bobbie in tribute to our wonderful coach. My wife was probably still drugged when she said yes. When she came round she put her foot down.

"But Isabel Sisley Reed already has home and away kits, already watches games and will be attending her first match in May. It's the final game of the season, at home against Norwich. It couldn't happen again, could it?"

Top matches of 2012
No.2 - Miracle at Medinah
No.3 - East Coast snare Meads Cup
No.4 - Rabbitohs make improbable comeback
No.5 - Pacquiao knocked out cold
No. 6 - Breakers triumph in overtime
No.7 - Epic Aussie Open final
No. 8 - Blues suffer last minute heartbreak
No.9 - Arsenal make astonishing comeback
No.10 - Black Sticks go down fighting

This completes the count down of the best matches of 2012. Which ones stood out? Have your say below.

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