English Premier League: Man City beat Man United 1-0 in crunch derby
With one thumping header, Vincent Kompany may well have tilted the balance of football power in Manchester from red to blue.
Kompany's goal in first-half stoppage time was enough to give Manchester City a 1-0 win over Manchester United on Monday and put his team in position to secure a first Premier League title in 44 years.
In what had been billed as the biggest Manchester derby ever, the City captain provided one of the game's few memorable moments — aside from a touchline dustup between Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini — when he rose above Manchester United defender Chris Smalling to meet David Silva's in-swinging corner and send his header past goalkeeper David de Gea.
It was the simplest of winning goals and came after a brief lapse of concentration from the United defense, but it could have long-lasting repercussions in Manchester — and English football in general.
A Premier League title that looked to be firmly in United's grasp just two weeks ago is now again City's to lose. City leads its crosstown rival on goal difference with just two rounds remaining, having trailed by eight points earlier this month.
After spending decades in the shadows of its more successful neighbor, City's newfound wealth under Abu Dhabi ownership may finally be on the verge of producing the result that fans have been longing for.
"Absolutely buzzing. ... We've been waiting for this moment," Kompany said. "It's far from over, and we know that, but just to give our fans two wins over Manchester United this season — we have to finish it off."
City and United have been going toe-to-toe atop the league table all season, a struggle that culminated in Ferguson and Mancini going face to face during Monday's game.
As the clock started running out on United's attempts at a fightback, Ferguson became incensed by City midfielder Nigel De Jong's clumsy tackle on Danny Welbeck, and ended up in a shouting match with Mancini on the touchline.
With both managers making hand gestures to suggest that the other should stop talking, Ferguson eventually had to be dragged back to his own technical area, while City's assistant coach David Platt restrained Mancini.
"He was badgering the referee the whole game, the fourth official and the linesman," Ferguson said. "The minute I go out there, he started again."
Like his team, however, Mancini didn't give an inch. Faced by Ferguson's famous "hairdryer" — the name given to the blast received when Ferguson starts shouting — the City manager gave as good as he got.
The two did shake hands after the game, and Mancini shrugged off the confrontation when told of Ferguson's complaint.
"Him, no? He doesn't talk with the referee and the fourth official? Never?" the Italian said with a smile.
Back on the pitch, City's players didn't just match United, they outclassed the defending champion — although this was a game where the entertainment level was not nearly as high as the stakes.
United failed to get a shot on target during the entire match, while City could have scored more — Samir Nasri being the worst offender when he dallied to long in front of goal in the 90th.
Ferguson's ploy of fielding an extra man in midfield failed to pay off, with Park Ji-sung given a surprise role in midfield but looking rusty after starting a first league match since January.
In contrast, Mancini kept faith with the attack-minded lineup that had yielded three straight wins with 12 goals scored.
Sergio Aguero — watched from an executive box by his father-in-law Diego Maradona — had the best early chance, volleying wide from an angle in the 25th.
But Maradona and the rest of the City fans had to wait until the stroke of halftime for the decisive breakthrough, as Kompany headed City in front.
That goal ensured that the teams went in for halftime with the home fans waving their blue-and-white flags above their heads in jubilation.
City has now won all but one home match this season, drawing the other, and has an advantage of eight over United in the goal difference column.
"I think that we deserved to win this game, we scored, we played well and we had other chances to score in the second half," Mancini said.
The win also means City has completed a famous double over United, this crucial home victory backing up a stunning 6-1 win at Old Trafford last October.
"We had control of some parts of the game but not enough to cause any damage," Ferguson said.
City still has a tough job to seal a first title since 1968. The team next visits fifth-place Newcastle United and then hosts relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers in the remaining fixtures, while United finishes against Swansea at home and Sunderland away.
But City's fans — including Maradona — went home very satisfied indeed.
"We are happy, but I think that next Sunday we will have another difficult game (against Newcastle). Very difficult," Mancini said.