Manchester City will be crowned Premier League champions at some point, probably in the next few days in fact. Everyone knows that. Yet that is no excuse for playing as though already performing a victory lap, which Pep Guardiola will no doubt remind Sergio Aguero after this missed opportunity to seal a third title in four years.
At the end of the first half of this 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, a sneak preview of the Champions League final, Aguero had the opportunity to double City’s advantage. Trusted with a penalty kick, City’s all-time leading scorer decided that one of the final goals of his Etihad career would be a Panenka. It was a grave mistake.
The consequences of Aguero’s miss and City’s second-half collapse to goals from Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso are not great. Guardiola must now wait to see if Manchester United drop points in their three league matches over the next five days. Given the strain of United’s condensed schedule and the standard of opposition, that is likely.
But this was an opportunity to become champions on the pitch, against a side that is likely to mount a serious challenge to their crown next season, and to strike a potential psychological blow against their opponents in Istanbul – perhaps – later this month. Instead, Thomas Tuchel and his players will take belief that they can win more than just this dress rehearsal.
Alonso’s stoppage-time winner consigned Guardiola to his first ever pair of back-to-back top-flight home defeats. The City manager felt aggrieved that, minutes earlier, his side were not given another opportunity to score from the spot when Raheem Sterling was bundled over by Kurt Zouma. It was a questionable call but, judging by Aguero’s earlier attempt, they might only have wasted it.