Christian Pulisic (left) celebrates opening the scoring for Chelsea. AFP/VNA Photo
LONDON — Manchester City's Premier League title defence came to an end on Thursday as Liverpool were crowned champions after Chelsea boosted their chances of a top-four finish with a 2-1 win over Pep Guardiola's men.
The defensive mistakes that have undone City's title challenge were in evidence as Christian Pulisic punished two errors by Benjamin Mendy to open the scoring.
Kevin De Bruyne's brilliant free-kick brought the visitors level, but Liverpool's 30-year wait to win a league title was ended when Fernandinho was sent-off for palming the ball clear off his own goal line and Willian converted the resulting penalty 12 minutes from time.
A huge three points for Frank Lampard's men moves them within a point of third-placed Leicester and opens a five-point advantage over Manchester United and Wolves in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League.
As it stands, City are banned from European competition for the next two seasons, but still have aspirations to win the Champions League for the first time when the competition resumes in August.
However, Guardiola was given another reminder that his side's defending must improve to compete with Europe's best.
After a slow start, Chelsea began to enjoy the better of the chances as Olivier Giroud failed to connect with a dangerous Ross Barkley cross before Andreas Christensen's header was well saved by Ederson.
Two calamitous pieces of defending from Mendy then presented Pulisic with the opener as the Frenchman overhit a pass into Ilkay Gundogan and then dived in to allow the American a clear run on goal.
Pulisic kept his head to slot into the far corner and score his second goal of the restart after a long injury layoff before the coronavirus shutdown.
City responded strongly after a talking to by Guardiola at half-time as they tried to keep Liverpool waiting for at least another week when they face the Reds at the Etihad.
Chelsea have long since regretted letting De Bruyne go and the Belgian midfielder gave another reminder to the Blues what they are missing by sending a dipping free-kick into the top corner.
City's strength in depth has been emphasised by the temporary change in rules to allow five substitutions and nine replacements on the bench.
Guardiola introduced Gabriel Jesus and David Silva straight after the equaliser and Chelsea were left clinging on for a spell.
Raheem Sterling nearly capped a brilliant counter-attack from Ederson's throw out to first time passes from De Bruyne and Jesus only to see his chip over Kepa Arrizabalaga come back off the post.
An uncharacteristic error from Ederson then nearly threw City's good work away as the Brazilian passed the ball into the path of Mason Mount, who wastefully fired wide.
Only a stunning goal line clearance from Kyle Walker then denied Pulisic a second after rounding Ederson as City's defence was again caught flat-footed.
However, City were punished at the third time of asking as after seemingly escaping a goal mouth scramble, VAR was required to see Fernandinho had used a hand to clear.
The Brazilian was given his marching orders and then saw his former international teammate Willian dispatch the penalty confidently into the top corner.
That was the cue for Liverpool fans around the world the celebrate the end of a three-decade wait as they were finally crowned champions of England. — AFP