MANCHESTER — Manchester City seized control of the Premier League football title race yesterday after Vincent Kompany’s first-half header powered them to a 1-0 win over bitter rivals Manchester United.
Kompany headed home from a corner on the stroke of half-time to settle a highly-charged title duel at Eastlands which saw City go top of the table by virtue of their superior goal difference.
The victory means wins over Newcastle and Queens Park Rangers in their remaining games could see City claiming their first league crown in 44 years while United would finish the season without a trophy.
The win capped a remarkable comeback in the league race by City, who appeared to have blown their title chances in early April after falling eight points behind United.
Kompany’s winner settled an at times ill-tempered duel which in terms of quality failed to live up to its pre-match hype.
The pressure-cooker nature of the occasion was reflected by an ugly touchline bust-up involving United manager Alex Ferguson and his City counterpart Roberto Mancini on 76 minutes.
A visibly enraged Ferguson had to be restrained from confronting Mancini after the Italian had marched into the technical area to complain after Nigel De Jong was booked for a cynical challenge on Danny Welbeck.
A scrappy first half saw City dominate possession and territory, but struggle to create clear chances against United, who had flooded the midfield with five men, leaving Wayne Rooney as the lone striker.
The home side were also given a huge scare after only two minutes when Michael Carrick’s shot from inside the area was blocked to safety by Kompany.
That early scare aside it was largely all City, although United’s defence was rarely troubled as the home side struggled to find their passing rhythm.
Samir Nasri brought the Eastlands crowd to their feet with a jinking run on 16 minutes which took him beyond the United defence before the France international played in Carlos Tevez, whose cutback was cleared by Phil Jones.
The fractious mood of the evening was reflected at Ferguson’s angry reaction after Kompany was booked for a clumsy challenge that pole-axed Rooney.
On 25 minutes Sergio Aguero nearly gave his watching father-in-law Diego Maradona something to cheer about, only for his volley from Joleon Lescott’s flick-on to sail over the crossbar.
The diminutive Argentinian attacker was off-target 10 minutes later, miscuing his shot wide after good work down the right once more from Nasri, as City upped the pressure.
The moments before half-time marked City’s best spell of the match, with David De Gea needing to be alert to intercept a menacing cross from Gael Clichy before Tevez produced one surging run from inside his own half that had United scrambling back to cover.
Yet just when it looked as if United had survived the late onslaught, City went ahead.
David Silva curled in a corner from the right and Kompany leapt above Chris Smalling to power an unstoppable header past De Gea.
The second half saw City again control possession and they went close to scoring with late chances from Gael Clichy, Nasri and Aguero.
United meanwhile struggled to create any chances of note, their attempts to get back in the game foundering on a superb defensive effort from City, with Kompany and Lescott unyielding throughout.