Riyad Mahrez got away with it last time. Will he this season? Find out next Sunday.

Almost certainly the title race will still be live by then. For this to be over, prematurely, Liverpool would need to lose at Southampton. Liverpool aren’t going to lose at Southampton, just as Manchester City did not lose at West Ham. They looked like losing. A lesser team may well have lost. They trailed 2-0 at half-time. Yet City were not going to lose this. Indeed, they should have won.

That is where Mahrez comes in. He missed a penalty with seven minutes to go that would have as good as delivered the title to Manchester. He could have put two opponents away with that kick: West Ham and Liverpool. Instead, City still have work to do. They go into the final week four points clear, not six. And Liverpool have two games left.

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It went to the last day, too, the previous time Mahrez erred on this scale.. That was during the 2018-19 campaign. Manchester City got a late penalty at Anfield with the score tied 0-0. Mahrez stepped up, Mahrez missed, sent the ball high into the stand. Fast forward from there and on the last day, City were a point clear as they may be next Sunday.

It would have been over had Mahrez scored at Anfield, but City went on to win the league by a single point anyway. They got the job done. It will have to be the same again in this campaign. Strange that with so much unpredictability we might end up with a rerun of sorts.

Still, it is ten years since Manchester City last came back from two goals down for a point, so this was a big result nonetheless. West Ham led at half-time and the second-half was, as expected, all about City’s reaction. It was strong, nerveless apart from one horrendous back pass from Fernandinho that should have put Michail Antonio in for West Ham’s third. He tried a lob over Ederson, but missed the target. He’s no Jarrod Bowen.

So City came out of the traps like champion greyhounds in the second-half and West Ham, from a position of superiority, were reduced to holding on, gamely. It helped that the first City goal came early. Just four minutes gone when Craig Dawson’s headed clearance from a set-piece travelled only as far as Oleksandr Zinchenko. He recycled the ball, Joao Cancelo headed it back to Jack Grealish whose shot pitched through the legs of Dawson, unsighting Lukasz Fabianski in goal. Now it was all City. Grealish could have equalised soon after, likewise Bernardo Silva.

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Ultimately, a fortuitous mistake came to City’s rescue. Mahrez curled in a free-kick and Vladimir Coufal made the strange decision to try to clear it with a dangerous diving header back towards his own goal. The inevitable happened. In it went, Fabianski powerless. City were level.

Of course, the absence of City comebacks is probably an indication of how good they’ve been in the past decade; teams don’t rush into leads against City anymore. Yet it is 17 years, long before the Sheikh Mansour years, that they last won from a two-goal losing position. Norwich 2 Manchester City 3, February 28, 2005. Robbie Fowler scored twice for City.

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And they would have matched that comeback had Mahrez proved cooler yesterday. Late in the game, Dawson tripped Gabriel Jesus. He wagged a finger as if warning referee Anthony Taylor not to fall for any histrionics and the official bought it. Fortunately, for justice’s sake, VAR John Brooks rightly advised him on the error. Mahrez stepped up, shot right, Fabianski made a great save. So on we go to St Mary’s on Tuesday. Everything still to play for.

Yet West Ham were good for their point. This had been designated Mark Noble Day, marking the retirement of their outstanding long-serving captain. The club’s send off was quite brilliant, a true, full-throated celebration of the man’s career, but the players delivered something as good: with European football in sight, they made it so much more than a ceremonial occasion. One player, in particular, almost blew the title race wide open again. Step forward, Jarrod Bowen.

Apart from Harry Kane, no English player has scored more goals across all competitions than him this season. The England recognition can surely not be too far away. Here’s why. By half-time, Bowen had West Ham two goals clear of the team many regarded as champions elect, both beautifully taken, one on one, both seemingly devastating for Manchester City.

Bowen has been exceptional this season. Antonio can look a little lonely upfront in David Moyes’ formation, but when it works, when Bowen is on song, it is a wonderfully effective gameplan. It certainly was here. West Ham hit City twice on the counter-attack from long goal-kicks by Fabianski.

Maybe it wouldn’t have worried a team with its first-choice back four in operation but Pep Guardiola is limping towards the tape with a makeshift centre-half pairing that includes Fernandinho, a midfielder, and Aymeric Laporte, patched up after struggling with injury against Wolves in midweek. Last season, Liverpool tailed off with injuries in such a vital position. City looked shell-shocked when the half-time whistle blew. They had bags of possession, they had ample chances; but Bowen showed them how it should be done.

The first goal, after 24 minutes, came after Fabianski made a big clearance to the left which was hooked on with his first touch by Pablo Fornals. Suddenly, Bowen was away. Laporte played him on but couldn’t cover his momentum. Bowen’s first touch took him wide of Ederson. Much too wide, it seemed. He had a horribly tight angle from which to find the net. Then he nailed it, perfectly. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fernandinho were having a word with Anthony Taylor. Why, heaven knows. VAR would pick up any offside and VAR kept schtum. It was a well worked, direct, goal. Noting very fancy but brilliantly taken. Very Moyes-era West Ham.

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The second, same again. Another long kick from Fabianski was won in the air by Tomas Soucek. The ball fall to Antonio who again flicked it swiftly to Bowen, tearing into a good position. This time it was Zinchenko who ensured he stayed legal. Bowen hit a sweet, low shot past Ederson. Guardiola turned to the bench, furiously scratching the side of his head. There was time for revival, of course, but after cruising past Wolves, here was a significant obstacle.

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It must be said, West Ham got a little fortunate too. In the 16th minute, Rodri won a header which he steered in the direction of Jesus. Kurt Zouma cleared but on closer inspection, first took Jesus’ legs with his kick. Referee Taylor missed it.

So on we go. If Liverpool win at Southampton, there will be a point in it going to the last day. Again. And City are at home to Aston Villa. That’s Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa. Who writes these scripts? Can Gerrard at last win a title for Liverpool by proxy? Will Mahrez be redeemed a second time? Tune in next week. Everyone else does.

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