Congratulations to Ilkay Gundogan who has won the new Castrol Game Changer of the Season award - which was be awarded to the player with the single most game-changing performance during the 2021/22 Premier League Season.
With Manchester City trailing Aston Villa 2-0 on the final day of the Premier League season, it appeared their Premier League title dreams were in tatters. Liverpool weren’t yet beating Wolves at Anfield, but it was surely a matter of time before they scored.
Pep Guardiola’s side had been uncharacteristically laboured and lethargic at the Etihad, with Philippe Coutinho’s 68th minute goal deservedly doubling the advantage of Steven Gerrard’s dogged Villa.
City needed some inspiration. City needed a spark. City needed a Game Changer.
After bringing on Oleksandr Zinchenko at half time, Guardiola had two more substitutions up his sleeve. Raheem Sterling was a dead cert to come on, but the question was whether it would be Ilkay Gundogan or Jack Grealish - playing against his former club - who would also come on.
It was Gundogan who got the nod and, having turned up for City in so many big moments before, he didn’t let his manager down when it mattered most.
First, Sterling burst to the byline like he so often does. He stood a cross up to the back post, floating the ball over the head of Matty Cash. Who was there to power the header past Robin Olsen? It was Gundogan, scorer of 13 Premier League goals during the 2020/21 season. 1-2 with 14 minutes left to play.
Moments later, Zinchenko’s wonderful footwork on the left hand side presented Rodri with the opportunity to strike from distance. Displaying supreme coolness and calmness under pressure, the Spaniard expertly side footed past Olsen with laser like accuracy - levelling the scores at 2-2 to send the Etihad wild.
But City, known for their ability to overpower teams, weren’t done there. Just five minutes after Gundogan’s opener, Kevin De Bruyne seized on a loose ball and burst into Villa’s penalty area. His cross-cum-shot bobbled towards the back stick before being turned home. The player to arrive at just the right moment ahead of Cash? Gundogan. 3-2 City.
The German wheeled away in celebration, the proverbial roof at the Etihad well and truly blown off. A quite remarkable comeback and a quite remarkable cameo appearance from Gundogan who’s name will forever be associated with one of the most dramatic final days in Premier League history.
A Game Changer cameo appearance on an incredible occasion - Sergio Aguero’s iconic 2012 goal eat your heart out.