Vincent Kompany’s place in the pantheon of Manchester City legends was already assured before Monday night, albeit not for his long-range shooting.
The Belgian centre-back has now scored 20 goals for City since he joined in the summer of 2008, but his unlikely and spectacular winner against Leicester was his first goal from outside the box, only the 10th time he has tried his luck from that range, the third occasion he has hit the target and the first time he has managed it since 2013.
No wonder his manager Pep Guardiola admits he was thinking “don’t shoot” as the 33-year-old strode forward late in the game with the score goalless and victory imperative.
It was a feeling shared by most people inside Etihad Stadium, whose nerves were being stretched to breaking point by City’s inability to break down the Foxes, with the Premier League title at stake.
They included several fans sitting immediately next to the press box as well as some of Kompany’s team-mates, but as he explained afterwards: “I could hear people saying ‘don’t shoot, don’t shoot! But I’ve not come this far in my career to have young players tell me when to shoot.
“For 15 years, I’ve told people I’ll score one like that.”
His timing was impeccable. Kompany has scored vital goals for City before – his headed winner against United that helped City edge the 2011-12 title race springs to mind – but his unstoppable shot that arrowed into the top corner was arguably the most memorable moment of his decade at the club.
It came as his side’s frustration at being unable to break down disciplined Leicester threatened to turn into desperation in the closing stages of a game they needed to win to maintain the upper-hand over Liverpool in the title race.
Kompany’s strike made sure of that, bringing wild celebrations in the stands and, when the three points were secured, the relief and gratitude of City’s players and fans at the final whistle was clear – unsurprisingly it was Kompany’s name being sung.
City have not won the title yet – they must triumph at Brighton on the final day – but Kompany has done his bit to ensure they will get to keep it for another year, on top of the part he had already played in their glorious recent past.
|Vincent Kompany at Manchester City|
|Major honours||Premier League (2011-12, 2013-14, 2017-18) FA Cup (2010-11) League Cup (2013-14, 2015-16, 2017-18, 2018-19)|
City’s ambassador, and the great survivor
Over the past 10 years, Kompany has collected eight major trophies, including three Premier League titles, and been one of the heroes of City’s rise to become a major force in English football.
As City’s long-term captain he has become well known for his leadership skills as well as his astute defending, and off the pitch he has led by example as an ambassador for the club too – becoming a leading campaigner to help the homeless people in his adopted city.
Injuries appeared to have taken their toll in recent years, with his appearances becoming more sporadic and leaving his future in doubt, but Monday’s strike was a timely reminder of how his contribution goes beyond mere influence, and how his powers remain.
Along with Sergio Aguero and David Silva, Kompany is one of only three survivors from City’s first Premier League triumph – defined by Aguero’s last-gasp winner against QPR on the final day.
With his age and injury record, how much longer he will remain at the club is still uncertain – he is out of contract in the summer and Guardiola says he will not speak to him about a new deal until the season is over.
Even after Kompany’s heroics against Leicester, Guardiola could offer no guarantees, explaining: “We are going to take a beer together and decide what is best, especially for the club.
“He is an incredible human being and he has helped me a lot. This club is what it is because of people like Vincent. At the end of the season, after the FA Cup final, we will see.
“Unfortunately sometimes he is injured but when he is fit he is an incredible centre-back. He is a personality and a leader too.”
Kompany’s defending deserves plaudits too
Kompany is not often a goalscorer – Monday’s winner was his first goal of the season – but then he does not often need to be. His strike was also City’s 159th of a prolific campaign and their 100th at the Etihad.
As Guardiola reflected afterwards: “Sometimes you need a goal like Vinnie’s.” It helped secure their 13th successive league victory, a run that they have needed to stay above Liverpool at the top of the table.
Their prolific scoring rate has undoubtedly helped propel them to within one win of the title, but at the other end of the pitch they have been just as impressive – and they have had to be.
In those 13 wins, they have kept 10 clean sheets, including three 1-0 wins in their past four league games – against Tottenham, Burnley and now Leicester – as well as keeping another shut-out in a 2-0 win against United at Old Trafford.
Kompany has missed only one of those matches – the victory over Spurs – and although he will make the headlines for this spectacular strike, in a title race that looks set to be decided by fine margins, he is still doing a lot of important defensive work too.