MANCHESTER, England (AP) — The songs and the chanting started well before the final whistle. After it blew, Manchester City fans set of blue flares and streamed onto the field by the thousands. And it would not be long before manager Manuel Pellegrini was tossed in the air by his jubilant players.
Needing far less drama than two years ago, City won the Premier League for the second time in three seasons Sunday with a 2-0 victory over West Ham. City won behind goals from Samir Nasri and captain Vincent Kompany, meaning Liverpool's 2-1 win over Newcastle at Anfield was meaningless and City finished two points above the Merseyside club.
"It was my first season in the Premier League and I had to change a lot of things," Pellegrini said. "It's amazing we are here after just one year." For a club that has spent so much time in the shadow of United — last year's champion — this was just the fourth time in City's 134-year history that fans could celebrate a league title.
In 2012, City won the title on goal difference ahead of neighbor Manchester United after coming from behind to beat Queens Park Rangers on the final day. "You can't repeat what happened last time," City goalkeeper Joe Hart said. "This year, we've really come on strong at the end when we needed to."
Just 15 years ago, City was playing in the third tier of English soccer, but the club's fortunes were transformed after the influx of Abu Dhabi cash following a 2008 takeover. Making this victory all the sweeter is the fact that United, which beat City to the title by 11 points last May, ended this season in seventh place after imploding in the post-Alex Ferguson era.
City spent just 15 days in first place during a season when the lead changed hands 25 times. But Pellegrini's club surged to the top when it mattered most. The 60-year-old Chilean ends his first season in English soccer as a double winner, having already won the League Cup with a victory over Sunderland in March.
"It's a great experience," Pellegrini said. "It's not easy to come to the Premier League — the most difficult league in the world." The league title looked out of reach for City just weeks ago after losing to Liverpool at Anfield. But Liverpool collapsed toward the end with a loss to Chelsea and a draw at Crystal Palace. That meant City needed only a draw at the Etihad to secure the title.
Nasri scored with a shot from outside the area in the 39th minute and Kompany added the second from close range shortly after the break, allowing fans to celebrate for much of the second half. The challenge for City now is to retain the trophy for the first time, and replicate its electrifying play in the Premier League in the Champions League.
These title celebrations, though, could soon be tempered. European soccer's governing body is on the verge of imposing sanctions on the club for overspending in violation of rules. Still, Kompany understands the challenges that come with being a champion.
"We are building a club, not just a team," he said. "The past is the past, but surely we have our place in the future. Next year we have to be even better. If we want to be a big club this has to be one of many."
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris