Jose Mourinho and Chelsea defeated Manchester City 1-0, making them the first team to inflict a home defeat on City this season and prevent them scoring at home for 61 games – a run dating back to November 2010 – with a first half goal from Branislav Ivanovic. It was a tactical masterclass from Mourinho whose holding trio of Ramires, David Luiz and Matic (who incidentally won Man of the Match) helped stifle the irreverent City frontline.
Tonight’s game between Chelsea and Manchester City was to keep the pressure on current leaders Arsenal and to assess the title credentials of both sides. Jose Mourinho had spent the build up declaring that Pellegrini’s side were favourites, they should be winning more and that it would be fantastic to finish second but these were tongue-in-cheek comments from the Happy One, shifting the focus from his side.
Martin Demichelis started in the centre of midfield in a City line up that featured Negredo and Dzeko starting only their second game together due to the Fernandinho and Aguero injuries.
In the opening minute, there was a ball deflected towards the Chelsea penalty area with both Cahill and Cech racing for it. Thankfully for the Blues, there was no repeat of the Hart-Nastasic mix up that gave the visitors the 3 points on that night.
City’s tactic was simple: attacking from the flanks with Toure bursting through the middle. The towering Ivorian just missed a fizzed volley-cum-cross by Kolarov before coaxing a Navas cutback, left by Silva, just over Cech’s bar. He was involved again in the 17th minute as he bullied his way into the area and his pass found Silva who could not adjust to divert the ball on target from 6 yards.
Before the half hour, Chelsea enacted Pellegrini’s counter attacking game against them when Willian intercepted an underhit Negredo pass from their corner. The Brazilian completed a one-two with Matic creating a 4 on 1 break that he passed left to Ramires but his curling shot was at a good height for Hart to save not before spectacularly overhead kicked it over.
Moments later, Chelsea had their lead. Eden Hazard held up a hopeful pass on the left and the midfield worked their way to the opposite flank where the Belgian dinked the ball into Ramires who took too many touches. His shot was deflected but the second ball was seized upon by Ivanovic whose first time left footed drive found the bottom corner.
Two minutes from time, after a few missed chances from Dzeko for the hosts, Luiz stole possession from Demichelis and he pushed the ball wide to Hazard who drove to the byline and his cross missed out Ramires but the arriving Eto’o was unmarked and had to watch his effort clip the top of the bar on its way out.
The Chelsea system, built on a disciplined shape when not in possession, made the most of the dancing feet of Eden Hazard as City survived an onslaught of pressure early in the second half. Those allied with the away side hoped their team would not rue their missed chances as Toure flashed a shot inches wide not long after. Nemanja Matic, a player much improved back in a blue shirt, smashed a long range try onto the right hand post after being afforded plenty of time and space 30 yards from goal.
Chelsea hit the post for the 3rd time when Gary Cahill’s intelligent run met Willian’s whipped corner, his header had Joe Hart beaten. City broke forward straight after when Silva lifted the ball into the penalty area for the overlapping Zabaleta; his cross was tamely missed by Dzeko then Jovetic’s drilled second ball was cleared.
That equaliser evaded City as Silva, Dzeko and Nastasic either found the strong hands of Cech behind the shots or firing wide completing a statistic of 20+ shots but with only a few on target. Chelsea moved to 53 points, completing a double over Pellegrini’s men, drawing level with City as Arsenal remained top by 2 points. They meet again in the FA Cup perhaps with vengeance on the mind for Manchester City; for Chelsea, they demonstrated to the rest of the Premier League that City can be beaten.
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Kolarov, Navas, Demichelis, Toure, Silva, Dzeko, Negredo (Jovetic 56)
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; David Luiz, Matic; Ramires, Willian (Mikel 91), Hazard (Ba 93); Eto’o (Oscar 82).