Manchester City 1-3 Chelsea: Devastating Chelsea take their chances.
For the second time in the space of a week, Chelsea fought back from adversity against one of their rivals for the top four and produced ...
For the second time in the space of a week, Chelsea fought back from adversity against one of their rivals for the top four and produced a stunning fightback to take three important points.
We have to be honest however and admit that at half time Chelsea looked in big trouble, a goal down, not playing well and sitting far too deep, City dominated the half and the neutrals watching around the world would have said it was a justified scoreline. Gary Cahill's awkward looking attempt at a near post clearance that had deflected off his shin and high into the corner of the net was just reward for City's attacking play and we could have no arguments.
It was the second game running that Chelsea were poor and just could not get their football going. One moment of magic from Cesc Fabregas, in for the injured Nemanja Matic, produced an fantastic diagonal pass over the defence for Eden Hazard. Hazard flicked the ball passed Bravo in goal as he came rushing out of his box to close him down but rather than attempt at goal wide left of centre and ten yards from the byline, Hazard looked to square the ball across goal and the chance had gone.
That was as bright as it had been for Antonio Conte's side as they faced a City side who had a game plan set by Pep Guardiola to match our formation and tactics. City were the team on the front foot because they were able to get on the ball more than us, we found ourselves sitting ten yards too deep in defence and midfield and it made it easy for the home side.
It was apparent that Diego Costa had become isolated, Pedro could not impose himself on the game and but for fleeting moments, Eden Hazard could not affect the game as we would have liked. So at half time we go in a goal down and with a job on our hands to turn it round.
As a week ago, Chelsea fans were looking for Conte to inspire the players, to refocus our efforts and to gain an important foothold in the game and we started the second half better than the first. However, I will never know how Kevin De Bruyne has walked away from this game on the losing side? Firstly he is played in on goal and to his credit Thibaut Courtois comes out and makes an important save. Secondly, and what is arguably the miss of the season so far, Navas breaks on Chelsea down our left hand side and crosses the ball to the far post and literally six yards out with no one near him and an open goal waiting, De Bruyne smacks the ball against the crossbar and over keeping the score 1-0. It was a let-off for Chelsea and from that moment we looked like a team that knew they had to do something to change the game as it appeared that luck was on our side.
On the hour, the combination of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa that became so effective in our title win two seasons ago came to the fore once again. Fabregas picked up the ball in time and space and spotted the run of Costa in behind Ottamendi. The play maker plays a sumptuous ball over the top and Costa controls the ball on his chest, shrugs off the challenge of the defender and buries the ball hard and low passed bravo to make it 1-1 and Chelsea were back in it.
Wave after wave of City attack and pressure came to nothing and just ten minutes later Willian, on for Pedro, swung the balance of the game in our favour making it 1-2. Gundogan breaks wide left into the Chelsea box and fires the ball across goal but it's deflected clear to Eden Hazard in space on the edge of our box. Hazard turns and sees that Diego Costa has dropped ten yards off his marker to show for the ball. Hazard plays it up to him with Willian on his bike down the right wing but for some reason Ottamendi tries to nip in front of Costa to break up the play but misses the ball, Costa turns him and now we are in business. Costa plays the ball into the path of Willian who's pace beats the defenders doing their best to close him down, however he takes the ball to the edge of the box and fires the ball low into the far corner beating the unimpressive goalkeeper making it 1-2.
As City pour forward and make their attacking substitutions, Chelsea sit deep and soak up the pressure. City huff and puff but do not give us any real major concerns and on the stroke of full time Chelsea make it 1-3.
Once again, City's possession is broken up deep in our half and the ball is played wide to Alonso. He spots Hazard wide left just inside the half way line and plays the ball over to the top to him and Hazard is away. His pace takes him passed two defenders as he cuts across their stride with the ball before slotting the ball inside the near post beating the goalkeeper to make it 1-3 and game over.
As injury time plays out Sergio Aguero puts another one on David Luiz which signals plenty of pushing and shoving between the players with notably Nathaniel Chalobah putting Aguero on his arse and rightly so. The tackle from Aguero was common assault in my book with no intention other than to cause damage as he has done previously by two footing Luiz a couple of years ago.
Aguero gets sent off with a four-game ban on the horizon and then Fernandinho gets his marching orders after a scuffle with Fabregas that resulted in our play maker being shoved over advertising hoardings. It was a shame that the game ended this way but for us it was a massive result.
As with our game against Tottenham last week, this was a real test of character and one that was passed with flying colours. Our fight back last week was impressive however this was devastating. We took our chances in this one and that was the difference as Pep Guardiola will tell you.
In the coming weeks however, Antonio Conte needs to work with the players to understand what has happened in the last two games for the first forty-five minutes because we have no played well. Om Saturday against City Victor Moses struggled defensively for the majority of the first half, he made an important block in the second half to deny Aguero at the far post but the first half was really poor. If anything I thought that Marcos Alonso was the same. He was being beaten out wide more than we would like to see and his use of the ball was too slow in that first half. Again, it was a better second half but both wing backs were disappointing overall.
Where would Chelsea be without Costa and Hazard at the moment? Both playing close to the top of their game at the moment and it's so important that we keep both of them fit and free from injury. They have proven on numerous occasions that they can be the difference this season and this second half performance with their goals was exactly that.
City will rue the chances missed but at the end of the day it's about who puts the ball in the back of the net no matter the tactics or how you play that wins the game! That's eight games in a row and Chelsea this morning sit top of the Premier League, three points clear of the chasing pack with a run of what appears to be (on paper) easier games coming up.
Onwards and upwards but surely now we have to finish top four?