The highly anticipated top of the table clash between Chelsea and Manchester City turned to be quite disappointing as both teams ground out a one all draw in South-West London. City would be particularly disappointed, given that they dominated the game for large periods and failed to lower the five point gap that separates them from the league leaders.
Both teams were missing key players- Chelsea denied the services of midfield maestro Cesc Fabregas (due to injury) and goal machine Diego Costa (due to his 3 match ban), while City were missing the influential Yaya Toure. Young Kurt Zouma started once again at centre back in place of Gary Cahill.
Eden Hazard started the proceedings with a couple of good chances that he squandered, giving the impression of tiredness after Chelsea’s midweek exploits at Liverpool. Martin Demichelis and Vincent Kompany, the two City centre backs who were torn to shreds by Arsenal’s pace in their last game, played calmly here and kept the Belgian out.
City looked more composed on the ball and were playing with the kind of authority that belied belief that this was an away game for them. The effect of 120 minutes in midweek was clearly visible in the way Chelsea were playing, despite Mourinho’s efforts to freshen things up by adding Ramires, Azpilicueta and Remy to the line-up.
Sergio Aguero was particularly threatening for City and in the 17th minute Zouma showed why he was in the side- the young French defender calmly tackled Aguero to deny the Argentine when he was clear on goal, all the other Chelsea defenders beaten.
It wasn’t merely offense that they excelled in- the City players were dogged in defense- Navas and Milner halting threatening build-ups by Hazard and Oscar respectively while Clichy kept things tight on the right flank.
If there was one Chelsea player who clearly looked shaken it was Ivanovic- the Serbian beaten time and again by Aguero and dispossessed easily by the City players. The Argentine could have scored, only to be denied by the outstretched Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea had a few attempts of their own- Oscar’s timid shot off a Remy break down the left easily caught by Joe Hart. It was clear that they were missing the spark that Fabregas brings to the team.
The last few minutes of the half resulted in the only goals of the match. First, in the 41st minute, Loic Remy broke the deadlock when he finished a Chelsea move that began with Willian’s good run on the the left. He provided the ball for Ivanovic to loop over the defence to Hazard, who crossed it in to the Frenchman, who capitalised on a rare start in the absence of Diego Costa.
Four minutes later, City equalized. Jesus Navas caught Azpilicueta napping with his surging run. He flicked the ball in towards goal. Milner moved forward to head the ball, distracting Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian goalie tried to regain his position after the missing the ball, but it had fallen to Aguero who kicked towards goal, an unmarked David Silva providing the final touch to guide the ball in.
The first half was fairly even, despite City being the better team. The second half though, was 100% Man City. Chelsea went missing, seemingly content with the point.
Jesus Navas’s blistering pace provided the impetus for much of City’s attacks, which seemed to originate down the left. If Ivanovic was at fault in the first half, the second half was proving to be a nightmare for Cesar Azpilicueta, who was unable to deal with his fellow Spaniard.
However, Chelsea held firm. Man City players were targeting Kurt Zouma, the defender’s inexperience perceived to be his weakness. The young Frenchman kept his cool though, tackling without such authority and decisiveness you could think that he’s played as many games as his partner in central defence- Chelsea veteran John Terry.
The second half also saw the game’s first yellows- to Fernando and David Silva. In the 77th minute, City brought on Frank Lampard- the Chelsea legend was greeted to by a standing ovation by the Chelsea faithful. Unlike his dramatic equalizer at the Etihad though, this time he couldn’t influence the game.
In the dying minutes of the game, Mourinho brought on Gary Cahill, Didier Drogba and youngster Ruben Loftus Cheek to shore up the back- a clear sign that he was happy with a point. Indeed, Chelsea had had no attempts at all after their goal. City tried desperately to knock one in- Zouma had to jump amazingly high to clear a City chance off a late Jesus Navas header.
In the end though it finished 1-1- Chelsea content with preserving their 5 point lead at the expense of their 100% record at home, City disappointed on failing to find a winner despite trying their best.