The Blues recorded a magnificent win at the Etihad on Monday evening to move themselves level with Manchester City and just two points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal. They became the first side to avoid defeat in the league at City this season and ended the Citizens’ 20 game unbeaten run, as well as putting a halt to their run of scoring in 61 consecutive games. It also completed a Chelsea double over the title favourites, following Jose Mourinho’s men winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge back in October.
As said, Manuel Pellegrini’s men remain favourites to finish top of the Premier League come May but this result really opens up the battle and keeps Chelsea well in the hunt. Mourinho claimed after the match that his side were not contenders but his mind games couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d dressed up as Derren Brown. The Pensioners are in this, make no mistake and it will be interesting to see if the loss has any impact on what was a growing sense of invincibility in the City ranks.
It was something of a strange game, won 1-0 by the away side thanks to a fine strike from defender Branislav Ivanovic after 32 minutes. The home side dominated for large parts of the match, having almost two thirds of the possession and creating several good chances. However, of their 25 shots, just three were on target, whilst at the other end Chelsea, whilst often outplayed, had twice as many shots on target and hit the woodwork three times as well. The match ended 1-0 but 3-3 or 4-3 would have better reflected the nature of the game.
Mourinho showed his tactical magnificence as his side carried out his counter attacking plan to perfection. They were highly potent on the break, capitalising on City’s attacking instincts that had seen them score 68 league goals prior to being shutout here. Samuel Eto’o, Gary Cahill and Nemanja Matic all hit the frame of the goal and though City were without Sergio Aguero many still felt they had enough to record a straightforward victory here.
They were also without Fernandinho, a growing presence in midfield, whilst Pellegrini also highlighted injuries to Samir Nasri and Javi Garcia. Few will have any sympathy for such an expensively assembled squad, however, and the fact of the matter is that City were wasteful with their finishing and were tactically out-manoeuvred.
Eden Hazard was – again – superb for Chelsea and, just ahead of Matic, was the away team’s best player. With David Luiz strong in midfield and the two centre backs Cahill and John Terry quickly snuffing out most of the Citizens’ attacks, this was a fine all round display.
Afterwards Mourinho was at his best, claiming that, “The title race is between two horses and a little horse that needs milk and needs to learn how to jump. Maybe next season we can race.” It may be true that the Blues are a developing thoroughbred rather than a proven winner of big races, but it is equally true they have the best jockey in the business and one that knows the Premier League track and jumps better than anyone. With Mourinho in the saddle, would anyone really be surprised if Chelsea won the race?