Manchester City exacted sweet revenge over Chelsea on Saturday as their 2-0 victory in the FA Cup afforded them passage to the quarter-finals and eased the pain of their recent defeat to the Blues in the league. Goals from Stevan Jovetic and second half substitute Samir Nasri were the difference in a game in which Chelsea created little from an attacking point of view, not managing a single shot on target.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men face Barcelona in midweek and as such the Chilean coach opted to leave Joe Hart, Alvaro Negredo, Nasri and one or two others on the bench, bringing in James Milner and Jovetic to the starting line-up. Chelsea were not playing until the following Saturday as their own Champions League Round of 16 match against Galatasaray is not until the following week, so Jose Mourinho was able to field a full strength side. Having said that, having played against West Brom last Tuesday may have made some difference given City’s own midweek match was postponed due to the high winds.
Chelsea’s downfall in the match was due in no small part to the excellent job James Milner and Pablo Zabaleta did on the visitors’ player of the season so far, Eden Hazard. The Belgian didn’t have the time or space he’s enjoyed in other matches and things that would usually flow for him stuttered and failed to come off.
The win marks only the second victory for Pellegrini over Mourinho, and he certainly won the tactical battle with his enigmatic Portuguese counterpart on this occasion, giving the visitors no space in the final third and also offering the wherewithal to nullify Chelsea’s main attacking threat of hitting the home side on the break. Indeed, the Blues were limited to just three shots from distance in the whole match, none of which required a save from Costel Pantilimon.
The goal from Jovetic – in the 16th minute – put the writing on the wall for Mourinho’s men, who knew they needed to keep City at bay for as long as possible if they were to be in with a real chance of repeating their recent success at the Etihad. The Montenegrin struck low and true after good work from Edin Dzeko and David Silva to give Pellegrini’s team the lead.
Despite no little effort from the Blues, they lacked the spark and intensity they had shown on their last visit to City and that – combined with the home side being wise to their visitors’ tactics – meant there was only ever going to be one result after the Citizens had taken the lead. And so it proved, with Nasri’s goal in the 67th minute coming just minutes after being introduced to the match after a five-week injury layoff and giving the home side an unassailable 2-0 lead.
After the match Mourinho was – for him – magnanimous in defeat, admitting City were the better side. He then went on to say the referee was rubbish and that the second goal was offside… but then that’s Jose for you. Everton are up next in the Premier League, a crucial game – as if any aren’t at this stage of the season.