One of the big questions going into the titanic clash between Chelsea and Manchester City was if City manager Manuel Pellegrini was going to shake hands with Jose Mourinho. The Chilean was not in a cordial mood the last time these two sides met back in October and refused to shake Mourinho’s hand after Fernando Torres scored Chelsea’s winner on the last kick of the match.
This time around the pair would exchange pleasantries, but the story was much different on the pitch in a game that pitted second-place City against third-place Chelsea. The English media and fans on both sides dubbed this match a title decider, and it was a lively affair from the get-go. Both sides needed to win in order to keep pace with Premier League leaders Arsenal, and it was Chelsea who prevailed in the end with their 1-0 win snapping City’s 61-game streak of scoring at home.
City had the better of the opening play, as they usually do at the Etihad Stadium, and deployed their usual attacking style by putting pressure on the experienced Chelsea back line. In truth, City probably should have gone ahead when African Player of the Year Yaya Toure drove to the end line and delivered a perfect cross to David Silva, but the midfielder’s weaker right foot steered the ball wide of the far post.
Chelsea would eventually wake up and gain a foothold in the match, and the deadlock was finally broken in the 32nd minute when defender Branislav Ivanovic fired Chelsea into the lead with a wonderful left-footed strike from the top of the box. It was the Serbian defender’s second goal of the season, and it was one that really galvanized Chelsea, who almost scored again when Samuel Eto’o struck the post minutes before halftime.
With notable absences of Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, City lacked discipline, especially in the midfield where Martin Demichelis was filling in for the indispensable Fernandinho. The Brazilian’s absence was sorely missed, and City could not find a way past the rock solid Chelsea defense.
The second half was more of the same for City, striving for an equalizer while Chelsea was more than happy to soak up the pressure and attack on the break. But Mourinho’s men were no slouches themselves and probably felt like they could have had more, considering they hit the post three times.
It was an uncharacteristically poor showing by City, who had won 11 out of 11 games at home prior to today’s match. In this ultra competitive season, Chelsea have done the double over title favorites City, and the gap between first and third is down to only two points. Mourinho stressed in his postgame interview that Chelsea were not favorites for this year’s title, but with performances like that the Blues are poised to go all the way.