When it rains… it pours
Man City 2 – 1 Chelsea
Ok. What went wrong for Chelsea? 2 things. The first being that they just did not want it as much as City. The commitment in the middle of both De Jong and Barry totally crippled any ‘diamond’ system that was supposed to have been there from Ancelotti’s side. Chelsea’s first goal only seemed to provide the catalyst for City’s midfield to chase more, tackle more and want it more.
The second reason reason was Chelsea’s petulance. There was too much of it all over the park. Carvalho – who was rightly subbed off before he got himself sent off – was the guiltiest of the lot, needlessly kicking out at Tevez which resulted in the free kick from which the same man offended, duly tucked away the winner into the bottom corner. This, perhaps ironically.
City’s performance signalled their intention that they have big ambitions in qualifying for the Champions League next season with a display that showed skill, commitment and determination. I would be sitting a little bit more uncomfortable right now if I were a Liverpool fan.
The star of the show probably would have to be Given. He will automatically be man of the match based on his penalty save. But had he not made the save, he was very much in the running for that accolade anyway, running a very close second to De Jong. His early save from Drogba after a wonderful cut back from Deco was quickly backed up with reaction saves from both Ivanovich and Anelka. It was only the ricochet from Adebayor that beat him.
There were other heroes for Man City today. Micah Richards did well to thwart the threat down the left and in doing so, left De Jong and Barry in the middle to gang up on Essien, which they did with great effect. His unfortunate injury to his troublesome knee hopefully is not serious.
Hughes’ tactics were spot on. He figured that Chelsea would start with Essien as the sole central midfielder with Lampard and Ballack drifting slightly off centre to the right and left, respectively. Essien is a tough, tough midfielder – but De Jong is no fairy himself. He shied away from nothing and set the tempo with some no-nonsense 50-50 victories in the middle. He was also well backed up by those around him, in particular, Adebayor and Robinho – both of whom mucked in with their fair share of tracking back. It was only the when the injury to Bridge and some additional muscle arrived in the form Mikel, did the coveted diamond midfield started to shine.
This was not a good afternoon for Ashley Cole as he had a terrible time at left back. He can be forgiven for having an off day based on the season he has had, but these are the games that you expect the top players to rise to. City were up for it. The had their tails up and needed no motivation to get about Chelsea. By my count, Cole had slipped no fewer than eight passes straight to the wrong type of blue shirt. Not that he was the only one. Essien joined in with this new found fashion and even pumped a free kick straight along the ground to a City player.
Anelka was wasteful on a number of occasions. Either opting to shoot from a ridiculous angle with Blue shirts piling into the box. Or, not producing enough venom when having the opportunity to do so.
It could be argued that the conditions were not good for goalkeepers and Cech certainly gave the Chelsea fans a scare when he raced off his line to meet a cross – only get nowhere near it. Richard’s header, although going wide, was acrobatically headed away by Carvalho.
Drogba was his fearless self. He showed exceptional skill in controlling the ball in the box that led to the penalty and again to send him through for a strike that he put wide with minutes remaining.
For City this is a huge morale boosting win. Their vociferous support in my opinion resulted in the nerves that Frank Lampard showed in his penalty preparations. It is now Arsenal and Chelsea that have left licking their wounds.
For Chelsea they must turn to the positives – Deco showed – not for the first time this season – that he is injury free and getting into a rhythm. Maybe the return of Joe Cole has prompted Deco to up his game a notch. And although was a full hearted display from City, their dominance did not result in too many clear cut attempts. It could be argued that the free kick from which the equaliser was scored from was incorrectly awarded against Chelsea. It could also be argued that Micah Richards may have used a little more arm than what is permitted when the ball fell fortuitously to Adebayor.
For all of City’s industry, Chelsea missed both a penalty and a great chance from Drogba at the end to snatch a point.
No need to panic from Ancelotti’s team. Still clear at the top with a favourable run of games coming up…