Jose Mourinho’s visitors from Stamford Bridge claimed three huge points Monday, dealing a big blow to hosts Manchester City in a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.
Chelsea’s victory leaves Mourinho’s men level with City in second place, two points behind Arsenal.
City had won all 11 previous Premier League matches at the Etihad this year and had scored in 61 consecutive matches at their ground. Mourinho’s Blues were the first team to blank Manchester City at home since Birmingham City did so in 2010.
Mourinho may have felt some pressure to attack following last week’s disparaging comments about overly defensive, “19th century” soccer. Whatever the reason, Chelsea players did impose themselves, making for a terrific evening with chances arriving plentifully on either side.
Most of the early momentum was City’s, with Yaya Toure commanding the midfield and driving his side. Toure came close twice in the first 15 minutes, once from point blank range as he just failed to find Aleksandar Kolarov’s whipped cross at the far post and once missing just high from 20 yards.
Two minutes after firing high, Toure used his strength in brilliantly setting up David Silva in front of goal only to see the Spanish attacker push his tricky shot from five yards just wide.
But City’s defense looked atypically chaotic, and Manuel Pellegrini’s side paid a big price when Branislav Ivanovic cracked a wonderful half-volley past goalkeeper Joe Hart from 20 yards. That came just past the half hour mark.
Chelsea kept pressing as Eden Hazard, fabulous all afternoon, dribbled in to arrange for Samuel Eto’o, who pinged one off the far post just before the break. Nemanja Matic tore into one after the break that beat Hart but banged off the post, and Gary Cahill later hit the bottom of the post on the header as City just could not solve its defensive issues.
City got something going here and there, but Matic and David Luiz, deployed as the holding pair in Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1, were beasts in their screening roles as Mourinho’s tactics proved picture perfect.
Manchester City – Hart; Kolarov, Nastasic, Kompany, Zabaleta; Silva, Demichelis, Toure, Navas; Dzeko, Negredo (Jovetic 57).
Chelsea – Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic; Matic, Luiz; Hazard (Ba 93), Willian (Mikel 91), Ramires; Eto’o (Oscar 82).
Goal: Ivanovic 32