Frank Lampard said before the season he didn’t want to play against Chelsea out of respect.
So much for respect.
The Chelsea legend came off the bench for his new club and scored with five minutes to go as 10-man Manchester City salvaged a point despite losing Pablo Zabaleta.
The game began slow, as both teams looked to feel the other out in a tactical chess match.
It got physical early and often, as a battle between Diego Costa and Vincent Kompany developed right off the bat, which the defender won throughout the first half to set the tone for the match.
The story of the first half was the physicality, which not only brought about the aforementioned bout, but also produced yellow cards galore. Pablo Zabaleta, Ramires, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, and Yaya Toure all picked up first-half cautions from referee Mike Dean for reckless and clumsy challenges.
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The best chances in the opening half hour were penalty shouts, as Yaya Toure possibly handled a free kick as the ball twisted towards the goal but it wasn’t enough for Mike Dean. Later, Costa brought down Edin Dzeko with a tackle reaching around his back, but again it wasn’t enough.
Neither attack had much life to it as both sides were clearly more concerned with defending. David Silva got the start ahead of Samir Nasri, but his set pieces were quite poor throughout the first half.
Ultimately the match reached the halftime break scoreless and begging for a goal to open things up.
Finally a shot on goal came close after the break, but it still failed to test the goalkeeper. Fernandinho came close with a rip to the top corner but it went just over. That began a good spell for Manchester City which saw Sergio Aguero finally test Thibaut Courtois but he parried and Dzeko couldn’t reach the rebound.
As City continued to attack and Chelsea continued to defend and pump the ball to Costa, the home side was the one to lose a man, which was coming since early in the first half. Zabaleta scythed down the Brazilian striker, and after a scuffle between the two, Mike Dean showed both men a yellow card which provided Zabaleta’s marching orders for his second.
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With the man advantage, Chelsea wasted no time using it to their advantage and moving from a defensive minded style to proving deadly on the counter. Costa sliced up City’s midfield, and he found Eden Hazard on the wing who delivered a brilliant ball across the box to Andre Shurrle waiting at the far post for the tap in with 20 minutes to go.
The manner in which Chelsea flipped the switch from defensive to attacking after the sending off gave the appearance they were much more in control of the match, until Frank Lampard happened.
The 36-year-old came on the field with 12 minutes to go and wrote the story, because of course. A beautiful bit of build up which we hadn’t seen all match saw a long ball chipped over the Chelsea defense found James Milner on the edge of the box, and he touched across to Lampard who finished to the delight of the home crowd.
Chelsea would have gone five points clear at the top of the table, but instead they just grab one to put the Blues three ahead of Southampton. The point is even bigger for City, who would have found themselves seven points off the top with a loss, but they remain in the top seven with the salvage.
Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov (Lampard 78′); Milner, Fernandinho (Navas 73′), Toure, Silva; Aguero, Dzeko (Sagna 70′).
Goals: Lampard 85′
Discipline: Zabaleta (second yellow) 66′
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires (Schurrle 63′), Matic; Willian (Mikel 63′), Fabregas, Hazard; Diego Costa (Drogba 86′).
Goals: Schurrle 71′