Following the tight, tense and at times one-dimensional clash between Chelsea and Manchester City which ended in a draw, we saw glimpses of why both teams could lift the Premier League title this campaign.
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We also saw why each team could throw their title chances away.
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Both teams battled hard and we learned a lot about the squad depth of each side, with City edging a close encounter as key players we missing for both teams.
Here’s three things we learned from a nervy evening at Stamford Bridge.
TOURE, FABREGAS MISSED
At times the game was one-dimensional. Plenty of sideways passes and balls down the line were followed by uninventive crosses which were cut out by two experienced defenses. It was in midfield where the teams cancelled each other out most. Fernando and Fernandinho sat side-by-side, as did Nemanja Matic and Ramires as neither team could penetrate centrally. Oscar and David Silva both struggled to get on the ball in the crowded engine room and the clever passing and powerful running of Yaya Toure and Cesc Fabregas was missed by Manchester City and Chelsea respectively. With Toure at the African Cup of Nation and Fabregas injured, you get the sense a key battle in this titanic clash between the two title contenders was missing. Chelsea certainly missed the leading assist leader (15) in the PL as the Blues looked lackluster in attack (see the stat from our friends at Opta below) without their chief creator and the suspended Diego Costa to finish chances off. All in all, there was plenty of foreplay but not enough action.
LAMPARD’S LEGEND REMAINS
As he hopped off the bench for the final 15 minutes, Frank Lampard received a hero’s welcome in what is likely to be his last-ever game at Stamford Bridge. It was a fitting tribute that many were unsure he would get. The all-time leading goal-scoring for Chelsea left the Blues last summer after a contract dispute and ended up at Man City following his signing with New York City FC. His arrival at NYCFC’s sister club was awkward for Lamps, and it got even more acrimonious when he equalized late on against Chelsea in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium in September. There were no similar heroics this time around, but Lampard’s legend in west London remains intact despite small sections of the crowd opposing his move to one of Chelsea’s main rivals for the title.
“Super Frankie Lampard” was treated to a welcome that a player who was the leading light in Chelsea’s most successful period deserved. His association with Chelsea will continue somewhere down the road, and he will always be a hero at Stamford Bridge. The title race aside, it was refreshing to see Chelsea’s fans give one of the greatest players to ever play for them a fitting finale.
REMY’S PATIENCE PAYS OFF
Time seemed to stand still as Eden Hazard dished up a perfect cross to the back post in the 41st minute. Remy, only in Chelsea’s lineup for this huge clash due to Costa’s suspension, took his time and slotted home a composed finish to put the Blues ahead. The Frenchman is around for moments like these. Remy knows he will not start regularly but when needed off the bench or to step in when others are missing, he must make an impact. Five goals in 19 games this season is a decent return for a 28-year-old who is called on sparingly. He has had to be patient. But that patience paid off to grab Chelsea a point when for large periods they were second best against City.
Remy can sleep easy as he’s done his job, but the fact that Jose Mourinho’s men failed to have a single shot on target after Remy’s 41st minute goal told the story. Without Costa, and Fabregas, the Blues missed their cutting edge and were a little lucky to get away without losing to Man City and having the title race blow wide-open. For now, the Blues of west London are still the title favorties. But there’s enough doubt in Chelsea’s credentials to keep City well and truly in the hunt.