MANCHESTER — What. A. Game. Manchester City beat Chelsea 3-0 on Sunday at a raucous Etihad Stadium.
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And, in all honesty, it could have been more for the Citizens as their stars dazzled and blew a lackluster Chelsea away. Jose Mourinho’s side hung in there, but this will be a week to forget for the Portuguese boss after the now infamous medic-gate.
[ MORE: Mourinho says result was “fake” ]
Here are three things we learned from a feisty encounter at the Etihad Stadium between two title contenders.
AGUERO, AND CITY’S, CLASS DAZZLES
Among the home fans at the Etihad, there is an air of expectancy every time Sergio Aguero picks up the ball. After winning the Premier League’s golden boot last season, you can understand why. Last year the Argentine scored 26 times in 33 games and in his first start of the new season he could have had five goals in the first half. He had to settle for one. His personal duel with Chelsea’s N0. 2 goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (more on that below) was epic and Aguero looked to be coming out second best. However, in the 31st minute a moment of individual magic helped settle the match as Aguero controlled the ball in the box with Gary Cahill, John Terry and Nemanja Matic in close pursuit. He flicked the ball past Cahill delicately and rolled the ball home into the bottom corner and off the post in front of the newly renovated South Stand. The Etihad erupted to yet another moment of class from the tiny Argentine striker.
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Other notable performers for City were Eliaquim Mangala who stood up to a fired-up Diego Costa and should have scored with a glancing header in the first half. Plus David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure were all full of running and caused Chelsea’s defense endless problems. Fernandinho was brilliant in roughing up Chelsea’s attackers and added a fine third goal to seal the win. Earlier this week, Vincent Kompany said City “have a point to prove” this season. Kompany headed home City’s second for his second in as many games this season and with two wins from two and two impressive performances under their belt, City’s stars are well on their way to proving that form is temporary but class is permanent. They are now the favorites to win the PL title this season. No doubt.
CHELSEA’S PROBLEMS GROW
In a week where Jose Mourinho had been hung, drawn and quartered by the world’s media for publicly criticizing and then demoting two members of his medical team, Chelsea’s problems worsened after a lackluster display at the Etihad saw them lose a game in August for the first time since 2006 and this damaging defeat equaled Mourinho’s worst-ever loss in charge of the Blues. Chelsea looked sluggish in midfield as Silva, Sterling and Toure ran rings around them, and they failed to find their rhythm in a rambunctious encounter.
A Man City fan dressed up as a doctor (see, above) sat next to Chelsea’s bench, as Mourinho was routinely booed by the home fans for his treatment of Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn after deciding they were not worthy of a place on his bench. At half time his captain John Terry was sat on the bench, as the 34-year-old center back felt his hamstring and was replaced by Kurt Zouma. Despite their defensive collapse, but the reigning Premier League champions were most disappointing in midfield as Ramires, Hazard and Willian floated around without purpose and Nemanja Matic raced around like the Tasmanian Devil trying to put out fires in the engine room. His usual partner in crime, Cesc Fabregas, was nowhere to be seen and this display reeked of a man low in confidence and unable to live with the cut and thrust of his powerful opponents.
Diego Costa’s struggles epitomized Chelsea’s afternoon. The Spanish international was booed by the home fans throughout, got in multiple battles with most of City’s team and on the stroke of half time he was clocked in the head by Fernandinho’s elbow. It was a nasty blow which required a bandage and lengthy treatment. As the teams went down the tunnel for half time soon after, the Brazilian-born forward went after his countryman Fernandinho and had to be held back by several of Chelsea’s players and staff. Costa set up Hazard for Chelsea’s best chance of the game, but the Belgian squandered it, shooting straight at Hart from 12-yards out and in stoppage time Costa hit the post. That summed Chelsea’s day up. For Mourinho, the pantomime atmosphere surrounding his demotion of two medics was complete when first Cahill needed treatment with an apparent broken nose and then Costa went down moments later with that nasty head injury. City’s medical staff rushed on to help Costa as the two young medics Mourinho had promoted to replace Carneiro and Fearn were still dealing with Cahill.
Chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning!” to the Chelsea medics from City’s fans and “Eva! Eva!” told Mourinho all he had to know about the public consensus regarding his decision to throw the duo under the bus. Chelsea is far from unraveling, but the situation certainly isn’t pretty for the reigning champs right now.
BEGOVIC MAKES HIS CLAIM
Before the game there was plenty of talk if Asmir Begovic could live up to the expectations placed on his shoulders in a huge early season matchup. Begovic, making his first competitive start for Chelsea with No. 1 goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois suspended due to a red card on the opening day, come out on top of an incredible personal duel with Aguero early on in the first half, stopping him three times inside the opening 15 minutes.
30 seconds in, Aguero raced through after a defense-splitting pass from Silva. One-on-one with Begovic, the entire stadium rose expecting to see the ball nestle into the net… but the Bosnian goalkeeper came flying out and saved low. Any pre-match jitters he would have had quickly dissipated. Then in the space of 60 seconds Begovic made two superb stops down low from Aguero, both after rasping snapshots from the PL’s leading goalscorer last season. After the latter save, Aguero walked up to Begovic and gave him a high five. Respect. A few stray kicks here and there and a little bit of mis-communication at times showed Begovic was still getting used to life at his new club, but his manager Jose Mourinho made a point of applauding him after his stunning double-save in quick succession to deny Aguero.
There were question marks surrounding why Begovic would leave a spot as a PL regular with Stoke City to be a clear No. 2 behind Courtois. Even though he will likely be demoted back to the bench next week against West Bromwich Albion, there will now be question marks around whether or not Begovic can seriously challenge Courtois as the starter. In a day to forget for Chelsea, Begovic’s performance was perhaps the one bright spot as he could do nothing on all three goals.