Home » EPL, Featured, Latest » Match Report: Man City 2 Chelsea 1

The noisy neighbours won’t go quietly. Just when it seemed that silence was descending on the Etihad, Manchester City fought back superbly. They kept running, kept believing and kept their title dream alive.

The noisy neighbours certainly left it late to raise the roof. With 12 minutes remaining, City still trailed to Gary Cahill’s deflected strike. Then Sergio Agüero, a figure of calm and confidence, took responsibility for a penalty and the comeback was on. These are the moments that can define campaigns.

City still knew that a point was not going to be enough, not with Manchester United’s more negotiable run-in and Sir Alex Ferguson’s side exuding their usual resilience. City’s fans certainly knew, exhorting the players to seize all the points. Two dropped points would have been deeply damaging for City’s title ambitions. The nerves would have jangled unbearably. The ghost of Devon Loch would have been summoned up into headlines to haunt them.

Criticism of Roberto Mancini would have bubbled up, pointlessly so as the City hierarchy remain fully behind him, and rightly so. Unfolding events on Wednesday night demonstrated how City continue to develop under Mancini’s stewardship.

City really went for it. They had to. This was kitchen-sink time. Carlos Tévez, on as a sub, inevitably played a part, rolling a perfect pass into the box for Samir Nasri, timing his run superbly, to lift the ball elegantly over the diving Petr Cech. The Etihad was in total ecstasy, barring the bemused Chelsea section.

City supporters hugged each other wildly. The fan who had wept at the Liberty Stadium defeat was probably in amongst the writhing throng, claiming that he had never doubted the team. Mancini danced a jig of delight in the technical area. The Italian’s pre-match prediction that “we will win the title’’ would have sounded excruciatingly hollow had City not prevailed. Not now. They are still in the race.

Suddenly, with one touch from Nasri, who delivered one of his best displays for City, the mood lifted. Suddenly the talk was of pushing to within a point of United, of setting a new Premier League record with a 20th home win on the spin. Suddenly, the ripple of boos that greeted Tévez on his return to the fray after six months faded. For all Tévez’s mistakes, he can make a difference. He did here. Suddenly, City look with greater relish at their remaining fixtures.

Mancini’s men now travel to Stoke before home games with Sunderland and West Brom either side of a tough-looking trip to a revitalised Arsenal. April away days at Norwich City and Wolves lurk before the seismic meeting with United at the Etihad. City finish the season with Newcastle away and Mark Hughes’s QPR at home.

If the race goes down to the final Sunday of the season, such a United icon and sacked City manager as Hughes will be fired up. The mischievous imps in the computer calendar must be chuckling at such a prospect.

The likelihood is the title will be settled by then. United boast a far more manageable run-in, including home games against Fulham, QPR, Aston Villa, Everton and Swansea with only Blackburn, Wigan, City and Sunderland away. More and more, that April 30 Etihad showdown looks the date of destiny.

This Etihad occasion had been poor for 45 minutes. The game was too congested in midfield, crying out for some flair. The attention was commanded by a Nasri shot on to the bar, a Mario Balotelli strike that Cech saved and some intelligent running from Fernando Torres. There was also an amusing verbal joust between the fans. When Chelsea supporters broke into “there’s only one team in Europe”, City fans hit back instantly with “you’re just the third team in London”.

With Spurs slowing up, Chelsea might fancy their chances of joining Arsenal in collecting Champions League positions behind the Manchester heavyweights. Their hopes rose even higher when Cahill scored on the hour. In the wake of a Chelsea corner, David Luiz challenged Gareth Barry. The ball rebounded to Cahill, whose shot deflected off Yaya Touré, wrong-footed Joe Hart and flew in, slightly apologetically.

As Cahill slid across the turf in celebration, Mancini was already plotting an attempted recovery. The footballer who had apparently been “treated like a dog’’ was now let off the leash, invited to run at Chelsea. Tévez came on to a mixed reception, two-thirds’ applause to one-third booing. Some City fans had clearly neither forgotten nor forgiven the Argentine for refusing to warm up in Munich six months ago. Chelsea fans certainly remembered. “That Carlos Tévez, he plays when he wants,’’ chanted the visitors.

Instead of making any further point about Tévez, City fans simply made a point about where their loyalties lay, loudly singing Mancini’s name. Chelsea’s contingent responded with songs of praise for Roberto Di Matteo and Eddie Newton. Briefly, Chelsea hinted at a second goal and only Hart’s strong hands kept out a Juan Mata drive. Big save.

City fought hard against the fading of their title light. Tévez was buzzing around, injecting some impetus, distracting Chelsea players, creating space for his City team-mates. He acted like an adrenalin shot on the City system. With 12 minutes remaining, City were level. When Pablo Zabaleta fired the ball goalwards, Michael Essien clearly handled and Mike Dean pointed unhesitatingly to the spot. Agüero also made no mistake, stroking the penalty past Cech.

The force was fully with City now. Nasri has rarely captured his Arsenal form but he twinkled with nimble threat here, taking his goal well, sealing a comeback that could cause concern in the United copyright department. And then came the final whistle, relief mingling with glee. The race continues.

Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Toure, Clichy, Silva (Dzeko 76), Toure Yaya, De Jong (Tevez 66), Nasri, Aguero, Balotelli (Barry 46). Subs: Pantilimon, Milner, Kolarov, Savic. Booked: Nasri. Goals: Aguero 78 pen, Nasri 85.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic (Bosingwa 21), Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Meireles (Essien 58), Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Torres (Drogba 73). Subs: Turnbull, Malouda, Kalou, Sturridge. Booked: Mata, Lampard. Goals: Cahill 60.

Att: 46,324
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Related Posts

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.