Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Super Bran: Ivanovic celebrates giving Chelsea the lead in the first half

Chelsea ended Manchester City Cinderella run as Branislav Ivanovic lone goal ensured that Jose Mourinho's men ended their opponent's  Premier League home run with a 1-0 victory.

Mourinho masterminded a narrow success that drew his Blues side level with City on 53 points - two behind leaders Arsenal - with 14 games left to play, throwing the title chase open.

Manchester City had won their previous 11 league fixtures at the Etihad this season and had scored at least in their last 61, stretching back to November 2010 - but their fortress was raided by their title rivals on the night.

Winding runs: Hazard was a threat for Chelsea all evening
For Mourinho it was a personal triumph. He outwitted Manuel  Pellegrini, showing that a team can be solid defensively while still  possessing a mighty attacking threat.

Chelsea had the best and clearest chances, City comparatively few until the final 15 minutes. 

David Silva came close, twice, one near miss, one fine Petr Cech save, but by then Chelsea could have been comfortable.
Close, but not close enough: David Silva sees his effort go agonisingly wide

Potentially three up before half-time, Chelsea hit the woodwork twice in the second half, once from a long-range shot from man-of-the-match Nemanja Matic that grazed the bar, then from a Gary Cahill header that struck a post, full-on.

City were without midfielder Fernandinho. The Brazilian was forced out injured, meaning Martin Demichelis moved into midfield and Matija Nastasic returned in defence. Alvaro Negredo was restored up front for the injured Sergio Aguero.

Chelsea left playmaker Oscar on the bench as they adopted a more defensive approach, with David Luiz and Matic replacing him and John Obi Mikel.

The announcement of Chelsea’s team saw much crowing about Mourinho parking the bus, but it wasn’t like that at all. 

The Chelsea manager had picked players to thwart Manchester City in midfield where they do most damage but he also packed his starting XI with enough pace to trouble Manuel  Pellegrini’s team on the break, which is exactly what they did.
Eyes wide shut: Manchester City's Edin Dzeko and Chelsea's Nemanja Matic fight for the ball

Mourinho knew City would see plenty of the ball at home and  prepared for that. But he also knew there remains defensive vulnerability in this team, and planned for that, too. 

That City should lose their prime defensive midfielder Fernandinho to injury was just a lucky break. That happens.

So in a first half when Manchester City enjoyed the lion’s share of  possession, much of it around  Chelsea’s penalty area, the visitors scored the only goal, had the best chance and hit the bar. 
Pick that one out: Ivanovic fires home from the edge of the box to give Chelsea the lead

All on the counter-attack, obviously, but nothing wrong with that. Some of the greatest teams in history have played on the counter and those coached by Mourinho are invariably masters of the art.

By playing so impressively on the counter-attack, Chelsea demonstrated that City are beatable, that this defence creaks like so many others, and that too many teams have passed this way too accepting of their fate. 
Park the bus? Not me: Mourinho looks happy with his team's effort as Manuel Pellegrini shouts orders

It was also a battle won with Pellegrini, the man he succeeded at Real Madrid as the pair have now met on 10 occasion with Mourinho wining eight, with one draw.

What a night of football!

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