Cit­i­zens left feel­ing blue

Manch­ester City squan­der their lead against Chelsea and al­low An­to­nio Conte’s men to stage a de­ci­sive re­sponse

CityPress - - Soccer Special -

An­to­nio Conte’s Chelsea main­tained their po­si­tion at the sum­mit of the English Premier League stand­ings af­ter ral­ly­ing from be­hind to record a 3-1 vic­tory over Manch­ester City, who were re­duced to nine men in sec­ond-half in­jury time.

Af­ter a cagey open­ing to the highly an­tic­i­pated en­counter, the match sprang to life in the sixth minute af­ter Eden Hazard played a neat one-two with Diego Costa be­fore see­ing his driven ef­fort blocked by the Cit­i­zens’ de­fen­sive line.

Just one minute later, City saw their vo­cif­er­ous penalty ap­peals waved away by ref­eree An­thony Taylor af­ter the ball struck the arm of Chelsea de­fender Gary Cahill. How­ever, tele­vi­sion re­plays seemed to in­di­cate that Cahill did not de­lib­er­ately han­dle the ball.

Chelsea went ag­o­nis­ingly close to grab­bing the lead just mo­ments later, af­ter John Stones was caught dal­ly­ing on the ball in­side his own penalty area. The hosts were let off the hook, though, as Pe­dro failed to find the mark af­ter be­ing teed up by Costa.

And the Lon­don­ers fash­ioned an­other great chance on 15 min­utes, al­though Hazard smashed a volleyed ef­fort just wide of Clau­dio Bravo’s left-hand post, be­fore the Bel­gian forced a fin­ger­tip save from com­pa­triot Thibaut Cour­tois on the 20-minute mark.

Hazard was caus­ing the City defence all sorts of prob­lems, and looked odds on to break the dead­lock af­ter round­ing the on­rush­ing Bravo. How­ever, he elected not to shoot from the left side of the box, and his at­tempted pass was in­ter­cepted in the cen­tre of the box.

Manch­ester City man­aged to weather the storm, though, and cre­ated a hand­ful of good op­por­tu­ni­ties as the first half wore on.

Ser­gio Agüero was de­nied by César Azpilicueta’s last-ditch tackle, be­fore nod­ding wide from Kevin de Bruyne’s invit­ing cross two min­utes from half-time.

And, just when it seemed the open­ing 45 min­utes would end goal­less, City claimed the lead un­der some­what for­tu­itous cir­cum­stances. Jesús Navas fired in a strong cross from the right-hand flank, and Cahill sliced the ball over Cour­tois and into the top left corner.

There was more ac­tion to come af­ter the break, al­though it was the Blues who would show a killer touch in front of goal.

De Bruyne and Agüero were both de­nied by Cour­tois in the space of five fran­tic min­utes, while at the op­po­site end of the pitch, Costa fired into the side net­ting af­ter shrug­ging off a chal­lenge on the right-hand side of the box.

City then had a glo­ri­ous op­por­tu­nity to put the game to bed in the 56th minute, but De Bruyne in­ex­pli­ca­bly clat­tered the cross­bar from just three yards out af­ter be­ing teed up by Navas.

And the Cit­i­zens were made to rue that missed chance as Costa latched onto a su­perb pass from Cesc Fàbre­gas be­fore smash­ing a pow­er­ful ef­fort past Bravo and into the back of the net.

The equaliser gave the Blues a vis­i­ble lift and they con­tin­ued to press for­ward as they went in search of the win­ning goal. And the come­back was com­pleted in the 70th minute as Wil­lian latched on to a through pass from Costa, be­fore rac­ing clear of the defence and plac­ing a low shot in the left corner.

City boss Pep Guardi­ola brought on Yaya Touré with 15 min­utes re­main­ing in a bid to turn things around, but the Ivo­rian’s in­tro­duc­tion did lit­tle to al­ter the course of the game.

In their quest to net a late equaliser, City left them­selves ex­posed to the counter-at­tack, and Chelsea took full ad­van­tage. Mar­cos Alonso found the im­pres­sive Hazard with a pin­point pass, and the for­ward raced through on goal be­fore slot­ting home from the left-hand side of the box.

And, to add in­sult to in­jury, the Cit­i­zens were re­duced to nine men in the sixth minute of in­jury time, fol­low­ing Agüero’s studs-up chal­lenge on David Luiz. Agüero was shown a straight red card for his clumsy chal­lenge, with Fer­nand­inho also re­ceiv­ing his march­ing or­ders af­ter grab­bing Fabregas in a choke­hold.

PHOTO: REUTERS / PHIL NO­BLE LIVEPIC

HEAD TO HEAD Chelsea’s Nathaniel Chalobah jumps into ac­tion with Manch­ester City’s Fer­nand­inho at Eti­had Sta­dium in Manch­ester, England. City opened the scor­ing but failed to hold on to their lead

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