Citizens left feeling blue
Manchester City squander their lead against Chelsea and allow Antonio Conte’s men to stage a decisive response
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.
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