Roar of ap­proval: Kevin De Bruyne cel­e­brates scor­ing the win­ning goal for Manch­ester City.

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Sam Wal­lace

There are mis­takes in the his­tory of cer­tain clubs and then there is Chelsea’s dis­as­trous de­ci­sion to sell Kevin De Bruyne, among the few play­ers in the world who can determine the out­come of a game with a mo­ment of bril­liance, and a man who seems des­tined to haunt them over and again.

De Bruyne was the match-win­ner for Manch­ester City in this peak of the Pre­mier League show­down, a col­li­sion be­tween two of the best teams in the com­pe­ti­tion al­though, on this day, it was only re­ally the vis­i­tors who showed up. They de­served their vic­tory, dom­i­nat­ing the game up un­til the mo­ment that De Bruyne slammed a left-foot shot past Thibaut Cour­tois to win the game for a City side who had come for­ward re­lent­lessly for most of the match.

The Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional was the pick of a fine City team and in the fleet­ing mo­ments in which he took a re­turn pass from Gabriel Je­sus and ad­vanced into a pocket of space on the edge of the Chelsea area, the out­come seemed in­evitable. City fi­nally had their big gun in range of the tar­get and the level at which De Bruyne has now reached means that he rarely misses.

Pep Guardi­ola’s team sit top of the league, a goal bet­ter off than Manch­ester United who also have 19 points, and have now seen off Chelsea in one of the most de­mand­ing fix­tures of the season, even with­out the re­cently in­jured Ser­gio Aguero. Their man­ager was buoy- ant after­wards, cheer­fully dis­cussing ev­ery­thing from Fabian Delph’s re­nais­sance to the Cata­lan in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, for­ever “so, so happy” but now with much greater jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.

City are play­ing ac­cord­ing to the Guardi­ola mas­ter­plan, a team who in­sist on press­ing their op­po­nents high up the pitch and, ac­cord­ing to their man­ager, set­ting out their stall from the first mo­ment that, in his words, “these guys have come here to win”.

He promised to pros­e­cute the same ap­proach at Old Traf­ford, White Hart Lane and the Emi­rates with the con­fi­dence now high in the play­ers that this can work for them. In Guardi­ola’s words it is “sui­cide by stupid guys” to play high up the pitch with­out press­ing the ball, and he had the play­ers will­ing to do it in his hard-run­ning front three. To then go on to win you need foot­ballers as gifted as De Bruyne and David Silva, but then credit also goes to the un­flinch­ing Fer­nand­inho in mid­field and Delph, who had a very good game at left-back.

By con­trast Chelsea were a dis­ap­point­ment, espe­cially their own match­win­ner-in-chief Eden Hazard, start­ing his first league game of the season but sub­sti­tuted be­fore the end.

His re­place­ment, Pe­dro, im­me­di­ately looked a more vibrant option and there was a much bet­ter last 20 min­utes for the home side, with City fi­nally de­nied the right to run the show.

Chelsea lost Al­varo Mo­rata to in­jury with just 34 min­utes on the clock, the striker who had six goals in six league games re­port­ing a ham­string prob­lem that he did not wish to make worse. He was re­placed by Wil­lian, who formed a part­ner­ship with Hazard that made few in­roads and only at the end, when Conte switched to 3-4-3 did Chelsea push their vis­i­tors back. They might have pinched an equaliser but they cer­tainly would not have de­served one.

It is hard not to ask afresh the ques­tion as to how De Bruyne, now ar­guably the league’s pre-em­i­nent foot­baller, and cer­tainly its best mid­fielder on cur­rent form, was fi­nally al­lowed to leave Stam­ford Bridge in Au­gust 2014 for a mere £18mil­lion.

That was a dif­fer­ent Chelsea man­ager who was hav­ing dif­fer­ent ar­gu­ments over dif­fer­ent play­ers, but it is a de­ci­sion that con­tin­ues to cost Chelsea. Conte sidestepped that par­tic­u­lar thicket of thorns, instead pre­fer­ring just to say that he thought his play­ers had given their very best, al­though if that is their best then it will not be enough to en­sure they re­tain the ti­tle.

It was hard to think of a sin­gle ma­jor chance they cre­ated when they were in need of the equaliser and the sys­tem that reaped such re­wards last season was strangely in­ef­fec­tive with Vic­tor Moses on the bench. Conte ad­justed his usual 3-4-3 for­ma­tion to ac­com­mo­date a five-man mid­field in which Cesc Fabre­gas, Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante all fea­tured, yet they seemed just to fall ever deeper in face of the on­slaught. By the end of the first half they had made just over a third of the passes that City had, and gen­er­ally looked like an away team trying to counter-at­tack.

There were a cou­ple of mo­ments when Hazard slowed to a stand­still and hov­ered a foot over the ball, promis­ing a de­fence-split­ting dash for­ward, but he never quite de­liv­ered. Be­fore he was re­placed, he only re­ally had a sight of goal after the hour when a free-kick he had won was clipped left to him and he hit a shot from a dif­fi­cult an­gle that Eder­son blocked.

At the other end, Mar­cos Alonso, one of Chelsea’s bet­ter per­form­ers, got a block on a David Silva shot be­fore City scored a minute later. The move, start­ing with Ni­co­las Ota­mendi and going from De Bruyne to Je­sus and back again, be­fore the Bel­gian set the crosshairs and swept the ball past Cour­tois.

City should have had an­other with six min­utes left when Je­sus caught the ball true on the left side of the area and An­to­nio Rudi­ger set his neck mus­cles in time to head the shot out of the goal­mouth. Al­though Chelsea raised their game at the end it was hard to think of a sin­gle chance that was cre­ated other than an An­dreas Chris­tensen header over the bar late on when it was at last City’s turn to dig in and keep their shape.

On the touch­line, as the pres­sure in­creased in the clos­ing stages, Guardi­ola de­manded even that his play­ers chest Chelsea’s crosses into the area rather than head them away and in­vite more pres­sure. Yet right to the end they re­mained stead­fast in their be­lief that the ball must be passed and not lumped out of de­fence. The City man­ager is not eas­ily pleased and his mood after­wards sug­gested that this team are close to the side he has al­ways en­vis­aged.

Match-win­ner: Kevin de Bruyne scores the only goal of the game for Manch­ester City at Stam­ford Bridge yes­ter­day

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