Chelsea’s lead was sliced to just two points this Saturday, courtesy of a Shay Given penalty save in the latter stages. Chelsea slumped to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City and literally to the hands of the City goalkeeper. Chasers Manchester United thumped struggling West Ham earlier in the day to apply pressure to the Blues and it was their arch rivals who sealed a successful day in the Red Devil dressing room. Arsenal also clawed back fingertips on the top spot, as their win creates an opportunity for them to move within five points due to a game in hand.
Unable to complete the Manchester double (wins over United and City in the first half of the campaign,) manager Carlo Ancelotti refused to deem the defeat a dent in their title credentials. The disciplined Italian claimed his side were unfortunate to catch the Citizens on such a powerful performance. The blue of Manchester had their own wrongs to right after a succession of seven draws, made even more detrimental by the number of times they failed to capitalise on a lead. With a record of eight wins in the last eight meetings between the two sides (in the favour of Chelsea,) it can be said the visitors were the strong favourites. Just two years ago in the reverse fixture Chelsea were triumphant in a 6-0 demolition, however not one City player was on show from this team at the weekend. As both these big money spenders often switch the players in search of the perfect match winning recipe, it is never certain who will take all the points. With two teams holding players of considerable merit, there are always match winners ready to steal the tie.
Out to prove a point, Mark Hughes’ men made amends with their poor form by striking powerfully against the Londoners, despite falling a goal behind in the opening minutes. Ivanovic’s shot cannoned off the City blockade and gracefully at the feet of Nicolas Anelka, who generated substantial power, enough to see it bounce back of Emmanuel Adebayor and into the Manchester goal. The Chelsea goalscorer then caused havoc at the right end, sending in a simple finish after a corner was only partially cleared by the Chelsea captain, John Terry. Carlos Tevez then put the home side ahead with a well taken free kick around the Chelsea wall and subsequently wrong footing Petr Cech on its travels. With just eight minutes remaining, a surging Didier Drogba run was abruptly brought to a halt as Nedum Onouha clattered into the Ivorian inside the City box. With no valid complaints Howard Webb awarded the penalty; Manchester City hearts sank fearing an eighth successive draw would potentially end their season. The usually assured spot kick finisher Lampard was however snuffed out by a cunning Given. Evidence of research was clear as the Irish keeper was half way across his goal when the penalty was taken, well in the knowledge that every penalty this season and over 70% of his career penalties had been struck to the bottom right (goalkeeper’s right). It may be said that both Lampard and Jermaine Defoe were practicing the England way to take penalties just a day after the draw was announced. Defoe in particular will find little comfort in his penalty save arriving from an American keeper.
Chelsea’s away day blues may well have been suspect again, now finding themselves on the backlash of defeats to Wigan, Aston Villa, Man City and Blackburn (cup). However after a run of four away games, Chelsea can now look forth to a home Champions League tie in mid week where having already topped the group pressure is largely subdued. The arrival of West Ham at the weekend will see penalty culprit Lampard face his former club, alongside Joe Cole who will look to return after being omitted against Man City. Terry and Ricardo Carvalho both suffered knocks at City, but should return for the clash with the Hammers subject to rests in mid week. Both players were amongst six Blue defenders booked at the weekend, showing the pressure the City onslaught provided. Ancelotti’s men will look to re-group and bounce back with force as they have so often done after away defeats this season. Sorry West Ham, it doesn’t seem like much sympathy will be thrown your way after the 4-0 thumping to United. Chelsea will be sure to employ one-upmanship.