Manchester City brought the Blue’s rampant start to the new term screeching to a halt, with Carlos Tevez once again proving to be the bane of Chelsea’s title aspirations.
The Argentinean nuisance has now netted six times in his last five outings against the defending champions, and his 59th minute strike will have highlighted the rather human nature of the Stamford Bridge machine. Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues – kitted out in their garish black and orange away number – were met by a determined and tactically supreme City side, who became the first team to quell Chelsea’s potent attacking force this season.
The visiting team effectively picked itself with fit again John Terry returning to the back-four and Branislav Ivanovic getting the nod over Paulo Ferreira at full-back. Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda – who between them have racked up a remarkable 17 goals this campaign – led the line, but the trio were left worryingly short of service with Frank Lampard’s influence sorely missed.
Ramires continued to deputise for the crocked Lampard but it was his loss of possession deep in City’s half that led to Tevez breaking the deadlock. The Brazilian was turned down a blind alley after some good pressure from James Milner and Yaya Toure before the latter set Tevez on his way; running half the length of the pitch, and smashing a low shot in off Petr Cech’s post.
In truth, Ashley Cole was bypassed all too easily by City’s new captain, but the tactical mastery of Roberto Mancini’s mercenaries was the defining factor in Chelsea’s first league loss of the season. In an all Italian affair, Mancini threw down the gauntlet claiming that his old Serie A counterpart would canter to another Premier League crown this term. That claim though failed to stir the dour West London visitors and when the bewildered Drogba was replaced with 15 minutes still to play, Ancelotti appeared to concede defeat.
A severe lack of cut and thrust when in possession caused Chelsea to resort to speculative efforts and hopeful set pieces, whilst the introduction of former Eastlands prodigy Daniel Sturridge only seemed to fuel an already turbulent second half of football. Ancelotti, in hindsight, will rue his decision to remove Drogba from the action with so much time left to play and even though the Ivorian cut a frustrated figure up front, his replacement lacked the game-winning touch that Ancelotti desperately sought.
Chelsea’s first Premier League defeat of the season should act as a brutal wake up call to a side that have been caught believing their own hype. With so many games still left to play, it was absurd to suggest the Londoners would easily retain the title, and if Chelsea ever need a reminder of how significant victory over you closest rivals can be, they need only look at their margin of victory and results against the Big Four last campaign.
2 Ivanovic – 26 Terry – 33 Alex – 3 Cole
5 Essien – 12 Mikel – 7 Ramires
39 Anelka – 11 Drogba – 15 Malouda
68 – 18 Zhirkov on for 12 Mikel
75 – 23 Sturridge on for 11 Drogba
80 – 46 McEachran on for 7 Ramires