Make no mistake, although City defeated Chelsea twice last season, Saturday’s victory holds deeper resonance. Following both fixtures last season, there was an overriding feeling that Chelsea had been extremely culpable in City’s victories. Chelsea had been architects of their own downfall. At the City of Manchester Stadium, the usually reliable Frank Lampard contrived to miss a penalty, thwarted by Shay Given, to seal the points for City.
Likewise in the corresponding clash at Stamford Bridge, moments of irresponsibility and downright ineptitude handed City the points in a match every bit as memorable for Wayne Bridge’s decision not to shake hands with John Terry as it was for Chelsea’s capitulation. Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack were sent off for Chelsea, handing rampant City the initiative. Coming on February 27 2010, Chelsea were at that point far from finding their air of invincibility with which they ended last season and had, preceding the City defeat, carried so confidently into this. Saturday was different.
This was different, perhaps pivotal, because Chelsea refused to be defeated. True, they may have lacked the exhilarating ability to carve through the opposition at will as had characterised their season so far, but for this we have to credit City. Whereas last season Chelsea afforded City the right to play, this time they had to earn it. It was, to use an often misguided football clich