Three points on home soil was enough to lift Carlo Ancelotti’s resurgent Chelsea side above their weekend opponents Manchester City and into third spot in the Premier League. The pre-match build-up centred around two big-money strikers, with influential skipper Carlos Tevez, who has tormented Chelsea with six goals in his last five outings, failing a late fitness test for City and £50m Fernando Torres returning to the Chelsea starting line-up.
Roberto Mancini opted to deploy Edin Dzeko as a lone striker instead of bad boy Mario Balotelli but the Bosnian’s first touch often let him down, somewhat the story of his Premier League fortunes since arriving from Germany. Torres, who was contained for the vast majority of the opening 45 minutes, saw his first sight of goal blocked out by a lunging challenge from the combative Nigel de Jong, returning after a five game absence. However, despite a lively opening to the game, it was not bite that City were missing as they put in several excellent defensive challenges but lacked any real penetration going forward.
Ancelotti, looking to take more than a point away from the game, which is more than can be said for his Italian counterpart, replaced Malouda and the still goalless Torres with Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba. The ploy paid almost instant dividends as Drogba’s whipped free-kick picked out David Luiz who headed home his second vital Chelsea goal under some unconvincing marking. The again-impressive Luiz read the game well all afternoon, reacting quickly to danger with pace and assurance and also looking to burst forward with some brave attacking play.
Mancini, chasing the game late on, reacted by bringing on two precocious attacking talents of his own in the form of the volatile Balotelli and quick-footed Adam Johnson, however the game already looked to be slipping from City’s grasp and the two forward players saw little of the ball to make an impact on proceedings.
Lively Brazilian Ramires soon stole the ball off Balotelli with one of many good tackles and generally looked to have an endless reserve of energy all afternoon, his hard work finally being rewarded as he showed his samba roots by jinking past two players and stroking the ball home assertively to finish the tie off in stoppage time.
City did not look threatening in the final moments with the normally attack-minded full-backs Micah Richards and Kolarov refusing to look for the overlap and make things difficult for a comfortable Chelsea backline. As the game came to its close Chelsea, rather than retreating into their shell and defending their lead continued to press forward as Richards was forced to block to deny Ashley Cole, who conversely, certainly did not fear the overlap.
Chelsea will be more than happy with their days work as they dominated their wealthy rivals for much of the game and take three points against a side who have got the better of them in their three previous Premier League encounters.