Meireles 33, Lampard pen 82 – Balotelli 2
Clichy sent off 58
Chelsea opened up the race for the Barclays Premier League title by inflicting the first defeat of the season on Manchester City in an absorbing game at Stamford Bridge. The Blues recovered form a horrific start to dominate the game and earn a deserved win which keeps their faint title hopes alive.
The two sides lined up in identical 4-3-3 formations. Andre Villas -oas once again left out Frank Lampard from his starting line-up, preferring Ramires, Oriol Romeu and Raul Meireles as his midfield three. Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata flanked Didier Drogba in attack, with Fernando Torres on the bench.
For City it was Mario Balotelli who was preferred to Edin Dzeko to spearhead the league leaders attack, with David Silva and Sergio Aguerro in their usual supporting roles. James Milner came into the side alongside Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry in midfield.
City started in scintillating fashion, picking Chelsea apart in the second minute to take the lead. Aguero produced a delightful turn on the halfway line before sliding the ball between Chelsea’s central defenders for Balotelli, The mercurial Italian rode a challenge from John Terry to round Petr Cech and stroke the ball into the net.
All the talk before the game was about Chelsea’s defensive positioning, with their resurgence over the last two weeks put down to their decision to have a deeper starting position in defensive areas. In the opening moments that seemed to have been cast aside as City picked them apart. The visitors pressed hard in the midfield area, before passing the ball quickly in behind the Chelsea back four.
The opening 20 minutes saw City totally dominate, and were denied a penalty when referee Mark Clattenburg adjudged that there was no fouls when Jose Bosingwa appeared to catch David Silva in the penalty area on 15 minutes.
That let off seemed to bolster Chelsea, and along with the decision to drop into deeper defensive positions, making City’s task of passing through them much more difficult, brought them back into the game. In the 33rd minute they were level, Sturridge speeding past Gael Clichy to the byeline, before dragging the ball back to the edge of the six yard box for Meireles to volley home.
The second half saw Chelsea take a stranglehold on the game, dominating possession and territory. Their hand was strengthened on the hour with the dismissal of Clichy for a second yellow card as he brought down a rampaging Ramires. The home side though were finding it difficult to turn their possession into chances, but made the breakthrough with eight minutes remaining.
Sturridge received the ball inside the box and his powerful effort struck Joleon Lescott on the arm , Clattenburg having no doubts about pointing to the spot. The script was written for Lampard, who had recently entered the fray, to smash home the penalty to hand Chelsea the victory and leave City just two points clear of Manchester United at the top of the league, with a clash against Arsenal next up for the leaders.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Boswinga, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Romeu, Meireles (Lampard 73); Sturridge (Mikkel 88), Mata (Malouda 84), Drogba
Manchester City (4-3-3): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott (Dzeko 85), Clichy; Milner, Yaya Toure, Barry; Silva (De Jong 75), Aguero (Kolo Toure 64), Balotelli
Did you know…Andre Villas-Boas is the only manager to have used his three available substitutions in every Premier League game this season.