Carlos Tevez went some way to making amends for his five months in exile as the Argentinean returned for Manchester City to help Roberto Mancini's men fight back from 1-0 down to claim a 2-1 win over Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.
In what looked destined to be a drab affair, Chelsea, on the back foot for much of the game, took a surprise lead through a deflected Gary Cahill shot after 65 minutes, only for City to equalise thanks to a Sergio Aguero penalty with 77 minutes on the clock.
With the game delicately poised and both teams going for glory Tevez came to the fore to tee up Samir Nasri, who slotted home the match winning goal to reduce the gap to Manchester United at the top of the table to just one point.
If Tevez’s inclusion on the substitutes bench added spice to an encounter that required no build up, no one had told the players on the pitch as both teams conspired to produce an insipid first half that saw neither Joe Hart nor Petr Cech called into serious action.
With Fernando Torres given the nod to start after his brace against Leicester the Spaniard was looking to break his league duck, but was forced to feed off scraps during a cautious first half.
Samir Nasri had the best chance of the half as he latched on to Yaya Toure’s well weighted through ball, only to see his delightfully lobbed effort bounce off the frame of Chelsea’s goal.
Mario Balotelli wasted another chance for City as he raced through one-on-one with Cech only for the Italian to squander his effort as the game ended goalless after 45 minutes.
The second half began in a similar vein to the first, with neither side willing to up the tempo and commit men forward.
Both team’s substitutions in the second half gave an indication of their respective game plans, with Balotelli replaced by Gareth Barry at half-time and Raul Meireles following the Italian down the tunnel to be replaced by Michael Essien soon after.
Nasri hit the bar inside the first ten minutes of the second stanza as City looked like upping their game, only for the home side to fall behind against the run of play.
Despite City emerging from half-time looking to up the tempo and Chelsea, and Torres in particular, struggling to get a foothold in the game, it was visitors who were the recipients of a large slice of luck to break the deadlock.
Yaya Toure half-hearted clearance fell to Gary Cahill in the City box with 59 minutes gone. The former Bolton man’s drive deflected off the Ivorian, who will shoulder the responisibility for his side going behind, to wrong foot Joe Hart who could only watch as the ball rolled innocuously into the net.
Tevez entered the fray with 65 minutes gone but it was Juan Mata who threatened to register after 75 minutes as he roved down the left flank and, without support the of Didier Drogba, on for Torres, fired a fierce shot that forced Hart to parry away for a corner.
David Silva soon departed for Edin Dzeko with 15 minutes remaining but before the Bosnian could make an impact City had the chance to equalise from the spot kick as Essien foolishly handled in the box from Aleksander Kolarov’s drive in what proved to be the turning point of the game.
Aguero, assured as ever, tucked away the spot kick and that appeared to open the game up, with both teams looking to further their respective causes in the Premier League by going in search of a winner.
City looked the more likely to register the winning goal, although Chelsea were certainly benefitting from having Drogba on the field to add some physicality to their attacks.
The home side eventually got the goal they deserved and the previously anonymous Tevez was at the heart of the winner with just five minutes of normal time remaining.
The ball was worked well down the left hand side through Gael Clichy and Nasri, the latter driving forward to play a neat one-two with Tevez, who set his team-mate through on goal to slide home the match winner.
Chelsea tried to muster a goal that would help them to a share of the spoils but City looked the team more likely to score on the break during the four minutes added on, but there was to be no further action as City secured the result they required to narrow the title race once more.
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