Despite the array of talent on display for Chelsea last night, many pundits were still predicting a victory for Manchester City in the heavyweight clash at The Etihad.
City entered the game with a fantastic home record, having put six goals past the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham already this season and seemingly scoring goals for fun. They were looking for their ninth straight victory and were unbeaten in their last twenty games since defeat to Sunderland back in early November. It was also not since November 2010 that City had last failed to score at home. The odds were stacked against Chelsea.
However, there was one factor that you can never underestimate and that is the impact of
a certain Jose Mourinho. The big games bring the best out of him and he certainly delivered in this instance.
Before the game Mourinho played his usual mind games, declaring that Chelsea were not
in the race for the title and that City should have won more titles by now. By doing this Mourinho had heaped all the pressure on City and gave his team the impression that they had nothing to lose and they could go out and express themselves without fear of failure. It worked a treat.
His tactics against City were spot on. Mourinho's decision to play David Luiz and Matic in front of the back four was a great move as it gave his centre-backs greater protection from City's usual slick passing play in midfield. City's Yaya Toure, one of the players of the season so far, and the ineffectual Demichelis were continually outmuscled by a Chelsea midfield that gave the City players no time on the ball. This enabled Chelsea to boss the game, particularly in the
first half when they could, and perhaps should, have been leading by more than the one goal scored by Branislav Ivanovic in the 32nd minute.
Chelsea also had flair up front, with the dangerous Eto'o, Willian, and Ramires aided by the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard who is growing in stature with every passing game. Mourinho's decision to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United looks to be a good move considering Hazard's current form.
The second half was no different. As the Chelsea players tired City did have more of the ball as was expected but even when City managed to break through the midfield of Chelsea there was no way past John Terry and the very impressive Gary Cahill who epitomised the will to win that ran throughout the team. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, Chelsea still had chances to put the game out of reach but with their failure to do so came the increasing possibility that City could have snatched an equaliser which would have been hard to take for the impressive Blues.
Pre-match talk of Chelsea 'parking the bus' couldn’t have been further from the truth. They
hit the woodwork three times!
Victory means Chelsea have now achieved the double over City this season and are now
level on points with their rivals, only two points behind leaders Arsenal, but with a renewed momentum and confidence that they can go all the way this season.
All-in-all it was a very professional performance by Chelsea and a result that signals their intentions for the remainder of the season. Mourinho will not need any convincing that they are capable of winning the title this season and we should not be under any illusions that he cannot deliver it either. He may continue to talk down their chances but after their victory at The Etihad we all know they are serious contenders.
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