Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City
Manchester City climbed to fifth in the Premier League table tonight thanks to a spectacular victory over a beleaguered Chelsea.
Frank Lampard’s expensive summer recruits are, understandably, taking some time to settle into the pace of the Premier League, but they weren’t given any time at all by a rampant City who cut the Chelsea defence to ribbons in the first half with goals from Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne.
The Blues scored a late consolation and finish the day in eighth, and seven points off the top; but the gulf in class today was huge.
Highlights of the game
The big news in the run up to this game was a Premier League debut for Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Failure to steer clear of COVID 19 has dominated the Premier League 2021 news at some clubs, City being one of them, and first choice keeper Ederson was one of five players isolating.
The stand-in keeper had a nervy start, picking up a back-pass from Rodri to give Chelsea a free-kick opportunity, but his defensive wall stood firm when Hakim Ziyech fired in his shot.
But after a quiet opening 15 minutes for the visitors, they suddenly clicked… and with some impact.
Joao Cancelo put De Bruyne through with a slide rule pass and the Belgian ace stunned everyone in the stadium when he dragged his shot narrowly wide. That was a big escape for Chelsea, but City cut through their hosts with devastating effect two minutes later. At the end of a crisp passing move Phil Foden pushed the ball sideways to Ilkay Gundogan and he turned his marker brilliantly and finished into the bottom right corner.
And in the blink of an eye the lead was doubled when De Bruyne latched onto a poor clearance from Thiago Silva and ran at the Chelsea defence before crossing for Foden to sweep home at the near post.
The Blues had a mountain to climb and soon enough they had to do it without snow shoes!
In a catastrophic sequence for Lampard’s men N’Golo Kante scuffed a free-kick onto the head of De Bruyne who released Sterling who was clean through…from within his own half. He raced the full length of the pitch, with Kante in chase, before cutting the ball onto his right foot and smashing a shot against the post, and De Bruyne was on hand to put away the rebound.
In a recent draw with Aston Villa, Lampard started with Olivier Giroud up front, in favour of Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham, but today it was the turn of Werner, alongside Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech. But they were spectators for pretty much all the first half.
It didn’t get much better for the hosts in the second. Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy made a great reaction save to keep out a Rodri header early in the half and then beat De Bruyne to a ball after a fast Sky Blue break.
The Blues strived to get something from the second half while Manchester City played within themselves to see the game out with ease, though substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi poked home a last gasp consolation.
Despite starting this game in eighth place, the Premier League 2021 betting odds still back the Sky Blues for the title, only marginally behind leaders Liverpool, and Pep Guardiola’s side will soon become outright favourites if they continue this form.
They ended Chelsea’s run of 11 matches unbeaten at home while consigning the Blues to their fifth defeat in their first league game of each of the last five calendar years.
In stark contrast, the Sky Blues have won their first game in the last nine calendar years.
It seems they can still win after an, allegedly, hectic New Years Eve!
With Manchester United drawing level with Liverpool at the top of the league, following a 2-1 win over Aston Villa, this was a game Manchester City really wanted to win, and they were clinical, wrapping it up by half time.
Next up the Sky Blues take on the Red Devils in the EFL Cup Semi-Final at Old Trafford, and we’ll be previewing that huge clash here at SBOTOP. And then there’s more cup action next weekend when Guardiola’s side host Championship club Birmingham City, before returning to Premier League duties against struggling Brighton on 13th January.
Chelsea host League 2 side Morecambe in the FA Cup and then the West London derby comes into view, as the Blues head to Craven Cottage to face Fulham. Those two games give Lampard’s team a good chance to get back to winning ways and hopefully re-ignite their season.
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