Chelsea edged out Manchester City in an entertaining game under the lights at Stamford Bridge. George Priestman reviews the events of the match exclusively for All Things Chelsea.
A tactical masterclass from the Frank Lampard combined with a team effort of character and steel were key factors in what could be a very significant win for the blues. This win also confirmed the destination of the Premier League trophy on Merseyside – a point that was painfully stressed to all of us watching on BT Sport! Nevertheless, goals from Christian Pulisic and Willian secured the three points to close the gap to Leicester to just one point.
City started the game at breakneck speed, with almost every outfield player flooding the Chelsea half. Their dominance perhaps best exemplified by Ederson’s average positioning near the halfway line!
It seemed Lampard’s plan was to flood the midfield and not allow the top players the space to pull the strings and create chances for the Citizens.
City’s best early chance came from Fernandinho, without a goal since 2018, who ran across the defence to head powerfully from a corner – drawing a good save from Kepa.
The Blues started to intelligently use the talents of Olivier Giroud – showing why he is so important to this team; holding up the play, laying off to nearby players which helped Chelsea gain a foothold in the game.
Chelsea’s more direct style bore fruit, as they steadily began to gain in confidence and muster chances in the City half.
Then, from the most unexpected source, the pressure told. The goal came from a City mishap, after the ball had been cleared from their own free kick. Ilkay Gundogan and Benjamin Mendy held the ball on the halfway line after Chelsea cleared from a City free kick.
A miscommunication allowed Christian Pulisic to gather the ball and a quick touch put him past Mendy and through on the goal. He slotted it past Ederson to give Chelsea the lead against the run of play. The American made it two goals in two games after the restart and it starting to come alive as a Chelsea player.
The second half started as in the same vein as the first, with City dominating and Chelsea struggling to string together possession.
Riyad Mahrez drew a cheap foul from N’golo Kante around 25-30 yards out – resulting in a free kick in very dangerous territory.
Kevin de Bruyne stepped up and produced a wonderful equalising goal with swerve, pace and dip to give Kepa no chance.
Almost immediately, Chelsea were on the ropes. Having committed men in pursuit of a quick response, they were nearly carved open by a supremely slick City counter.
Three passes from Ederson, David Silva and Riyad Mahrez put Raheem Sterling through on goal with only a rushing Kepa to beat, but his lobbed effort only found the post.
Chelsea were lucky not to be a goal behind.
The mounting City pressure continued, but they almost gifted Chelsea the lead as Ederson attempted a sweeping ball too many, landing in the path of Mason Mount. He was suddenly sprung in on goal, but dragged his shot into the side netting.
Chelsea, again, were growing into the half.
Another big chance came for Pulisic, who had his shot cleared off the line after rounding Ederson. Only a magnificent Kyle Walker recovery prevented Chelsea from taking the lead.
Suddenly, a great break from Willian down the right led to the critical moment in the game. Willian smartly crossed for Abraham – who fired a firm shot at Ederson that spilled into his path. Attempting to bundle in the rebound, Fernandinho appeared to have produced another goal-line clearance to deprive Chelsea of the lead.
Low and behold, VAR comes to the rescue!
Upon reflection, it was clear Fernandinho blocked it with his hand which led to the double punishment of a red card and penalty for Chelsea.
Willian deputised for the absent Jorginho and sent Ederson the wrong way to give the home side the lead with twelve minutes to go. As calm as you like.
The final minuted didn’t see much apart from a few slick counter-attacks. Pedro almost put the result beyond doubt with a curler which was well saved by Ederson, but Chelsea ran down the clock, which consequently gave Liverpool their maiden Premier League title.
Frankly, there were times we could have conceded. A more clinical City, perhaps akin to last year’s, would have put Chelsea to the sword.
It wasn’t Chelsea’s best lineup, but it still beat a very good City side. Considering the form of City, the Blues can be incredibly happy. The team showed character, and it stands them in good stead to secure European Qualification.
The gap is now closed to just one point to third placed Leicester. The chase is very much on.
Both sides face FA Cup trips next up on Sunday, with Manchester City facing Newcastle and Chelsea travelling to Leicester.