Chelsea battle back at Etihad Stadium to beat profligate Manchester Ct

04Dec 2016
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Chelsea battle back at Etihad Stadium to beat profligate Manchester Ct

Chelsea recovered from a goal down to beat Manchester City 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium and climb further clear at the top of the Premier League table yesterday.

An eighth win in a row for the Blues in the top flight, and a second in succession from behind, was secured thanks to a second-half turnaround after the hosts failed to make the most of their chances when ahead.

Diego Costa, substitute Willian and Eden Hazard were all on target, cancelling out Gary Cahill's own goal shortly before the interval to make this Chelsea's best run of form in the Prem since 2010.

For Man City, on the other hand, a first league defeat at home under Pep Guardiola ended in disastrous circumstances, as both Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho were shown red cards late on.

With Guardiola reverting formation yet again for the visit of the in-form Blues, going with three at the back in a near like-for-like system when up against their opponents, the opening 10 minutes set the tone for what was to come.

Neither side could create any openings, finding gaps in the final third hard to come by, but Eden Hazard did take on a shot from nothing 15 minutes in to kickstart a gripping period in the match.
It was Aguero who mustered the next sight of goal, looking to add to a tally of 16 goals in 18 games when sending a shot from 22 yards right down the middle for Thibaut Courtois to knock over the bar.
City thought they had the key breakthrough goal a quarter of the way through, only for Fernandinho's powerful header from a Kevin De Bruyne free kick to be correctly ruled out for offside.
The visitors, forced to make a change to their starting lineup for the first time in two months due to Nemanja Matic's injury, were unable to test Claudio Bravo with a single attempt in the first half, though Hazard did get in behind Nicolas Otamendi before looking to tee up a teammate rather than rolling into an unguarded net from a tight angle.

Referee Anthony Taylor and his officials may have got one big call correct in the opening 45 minutes, but the man in the middle's decision to wave play on when David Luiz stepped across Aguero as the last man left home fans furious - the Brazilian being given a reprieve when a red card looked the most likely outcome.

It had been very balanced up until the final 10 minutes of the half, at which point the Citizens stepped things up and saw Aguero's shot blocked in front of goal by Cesar Azpilicueta - coming after Leroy Sane caught Victor Moses sleeping at the back post - before finally grabbing the goal they felt they deserved on the brink of half time.

A simple enough delivery from Jesus Navas on the right, moments after De Bruyne's own cross was headed wide by Aguero, was awkwardly met by the right leg of Cahill and the ball span past Courtois into the far corner of the net.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte knew that the game was far from over though, with City keeping just two clean sheets in their last 16 and failing to win here in the league since mid-September.

The Blues may well have been two down immediately after the restart when Sane turned on the pace and slotted the ball through for De Bruyne, who was thwarted by countryman Courtois down low.

Costa, himself on an impressive streak in front of goal, failed to find the target from his first sight of the target as he miscued a shot wide from 10 yards out.

The chances kept on coming, the latest falling to Aguero when Cahill was again caught out at the back when failing to clear the ball, but the Englishman saved further blushes by racing back to clear his opponent's subsequent shot off the line.

There was to be no chance for either side to breath, with De Bruyne somehow failing to convert from point-blank range when picked out by Navas, just two minutes before Costa brilliantly controlled a Cesc Fabregas pass, held off his man and blasted through Bravo to level things up.

Aguero was next to come close, again being slotted through when Chelsea's non-existent midfield was carved open, yet the ball got stuck under his feet and Courtois was able to make the stop.

Arguably the most frenetic 90 minutes of Premier League action this term continued its non-stop pace as the final 20 minutes approached, and it was Chelsea who found the killer third following a move that very much followed the theme of the match.

Ilkay Gundogan waltzed his way through the Blues' backline but failed to pick out a teammate, allowing Chelsea to counter through a superb Costa turn, with Willian doing the rest despite the angle being against him as he tucked past Bravo.

For all City's efforts in the closing 10 minutes, it was Hazard who scored the fourth and final goal of the match by keeping his cool to round off a counter-attacking move, leaving the Citizens four points adrift of Conte's men.

Further drama was to come with time officially up, though, as Aguero was shown a straight reds for a knee-high challenge on Luiz, while Fernandinho was also given his marching orders for an incident in the melee that ensued.