After defeat at Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, many were writing City’s title chances off, saying they were too far behind to catch the league leaders, despite two thirds of the season remaining. On Saturday, City showed why those people shouldn’t be so quick to write the blues off.
The blues came from behind to beat Chelsea on Saturday to retake third place in a fast-paced, entertaining game that could have gone either way. Usually one would expect City to be on the front foot, but this time, it was Chelsea who threatened to extend their winning run which has taken Frank Lampard’s storming up the table after a difficult start.
But the big talking point once again was VAR, after Raheem Sterling had City’s third goal disallowed, despite all replays looking like the City man was just onside. This time, the decision had no bearing on the final result, with the incident taking place in the last moments of the match, but had that been a winning goal, questions would again be asked of the use of the system and the City conspiracy theories would have raised their heads again.
It obviously wasn’t easy for the blues, whose record against top six sides had yielded one point from a possible six, however the win will be a confidence booster for City as they head into a busy December period, with the Champions League group stages coming to a close and a chance to reach the League Cup quarter final with a tie at Oxford United on the horizon.
City had just 46% possession during the match, their lowest of the Guardiola era, but the blues can be forgiven for this statistic considering the injuries before the match and the departures of David Silva, Rodri and Sergio Aguero, the latter being of huge concern to the blues.
The blues rode their luck in the first half, relying on a combination of poor Chelsea finishing and goalkeeper Ederson, recalled to the team after missing the match at Anfield due to injury. City though, failed to heed the waring signs in front of them and soon found themselves a goal behind as N’golo Kante gave the visitors a deserved lead.
The goal sparked City into life again and the blues were level just eight minutes later when Kevin de Bruyne’s shot took a deflection past Kepa Arrizabalaga. From then on, City took a bit of control and it only seemed a matter of time before the blues were in front. And when it came it was a moment of class by Riyad Mahrez.
The Algerian, so often criticised last season, took a ball from Rodri on the right and he had one thing on his mind. Skipping past two defenders, Mahrez fired between the legs of the defender and into the net. City continued to press and Aguero hit the bar towards the end of the half after being gifted a chance by a wayward pass by the visiting keeper.
City then dominated the second half, but failed to take any of their chances and were almost made to pay in the closing stages as Mason Mount’s free kick went wide of the post. Moments later, Sterling thought he’d secured the points by rifling in a third, only to be denied once again by VAR, who deemed his shoulder to be offside, despite the defender’s arm appearing to play him on.
But it was a big win for the blues, who now must continue to win their matches and hope the two teams above them drop points. There’s still the second half of the season remaining and generally, City are stronger after the Christmas break. But it all depends on Leicester and Liverpool as to whether the blues can make it three titles on the run.
Next up for City is a visit from Shahktar Donetsk before ending November by travelling to Newcastle for an early kick off next Saturday.
Final Score: Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea