Manchester City put in a professional performance at Stamford Bridge to beat Chelsea 3-1. Two quick goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden were added to by Kevin de Bruyne to give City a 3-0 half-time lead. Callum Hudson-Odoi scored late on for Chelsea, but City had already wrapped up the points by then.
The blues had come in for some criticism after their game at Everton had been called off due to an outbreak of Covid-19 at City’s training ground, with the Toffees asking for a ‘full disclosure’ of why the game was postponed. However, the blues opened their training ground the following day but manager Pep Guardiola advised there would be some names missing from Sunday’s teamsheet.
And how true that turned out to be.
Out of the match due to Covid or injury were goalkeeper Ederson, defenders Kyle Walker, Nathan Ake, Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia, Gabriel Jesus and Fernando Torres, while Sergio Aguero, Riyad Mahrez and Fernandinho were all on the bench, alongside Benjamin Mendy, who breached Covid-19 rules by having guests over on New Year’s Eve.
But even a depleted City side still had too much for Chelsea, as they overcame a slow start to take control of the first half and left the home side chasing shadows for much of it.
But it could have been a different result as Chelsea applied the early pressure. Zack Steffen, making his Premier League debut, collected what was deemed a back-pass when the ball was poked through the defence and the referee awarded an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area, which was cleared for a corner.
City started to grow into the game after the home side were refused a penalty in the 11th minute, and soon they started to assert their authority on the game. Kevin de Bruyne was put through on goal but pulled his shot just wide with only the keeper to beat. Raheem Sterling came close to opening the scoring but his deflected shot was saved by the keeper.
The blues were looking good in possession after a nervy start and took the lead on 18 minutes. Zinchenko’s ball from the left was touched on by Foden to Ilkay Gundogan. The German midfielder turned from his marker and fired a low shot into the bottom corner.
That seemed to fully settle the blues and they began to play with the style we have been used to seeing, and just two minutes after Gundogan’s goal, City were 2-0 up. De Bruyne’s attempted pass hit the defender and rebounded to the Belgian midfielder, and his cross was met by Foden, who flicked the ball through the tightest of spaces between the post and keeper.
City were now all over Chelsea and any attempt by the Londoners to get forward was met by a solid blue wall that had only conceded 12 goals in the Premier League so far, making them the best defence in the league to date. Chelsea won a free kick in the 34th minute, but it would be City claiming a goal. De Bruyne’s defensive header found Sterling all alone with the whole of the Chelsea half to run into. After being forced wide, it seemed like the chance had gone, but the winger curled a shot against the post and the rebound was tapped home by the ever impressive de Bruyne to score another goal against his former club.
The second half began much in the same as the first, with City on the front foot. The blues tactic of passing and keeping possession frustrated the home side and there was a period where City strung together so many passes, that Chelsea didn’t touch the ball for a few minutes.
City were still probing Chelsea, but the home side came into the game more, trying to push the blues further back. That left them susceptible to counter attacks, and the blues were happy to soak up the pressure and break when they won the ball back. The Chelsea keeper was forced into an excellent save as Rodri’s head powerfully met a free-kick, and his goal-bound header was palmed away by the keeper.
The blues conceded their 13th goal of the season in the final minutes when substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi converted a cross at the far post, but it was too little, too late for the home side to even think about a comeback.
City now move up to fifth with the win, and now trail the leaders by just four points with a game in hand on Liverpool and United.
Final Score: Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City