Resilient Chelsea End Manchester City’s Title Hopes
After a disappointing loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday, Chelsea get right back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
Two first-half goals from Eden Hazard proved to be the difference, as Chelsea maintain their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League after Tottenham Hotspur pilfered a victory against Swansea City on Wednesday night.
That’s not to say that the match was that straightforward. In fact, at times in the first half, Chelsea showed a few nerves as City dominated the ball as is typical of a Pep Guardiola side.
However, defence has not been City’s strongest area this season, and slack defending once again cost them a goal. Cesar Azpilicueta’s cutback, after some good combination play with Pedro, found Hazard in acres of space in the City penalty area, and the Belgian’s shot took a slight deflection before evading Willy Caballero, though Caballero probably should have done better to save the shot.
Chelsea returned the favour with a goalkeeping error of their own. Thibault Courtois shanked a clearance forward, and the ball fell at the feet of David Silva. Silva’s fierce shot was saved by Courtois, but the ball fell perfectly for Sergio Aguero to tap into the empty net.
Chelsea regained the lead again through another lapse in concentration from the City defence. Cesc Fabregas found Pedro with a lovely through ball, and as Pedro cut inside Fernandinho, the City midfield caught the Spaniard’s leg and gave the Blues a chance from the penalty spot.
Hazard stepped forward to take the penalty. Though his initial shot was saved by Caballero, the ball fell directly in front of the City goal, and Hazard made no mistake with his second effort.
Aguero had a chance to equalise just a minute later when he hammered a shot from 18 yards that took a deflection, sending the ball wide.
Sensing a lack of control in midfield in the first half, Antonio Conte rang in the changes at the half, bringing on Nemanja Matic for Kurt Zouma, returning Cesar Azpilicueta back to the centre back and moving Pedro out to wing back.
That plan was nearly undone just after the restart when Matic failed to track the run of Vincent Kompany from a free kick, but the Belgian’s header clipped the top of the crossbar.
City continued to maintain their attacking pressure as Chelsea tried to settle into this shape, and after the Blues cleared another free kick, Fabian Delph hooked a ball back into the penalty area where Fernandinho hammered a volley well over the ball, though there was a suspicion of offside.
City continued to probe and dominate the ball, but Chelsea’s defence stood firm and repelled the visitors’ attacks.
Hazard had a chance to complete his hat trick after Pedro again found Hazard in space with a cutback, but this time the Belgian smashed the ball over the ball.
City should have had their equaliser in stoppage time when John Stones found himself completely unmarked in penalty area on a corner, but the delivery a slight deflection from Kompany and Stones couldn’t control the ball, boun