Chelsea slumped to their first league defeat in over six weeks with a 2-1 reverse at Manchester City on Saturday evening. Dubbed the ‘Clash of the Cash’, it was Sheikh Mansour’s Sky Blues who prevailed in a pulsating encounter, despite going behind as early as the 7th minute. Adebayor responded to scoring an own goal by netting the equaliser, before Carlos Tevez fired home the winner from a free-kick.
Chelsea started brightly, twice fashioning shooting opportunities for Didier Drogba early on, but he was thwarted on both occasions, first by compatriot Kolo Toure and then by the excellent Shay Given. It didn’t take long for Chelsea to grab the lead, though. A Michael Ballack cross eventually found its way to Branislav Ivanovic, who could only shoot straight at Given from five yards out. The ball rebounded kindly to Nicolas Anelka, and his effort was also blocked by Given, only to rebound off Adebayor’s back and into the net.
City responded impressively to going behind, dominating large swathes of possession for the remainder of the half and pegging Chelsea back. Adebayor might have done better when well found by Gareth Barry, and Carvalho needed to be at his most alert to divert Micah Richards’s header wide following a missed Petr Cech punch. From the resulting corner Cech did manage to punch clear, but only as far as his former team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips. His effort from the edge of the box, through a crowd of players, hit Richards on the arms and fell invitingly to the lurking Adebayor, who prodded home from close range. Chelsea’s appeals were in vain and Howard Webb let the goal stand.
Chelsea almost snatched back the lead before the break when a sizzling Drogba free-kick dipped just wide. City came out after half-time with a renewed attacking intent. Wright-Phillips did well to beat Ashley Cole but Adebayor’s effort was eventually cleared off the line by Ivanovic. Moments later Carvalho gave away a free-kick for a studs-up challenge on Tevez. The former United man stepped up and curled the ball home, although the effort was suspiciously close to Cech (he really should have saved it). So like Chelsea’s last defeat in the league they had taken the lead before throwing it away at two set-pieces.
Carlo Ancelotti responded to the deficit by replacing Carvalho and Ballack with Belletti and Mikel respectively. Things soon improved for the Blues and they finally managed to enjoy some time on the ball, even if chances were at a premium. A golden opportunity did arrive ten minutes from time when substitute Onouha felled Drogba, the big Ivorian beautifully taking down a Deco cross and beating the City defender for pace and skill. Frank Lampard, who had had a quiet game, hit his penalty low and to the left but Given guessed correctly and saved. It was the England midfielder’s first miss in twenty two attempts.
Chelsea momentarily lost their discipline with Cole and Deco being booked in the same City attack. The Blues crafted one more chance in front of goal, but Drogba slipped the ball wide of Given’s left-hand post having brilliantly taken an Essien pass in his stride. It summed up a day of frustration for Chelsea, who saw their lead cut to only two points at the top of the table.