Roberto Di Matteo suffered his first defeat as interim coach as Chelsea succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium. A slightly dubiously awarded penalty scored by Aguerro and a neat finish from Nasri, after crucial involvement from the returning Tevez, won it for City after Cahill had put Chelsea ahead on the hour mark through a heavily deflected effort. New Premiership odds are available at Sportsbook.
The main talking point in terms of team news was Robbie’s decision to start Torres after his brace against Leicester on Sunday and leave both Drogba and Sturridge on the bench. Some eyebrows were raised about Ramires playing in a wide position and Mikel and Meireles both starting. Those questioning the decision to start our Portuguese midfielder were left even more bemused after his frustrating first half performance, where he misplaced many passes and didn’t look up to the standard of what was a fairly high temp game. He was replaced by Essien after 57 minutes. Whilst many of the Chelsea faithful may have called for the arrival of Drogba, Sturridge or even Kalou at that stage of the game it was understanding that Di Matteo took a fairly conservative approach throughout against a team that has an 100% home record in the league this season.
City started the game confidently as they usually do at home and although many felt Chelsea had the momentum going into the game on recent form, it was clear from the off that we remained underdogs in this fixture and would have a battle on our hands to take anything from it. Both teams did have chances early on. Torres fed his compatriot Mata after a nice run, but our number 10 fired wide when trying to dink the ball into the top corner. Nasri hit the woodwork just moments later at the other end, whilst Cech was tested on a couple of occasions before Ivanovic was replaced by Bosingwa due to a tightened hamstring.
City continued to have the better of possession and chances, slightly dominating a tense game. Nasri hit a shot just over before a wayward Lampard pass set Balotelli up one on one with Cech, who tipped his shot wide, a big opportunity missed for the Italian that might have angered Mancini somewhat. Chelsea came into the game more in the last 15 minutes of the half, with Ramires making some nice runs down the right and Torres looking lively and confident. Yaya Toure went down way too easily looking for a penalty which angered Chelsea’s travelling support, as might have Mata’s booking for a tug on the same City player just before the interval.
Mancini brought on Barry for Balotelli at the break, a strange substitution that many will feel complimented Chelsea as City took a slightly more defensive approach. That changed later in the half however when Tevez replaced De Jong. City still slightly had the upper hand at this stage, and after hitting the crossbar once more, Nasri hit another shot over. Lampard was booked for a foul from behind on Ya Ya Toure, moments before that man again deflected Cahill’s shot into his own net to give the visitors the lead. Vociferous celebrations followed, could Di Matteo be about to win his fifth game in a row?
In truth there may be a feeling that the goal came too early, it pushed City on and made them go for it gung-ho, petrified that they’d end the evening 4 points behind their bitter rivals. Chelsea struggled to get out of their own half for long spells and were under constant pressure until Essien was adjudged to have handled in the box and Mike Dean pointed to the spot, Argentinean Aguerro coolly slotting home as Cech went the wrong way. Drogba had replaced Torres a couple of minutes before the equaliser.
At this point Chelsea would almost certainly have taken a point but it wasn’t to be, as Nasri’s 85th minute winner, queue pandemonium from the Citizens, saw us taste our first defeat since Villas-Boas’ last game in charge at West Brom.
A win for Arsenal at Goodison and a draw for Tottenham at home to Stoke saw us lose ground in the fight for that all important Champions League spot and means Saturday’s vital game at home to rivals Tottenham just got even more significant.