All words that describe Lampard’s winning penalty. All words that describe the Chelsea performance. However, the whole effort was tarnished by the players purposely disobeying AVB’s direct order to celebrate with him.
If you’re 2 minutes into a game and see Ballotelli nonchalantly staring into the opposing crowd, you know something’s gone wrong. A disastrous start for Chelsea saw Aguero turn Terry, carry the ball through the Chelsea half and play a delicate ball around Ivanovic into Ballotelli who coolly rounded Cech and slotted into an empty net. Reminders of the horrendous 4-2 loss two seasons ago straight away came to mind and for the next 25 minutes, City simply dominated. Aguero was once again at the forefront of the City attack and threatened with two rasping shots whilst David Silva had a blatant dive go unpunished by referee Mark Clattenburg.
However, the end of the first half saw change. Chelsea fought their way back into the game and started to get into City’s faces, the most notable instance being Yaya Toure kicking and then pushing Mata in the face after the Spaniard complained about fouls on him. Although, even if Clattenburg had seen the incidents, form predicts he still wouldn’t have sent him off. Chelsea slowly began to build and their first meaningful attack in 34th minute saw Meirleles volley home after a darting run and cross by the impressive Sturridge and from then on, confidence grew. 2 minutes later, all was nearly undone after Meireles put in a high tackle of Toure but Clattenburg deemed it worthy of only a yellow card, a decision not accepted well by the City bench.
The start of the second half saw both teams play with an air of caution, one error or moment of genius could tilt the game in favour of either side. The next 10 minutes saw chances few and far between, Sturridge fired over from inside the box and Clichy and Kompany were both booked for rash challenges on the Chelsea wide men. It wasn’t until the 57th minute that the game swung in favour of one side, the pivotal moment being Clichy’s second yellow after a foul on Rameires. The Chelsea momentum began to build and City’s substitutions of Kolo Toure for Ageuro and De Jong for Silva showed the pressure was telling. Then, on the 81st minute, there was the breakthrough. Sturridge danced inside and had his curling shot blocked at head height by the flailing arm of Lescott in the box and Clattenburg pointed to the spot. Super Frank had only replaced Meireles 8 minutes ago but dismissed Mata’s claims to the penalty and smashed it straight down the middle in a no nonsense style. Seeing the Bridge explode and him run straight for the fans in the MHL was a picture of pure beauty.
Performances against Valencia, Newcastle and now City show the Chelsea of old are back with a vengence. The Chelsea wobble is over and 7 points is by no means uncatchable. Write Chelsea off at 15 games? Do it at your peril.