Frank Lampard’s missed penalty proved to be the turning point in a game that saw Chelsea leaving the pitch to a fourth successive loss at the Etihad.
Chelsea simply had no response to the midfield bombardments and attacking prowess of a Man City side that simply showed greater hunger. City looked like a side that belief, a feeling that they could still retain the Premier League crown. Chelsea, like some many other games this season, looked like they just wanted the game, and season, to end.
Benitez’s decision to put David Luiz back to the centre of defence quite frankly seemed baffling. John Terry being on the bench due to fitness issues raised question of why he needed 90 minutes against Sparta Prague. With the mobility and power of Yaya Toure, Javier Garcia and Jack Rodwell, Chelsea ‘s midfield were static. For all Frank Lampard’s heroics this was arguably a game where he should have been omitted for the more versatile Luiz, someone who would have the capability to hunt down Yaya Toure when he entered the final third. John Obi Mikel also seemed pedestrian at times with any sort of Champions League final appearance performance eluding him. Instead a more spritely Ramires should have been yapping at opposition ankles in midfield. Although that starting XI is essentially the one won away at Arsenal and Spurs, it’s worth noting that they entered the game as real contenders. Under Benitez this side started the game with underdogs being a favourable term.
Chelsea’s attacking threat in the first half was largely non-existent. With City controlling the midfield chances for Juan Mata and Eden Hazard to operate were scarce and Demba Ba was showing football audiences all across the world what it meant to live off scraps.
Jack Rodwell could have had a hatrick before half time and Petr Cech produced a superb save from Matija Nastasic’s point blank header. Defensive lapses caused by over playing from the back presented Sergio Aguero with a one v one opportunity with Cech but he did brilliantly to force Aguero wide and out of play.
Branislav Ivanovic’s crossfield ball at the start of the first half produced Chelsea’s only real opportunity to make an impact on the game. He found Ba who not for the first time exposed Kolo Toure and after rounding Joe Hart, was brought down by the England international. Frank Lampard stepped up for his 200th Chelsea goal but it never game, Hart dived low to his right and saved. Chelsea’s chance had gone and there wasn’t to be another.
City’s first goal came after Yaya Toure’s marauding run was seemingly admired by Chelsea players. Not for the first time Mikel gave no cover to the defence and shied away leaving Toure’s run to find the bottom left hand corner. City’s ‘We’ll fight till the end’ song may be cringe worthy but at least it had basis, try starting something similar in the Chelsea end and you’d have been laughed out the ground.
Like for like changes followed with Oscar and Moses coming on but with so many other Benitez substitutions, nothing changed. City capitalised on Chelsea’s weaknesses by bringing on Tevez for Rodwell and with 5 minutes to go the Argentinian wrapped up the 3 points when his shot flew past Cech into the top left corner.
If Tottenham win on Monday they take third place and leave Arsenal sitting only 2 points behind Chelsea in 5th. Progression has simply not happened and once again feelings of fear in not retaining Champions League football are setting in. ‘ I can’t wait for this season’ to end has been an all too common saying amongst Blues in recent years. The problem is where is the solution? It’s hard to kill that view when you hire and fire everybody.