After a quick second minute goal from Balotelli Chelsea made a fantastic comeback to beat their opponents and current leaders Manchester City. A superb first half finish from Meireles after a Daniel Sturridge run down the wing opened the game up for all. Chelsea kept pushing on City’s doors and it was too much for Clichy who was deservedly shown a red after taking down Ramires. The Blues now had thirty minutes to make a breakthrough and this came from substitute Lampard’s spot kick. His neat finish came after Lescott blocked a shot in the area with his hands.
This match was a must win for Chelsea if they looked to keep their title chances alive. Manager Andre Villas-Boas said before the game ‘that either we continue to challenge for the Premier League if we win or if we draw, or the Premier League becomes extremely difficult if we lose’. He certainly proved a point today and narrowed the points gap with the leaders.
I thought that it was going to be ‘another one of those days’ when Balotelli scored the opener in less than two minutes. Aguero must take credit with a turn that left John Terry trailing and a sublime pass with the outside of his foot right into the path of Balotelli. The young Italian may be turbulent elsewhere, but in the penalty area he is calmness personified, as he proved by dismissing the attentions of Branislav Ivanovic to round Petr Cech to score.
Mancini’s side were dominating for the first 20 minutes, but the blues showed a lot of spirit in attempting the almost impossible comeback. Eleven minutes before the break Meireles scored a volley provided from the hard working Sturridge. Former Manchester City player Sturridge was one of Chelsea’s leading lights on a stormy evening and he was only just off target with a rising drive a minute after the restart from Juan Mata’s free-kick.
After half time the game became slightly scrappy with fowls being made all over the place. Yaya Toure was lucky to escape without a booking after a couple of clumsy lunges. Clichy’s sending off came when trying to steal the bool from Ramires. This was a definite foul so referee Clattenburg did the right thing in showing him red. With forty minutes remaining and the arrival of substitute Frank Lampard, something seemed right to set in the script.
A poor attempt to block Sturridge’s shot with his hands led to Chelsea being awarded a penalty. Lampard must have been feeling the pressure is he stood up to take what was to be a massive goal. He once again proved that he deserves a place in the Chelsea squad and later spoke about the game: ‘Some of the football they [Man City] played showed we needed to win to stay in the title race. Ten points is a big gap and luckily we’ve closed that. I had a feeling in the second half that it was going to be our night. You’ve got to be big enough to stand up and take penalties and I was very relieved when it hit the back of the net.”
Chelsea ended City’s unbeaten spell which came to an end after 15 games. Mancini and his players must now regroup ahead of Sunday’s meeting with the improving Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.
Chelsea’s apparent ‘crisis’ a distant memory, and the Premier League title race back to a five-horse race having been regarded in some quarters only recently as a one-horse race. Happy days. I give Villas-Boas and the whole squad much praise and look forward for the next games.
COME ON THE CHELS!!