Jose Mourinho branded Arsene Wenger a “specialist in failure” on Friday, seated in the press room at Cobham. If Mourinho had managed a win here, he would have completed a hat-trick over Manuel Pellegrini, who could then have been branded a specialist in succumbing to Jose’s managerial prowess and mind games, having already been defeated on seven occasions. However, with the war of words in the press rooms heating up, Pellegrini, aided by a lethargic Chelsea performance, conducted his talking on the pitch to secure only his second career victory over Mourinho in nine attempts.
Stevan Jovetic gave City the advantage with a great first-time strike past the despairing dive of Petr Cech moments after having grazed the crossbar with a lobbed effort from a rebound.
And with Pellegrini’s side in firm control of the game, substitute Samir Nasri, who replaced Jovetic on the hour mark, slotted home David Silva’s selfless ball across goal to announce his return from an extended spell on the sidelines. It capped an immaculate City display as they exacted revenge on Jose’s men following our epic league triumph at the most feared stadium in the country a fortnight ago.
City’s energetic pressing (aided by their midweek break due to the adverse weather conditions) resulted in our players being refused space and time to play, and Costel Pantilimon never looked like being troubled. It mirrored our performance at the Etihad 15 days ago, the only difference being it was the sky blue shirts of City who were alert, aggressive and stylish as they sealed their place in the quarter-finals to keep their quadruple hopes alive.
We were, in short, not at the races as we bowed out of world’s oldest football competition to City for the second season in row.
While Pellegrini may have sprung a few changes with Tuesday’s intriguing Champions League clash with Barcelona in mind, Mourinho stated his intent with a strong starting line-up, with John Obi Mikel the only unforced change from the team which condemned City to their first league defeat at the Etihad this season.
Ramires, as he did in the league game, started on the right of a three-man attack which consisted of fellow Brazilian Willian and Eden Hazard, who produced an uninspiring performance with only a few glimpses of his recent excellent form. A selection which meant Oscar took his place on the bench at the Etihad for the second time in as many weeks.
Gary Cahill was a surprise inclusion in our starting XI, with the England international looking to have been ruled out with a calf injury sustained during our draw at West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday night. David Luiz filled in for the injured John Terry alongside Cahill, with Branislav Ivanovic, as he did against West Brom, reverting to right-back.
Starting XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Matic, Ramires, Willian, Hazard, Eto’o.
Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, Lampard, Salah, Schurrle, Oscar, Torres.
We were out-played and deserved to be knocked out of the FA Cup by a slick Manchester City side. We have loftier ambitions though and a lot still to play for.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!