Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea – Absolutely Marvellous

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It was a fantastic performance from the Blues and Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese pragmatist got everything spot-on. The team, the strategy, the tempo, the mood. He knew the stakes, he knew how to win, he knew when to risk, when to gamble, when to hold. It was a masterclass in management, emphasising why he has uniquely mentored coaches who have gone on to become Premier League managers (Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke).

There was not one player which I could fault, and it was an exceptional team effort, as proved by Demba Ba. During his post-match formalites, Jose felt the Senegalese’s contribution typified our excellent team performance, saying:

“Demba Ba played 30 seconds and cleared the last corner of the match. He was intelligent because I told him to mark Joe Hart if there was a corner. Hart didn’t go so he went to the space and won the ball in that space. Everyone did a fantastic job for the team.”

And as Jose said Billy McCulloch the masseur had the honour of delivering the pre-match team talk, it gratifyingly rounded off an enjoyable evening for all Chelsea fans, as we condemned Manuel Pellegrini’s side to their first home league loss of the season.

Match report

For the large part of the campaign so far, we have never been as aesthetically impressive as Manchester City. Instead, we have grown to grind out results and defend well, a contrast to our disappointing defensive yield earlier in the season. Jose is undeniably committed to the stance that we are not participants in the race for the title, alternatively insisting we are an improving side and can mount a serious challenge for the Premier League crown next year. But after this display, I can’t help but consider ourselves as title favourites, as I and many did from the outset.

We moved level on points with our Manchester opponents thanks to a sensational Branislav Ivanovic strike on the half-hour mark as the Serb’s piledriver proved enough to secure three vital points and banish City to the first home Premier League defeat of the season.

It could and should have been more, as Ramires saw his close-range shot thwarted by Hart following a four on two counter-attack opening before Samuel Eto’o, Gary Cahill and Nemanja Matic struck the woodwork.

It came courtesy of a brilliant all-round display, from Petr Cech to Eto’o to thirty-second cameo man Ba. However, I feel the need to give a special mention to Nemanja Matic, who was making his full Premier League debut at the most arduous stadium in the division, for his production of a commendable performance in midfield. The Serb, who played superbly well against Stoke in the FA Cup, looks to have adequately filled a void in our team, with his varied range of passing, thunderous left-foot, and strength, as shown by his plain bullying of Yaya Toure.

The attacking trio behind Eto’o, which consisted of Eden Hazard, Willian and Ramires, were additionally superb as they caused City a mixture of problems and exploited the space left behind by Martin Demichelis and the galloping Toure.

To boast the title of champions, beating your title rivals is imperative. And we’ve accomplished the feat twice, securing the double over Pellegrini’s wounded men. Prior to kick-off, I could not understand the general pessimism aired by the majority of our supporting contingent. My confidence and faith in Jose was channelled into my match preview, but it was doubted by some, one user of the name “DP” kindly enquiring if I was on “dope”. But I had my reasons for my optimistic frame of mind. After all, we had beaten them once already, their defence has consistently proven to air a dodgy fragrance about it and we have the attacking armoury to take advantage of any unsatisfactory defending. I had singled out and targeted Demichelis, a particular favourite of Pellegrini and an absolute shambles at the back, but my good feeling was increased after I had shot a glance at the team-sheet.

Fernandinho has played a pivotal role in City’s success this season, in a campaign which has seen them become sighted as potential quadruple champions. But in the Brazilian’s absence, Pellegrini selected Demichelis to start alongside Toure, a preference we gleefully took advantage of. The Argentine, an unreliable centre-back by trade, struggled to contend with the pacey counter-attacks we so often sprung as we by far looked the better team.

Team selection

Mourinho, renown for his surprise selections in anticipation of significant matches, did not raise too many eyebrows as he selected a familiar side to walk out onto the Etihad Stadium turf. However, Jose opted for Ramires over fellow Brazilian Oscar alongside Hazard and Willian. Cesar Azpilicueta, who produced a fine performance, was once again preferred to England international Ashley Cole as Matic made his full league debut since his re-signing from Benfica. The Serb was selected alongside the unpredictable David Luiz who seems unsettled with the rotation of his position.

Summary

True, it was an immaculate showing from both manager and players, but the season does not end here. The title should be in our sights, but if we do not triumph this campaign and just continue our rapid improvement, then next season, as Jose said, is when we’ll be the favourites.

We have got a good run-in so anything is possible.

Newcastle next as Chelsea roars on!




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  1. GrocerJack

    Thanks Ahmed. Our latest Podding Shed also covers a great deal of the game, although sadly from 43 minutes onwards we are hit by gremlins in the machine. Everything sounded fine to me but we actually come out in the recording liked stoned Daleks, or perhaps Cadbury’s Smash robots. It’s annoying as we had our very first special guest in David Chidgey (@StamfordChidge) who sussed the Shed out right away and was a very welcome addition. He’s been very vocal in his support for our little amateur venture, so if you can check out http://www.sportstonightlive.com at 19:00 on Mondays and tune into the Chelseafancast programme Chidge runs. It’s funny, and this week they were live during the game. if you want to know what you look like then watch this episode… it’s not coherent all the time but it’s damn funny.

    I loved the whole game, but agree Matic and Luiz were a striking partnership and to be honest I’d be happy with combinations of Matic/Luiz, Mikel/Matic and Mikel/Luiz in similar games of this stature. I think Matic/Luiz would be more attacking. For me though, hazard was outstanding. he petrified the City defence and him and Willian both look like being tormentors to any defence. I was surprised at how we went for them, as I was expecting a dour grinding game, but Mourinho always likes the odd surprise, and it’s a bit of a false meme that we park the bus. One only has to remember how we scalped Barca 4-2 in his first year to know he likes to take the game to big teams sometimes. I also think they bottled it slightly in the face of such controlled football, where the balance of attack and defence was so well executed. City are a great team, the best in the PL, but they lost faith as the game wore on and became frustrated. One can only think how awesome they’d have been had they stolen Jose from under our noses…..shudder…….

    So, lets hope we can take a lot of confidence from this despite the bad luck in hitting various parts of the goal frame, I think something will give eventually and we are going to smash a team at some point. I’ll take such a game on Saturday thanks lads,

  2. Cunningplan

    As previously mentioned I to felt reasonably confident about City, and I only had a pulse rate of 130 bpm for last 5 minutes as a draw would have felt like a defeat.
    No doubting Jose surprised and confused every pundit and his dog, or should that be horse, with regard tactics.

    We didn’t hoof the ball up field which would have been the stuff of night mares, but we pasture the ball around with ease, so the neigh sayers who thought we would be on the receiving end of a beating were so wrong.

    Days like this can really stirrup the emotions especially as these type of memories don’t last furlong. Matic for me was the mane man as he out Yayad, Yaya, and made him look like a foal on a few occasions.

    That’s enough horse play from me I’ll get my donkey jacket.

  3. WorkingClassPost

    Yes that was a great performance and my only concern was how we would play in the second half: the old sit back and try to hit them on the break mentality, which doubtful at the best of times, would’ve been madness against the mancs.

    But to then see Hazard driving forward at the first opportunity to continue where we left off, was reassurance of the highest order.

    Not sure what Saturday will bring but it probably won’t be easy and I expect Pardew to try some surprises of his own and to continue with his nasty habit of badgering officials and opposition managers alike.

  4. Cunningplan

    Don’t want to be picky about the headline picture Nick, but didn’t Jose mention three horses, two big ones and a little one. So I trotted off around the internet and broke into a canter and found this, to late to change it? or is it a case of shutting the stable after the horse has bolted!
    http://media.photobucket.com/user/basikp/media/animals/402447-1024×768-Wild-and-Free.jpg.html?filters%5Bterm%5D=horse&filters%5Bprimary%5D=images&filters%5Bfeatured_media%5D=1554&filters%5Bsecondary%5D=videos&sort=1&o=1

  5. limetreebower

    Yes, sorry CP but I think the above picture is the right one. Looks strangely like Crazy David, doesn’t it?

  6. Cunningplan

    It appears that my suggestion has fallen foal of our bloggers, so I’ll get off my high horse. I hope I didn’t cause a fence as it appears you’re all jockeying to keep the my little pony picture, and I’m certainly not prepared to go to any lengths to have it changed.

  7. Cunningplan

    I would like to know what qualifications you need to be a reasonably well paid football pundit on Sky TV?

    The reason I ask is, watching Soccer Saturday and listening to Phil Thompson who was reporting on the game, he gave Chelsea and especially Eden Hazard lots of praise and quite rightly so.

    Jeff Stelling then asked him if he thought Chelsea were now one of the main favourites to win the Premiership title after Jose’s claim they weren’t. He answered in the affirmative and said we had a really good chance. Stelling then asked him if Chelsea had any weakness that might let us down, he replied (and this was were I spat my beer out) yes I see a problem defensively for them. I didn’t listen to rest as I switched off and decided to do an internet search for old episodes of Mr. Ed the talking horse, as he would be probably sound a little more intelligent.

    Thoroughbred performance from Eden though, with a really slick move for his second goal with Eto, worth watching for that alone.


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