Monday, 12 December 2011

Lampard delivers final blow

Manchester City’s unbeaten domestic run has finally come to an end this evening at Stamford Bridge. On a wet and breezy night in South West London the Premier League has once again come to life.

The game had started so positively for the visitors when Mario Balotelli rounded Petr Cech to give the league leaders the advantage in the second minute. After comfortable wins against Manchester United and Tottenham already this season it appeared that Chelsea were to be next on City’s title march. The most criticised defence in recent weeks was shaking and seemingly dropping deeper and deeper as the opening stages continued.

It almost appeared too easy for City as their midfield dictated the pace of the game and kept the ball from Chelsea with consummate ease. Against the run of play Daniel Sturridge dummied Clichy and got to the by-line, his right footed cross was turned in by Raul Meireles and suddenly the game was all square. With one side being so dominant it seemed almost inconceivable that the game should be level again, but it was.

The equaliser instantly injected the home side with more drive and purpose; the manager Andre Villas-Boas also instructed the team to play deeper which stopped City’s dominance of possession. Their early pressing had enabled the opposition to manoeuvre the ball around at will and once the manager had adjusted his tactics which suddenly brought his side into the game.

One major difference for Chelsea was the impact of Oriol Romeu who was fantastic in front of his defence. Not only is he technically gifted, he also the ability to compete physically with the likes of Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli which made the Chelsea centre backs job far easier.

The home side began brightly in the second half with Juan Mata looking particularly impressive. The Spaniard appears to be far more effective when he moves into central positions and one such run against Vincent Kompany left the Manchester City captain on his backside. In the 58th minute the game changed on its head with Clichy’s sending off; suddenly it was Chelsea who had to take the game to City and the remaining half hour would see the visitors sit deeper and deeper.

It took until the 73rd minute for Villas-Boas to call on Frank Lampard and it seemed almost inevitable that he would be instrumental in a Chelsea win, if there was to be one. The moment duly came in the 82nd minute when a penalty was awarded after Lescott handled in the penalty area. The much maligned Lampard smashed the resulting penalty straight down the middle of the goal.

This victory for Chelsea could prove to be pivotal in this season’s race for the Premier League title. It has shown that the home side are still very much in the title race and more importantly it shows that City are vulnerable and not quite undefeatable….just yet.

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