Barclays Premier League
Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea



Samir Nasri (above) lifted the ball over Petr Cech to score the winner for Manchester City with five minutes left


By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from the Etihad Stadium

Manchester City sent out a statement of intent in the title race as Carlos Tevez returned to action to help beat Chelsea and move within a point of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.

The Argentine striker - brought on as a substitute for his first City appearance since refusing to warm up in the Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich in September - set up the winning goal with a through-ball for Samir Nasri to send a clipped finish over the advancing Petr Cech.  

Sergio Aguero netted from the penalty spot following a crazy handball from Michael Essien inside the box to equalise for City. 

Defender Gary Cahill had given the visitors the lead with a fortuitous effort which deflected past keeper Joe Hart from 15 yards on the hour mark.

Roberto Mancini made a host of changes from the side that were knocked out of the Europa League last Thursday by Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon on away goals - Pablo Zabaleta came into the team at his normal right-back position with captain Micah Richards moving to centre-back to partner Kolo Toure with Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott both ruled out with groin and calf problems respectively. 

Nasri returned to midfield where David Silva continued looking to weave his magic once again. The Italian boss had stated earlier that Carlos Tevez would be on the substitutes bench where Gareth Barry was sitting having recovered from a back complaint after he was taken off in the 1-0 defeat at Swansea ten days ago.

Skipper John Terry, who has again been linked with the permanent Chelsea job at the end of the season in various newspapers, was missing for Chelsea feeling the effects of a knee injury. Interim boss Roberto Di Matteo made four changes to the team which reached the FA Cup semi-finals at the weekend, beating Leicester 5-2, with David Luiz coming into defence in place of Bosingwa who was ousted to bench duty with Ivanovic moving into the centre of defence in Terry's absence. Cole replaced Bertrand at left-back while Ramires and Frank Lampard swapped places with Kalou and Sturridge- the latter consequently among the seven backups as Di Matteo looked to stiffen up his midfield in a 4-5-1 formation.

The early momentum was with the home team as Chelsea faltered in possession from the kick-off with Zabaleta taking a shot which cannoned off a Chelsea defender and behind for a corner in the first minute. Zabaleta was also involved in the creation of the game's first sighting of goal as he judged the bounce of a ball ahead of Ashley Cole which ricocheted off Mikel into the box and he laid it off to the Spanish play-maker Silva on the edge of the box who was slightly off-balance and rifled a shot over the bar.

Ironically, Chelsea's first scoring opportunity- of a glorious looking nature- fell to their Spanish playmaker Juan Mata after all the good work was done by another Spaniard Torres, who finally ended his goal drought at the weekend scoring twice but has only got two Premier League goals this season, who made a good channel run and showed great awareness to slip a good pass to the feet of Mata whose effort was slightly too high.



Carlos Tevez had scored in each of his last five appearances against Chelsea- bagging six goals in total.


Just a minute later, the Frenchman Samir Nasri, who had started the game well drifting off both flanks into the middle of the pitch and using the space well, hit the bar when he made a good run through the middle and took the ball on his chest trap with deft control and he was desperately unlucky to see his wonderfully instinctive effort come back off the crossbar having done everything right.

It was a lively start to the match from both teams really although it was both Silva and Nasri who were effecting the game for City as they were the orchestrators of stitching passes together and making things happen in the final third for the home side. City were beginning to get a foothold in the game as Chelsea, who had won ten of their last fourteen trips to City in the Premier League, were giving the ball away far too easily and frequently. Jose Bosingwa came on for the injured Branislav Ivanovic after nineteen minutes for the visitors as the Serbian pulled a leg muscle and couldn't move actively and freely.

Although the Portuguese full-back would have to be up to scratch in defence with Manchester City attacking a lot down the left hand side with Nasri, Silva and Clichy wandering up and down and inside at times. Nasri was prepared to try anything and fancied a crack at goal from distance which was well hit and stayed hit travelling only a yard or two over the visitors' crossbar. It was the enigmatic Mario Balotelli, scorer in City's 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in December, who passed up the best opportunity that either side made in the first period after Lampard had unusually and casually given the ball away in midfield and the Italian forward raced towards goal although when he was faced one-on-one with Cech dragged the shot at goal wide of the far post.

The game's entertainment factor went for a burton in the fifteen minutes before half-time with both sides battling one another and the match was becoming a little dull as a spectacle with the play becoming laborious and littered with astray passes. It was rearguard action from Chelsea, who had won four out of four in all competitions since Villas-Boas departed last month, who had found some form in those games managed by Roberto Di Matteo. There were some groans from the home supporters who were becoming restless.



Chelsea have won more away league games at Manchester City than at any other away ground in the Premier League era.


Gareth Barry came on at half-time for Mario Balotelli for City as they looked to match Chelsea's formation and add an extra man to the midfield. Nasri lofted over the crossbar from the edge of the box after being set up by Yaya Toure after 50 minutes. It was a strong start to the second half from City who were in the ascendancy. The extra man in that midfield was doing the trick for Roberto Mancini's men and was having a difference to the game. Torres continued his excellent workrate but he was lacking in numbers to support him most of the time. Minutes later, City midfielder Nasri overhit a floated cross which Petr Cech flicked onto the crossbar.

City, who had conceded just six home Premier League goals this season, let in a seventh as Chelsea took the lead on the hour mark. Gary Cahill, who was in the Bolton team that lost 3-2 to Manchester City last August, made it two goals in two games as the Chelsea revival appeared to be rolling on as Mata's attempted ball came back off Barry to the centre-back whose tame shot span off Yaya Toure and deceived the dive of Joe Hart.

Roberto Mancini played his cards close to his chest as far as Tevez was concerned but he decided it was Tevez time after 65 minutes when the former Manchester United forward replaced Nigel De Jong to a high-percentage rapturous applause nevertheless there were a small amount of fans booing the introduction of the Argentine. On the opposite side, Fernando Torres reacted unhappily to being brought off as he gave a disbelieving and irate expression when Didier Drogba was sent on in his place on 72 minutes.

Chelsea were doing all of the defending and were pegged back with all eleven players in their own half at times. In one of the only breathers the visiting Blues got in the City half came when Mata forced Hart into action at his near post from a tight angle. Although, the defending counted for little in a mad final thirteen minutes. Firstly, Zabaleta smacked the ball against sub Michael Essien's raised arm giving referee Mike Dean no choice other than to point for a penalty for the home team. Sergio Aguero sent the keeper the wrong way with a clinically dispatched and composed penalty kick to bring it level with a correctly awarded spotkick which was cruel on Di Matteo's side. This was the Argentine striker's 24th goal in all competitions this season in what has been a fruitful first full season in English football for him.

This gave the game a totally different complexion in truth and set up an interesting finale with the Chelsea defence needing to stand up and being counted as the tempo increased and the pitch of the supporters intensified inside the Etihad Stadium. It was always highly likely that Carlos Tevez's name would be talked about afterwards for his influence upon matters on the field and his fabulous assist with a well-angled and visualised reverse pass set up man of the match Samir Nasri to craftily dink over Petr Cech. With five minutes to remaining, he scored only his 3rd Premier League goal for the club and what could prove to be a crucial goal in the title race. It was a goal that was greeted with sheer delight around the ground and got their Italian manager off his seat and punching the air emphatically. We all knew that Tevez, who was public enemy number one back in September after the episode at the Allianz Arena, was going to write more headlines on the pitch after this one- and he certainly did that.

City still play again before their rivals take to the pitch with the Blues taking their poor recent away form to one of the trickiest home grounds in the division. Mancini's side make the always difficult trip to Stoke City at Saturday teatime knowing a win would take them back to the top of the league for certain. United put their triablisms into action in the Monday night clash with travel-sick Fulham at Old Trafford with the run-in and experience putting them in the driving seat.


Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"It wasn't the best of games to watch by any means. The owness was on Manchester City to make it the glamorous, attractive, goal-filled match that we have seen so often this season when the big sides have met but the defences actually decided to turn up for this one- well for most of it anyway. It was a surprise when Chelsea took the lead but they were in the game all the time and had posed one or two threats going forward, providing one or two scares for Kompany & Lescott. But the goal was a rude awakening for City who suddenly remembered that they needed to win the game with United ahead of them in the league. This could prove to be a crucial win in the season for City in their bid to catch United at the top of the tree. And Carlos Tevez was always going to do something to make a positive or negative impact in this game when he came on- he has set up the winning goal. Not the worst contribution to make as he starts to pay back the fans, his team-mates and the manager."



Wednesday 21st March 2012

Barclays Premier League

Etihad Stadium


Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea                           KO 7:45pm               (HT 0-0)

Aguero 78 (pen)       Cahill 60
Nasri 85


Manchester City:  25 Hart- 8/10, 5 Zabaleta- 7.5/10, 2 Richards (C)- 8/10, 28 Kolo Toure- 6.5/10, 22 Clichy- 7.5/10, 19 Nasri- 9/10, 34 De Jong- 6/10 (Tevez 65- 3/10), 42 Yaya Toure- 7.5/10, 21 Silva- 6.5/10 (Dzeko 76- 1.5/10), 16 Aguero- 7.5/10, 45 Balotelli- 5/10 (Barry 45- 4.5/10).

Subs not used:  30 Pantilimon, 15 Savic, 13 Kolarov, 7 Milner

Booked:     Nasri (86)


Chelsea:  1 Cech- 8/10, 2 Ivanovic- 2.5/10 (Bosingwa 21- 6/10), 24 Cahill- 7.5/10, 4 David Luiz- 7.5/10, 3 Cole- 6/10, 12 Mikel- 6.5/10, 8 Lampard (C)- 6.5/10, 16 Merieles- 5.5/10 (Essien 58- 2.5/10), 7 Ramires- 7/10, 9 Torres- 7.5/10 (Drogba 73- 3/10), 10 Mata- 6.5/10.

Subs not used:  22 Turnbull, 15 Malouda, 21 Kalou, 23 Sturridge

Booked:     Mata (44), Lampard (57)


My Man of the Match:     Samir Nasri (Manchester City)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Raul Merieles (Chelsea)- Rating 5.5/10


Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)- 9/10
Attendance: 46,324



Match Facts

Possession: Manchester City- 57%           Chelsea- 43%

Shots: Manchester City- 20               Chelsea- 6

Shots on target: Manchester City- 10             Chelsea- 5

Shots off target: Manchester City- 10             Chelsea- 1

Corners: Manchester City- 11                  Chelsea- 4

Fouls: Manchester City- 8                 Chelsea- 7

Offside: Manchester City- 0                Chelsea- 0

Assists: Manchester City- Tevez, Zabaleta              Chelsea- Mata


Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

"We are glad to win the game because there was a lot of pressure on us to win and certainly there was more riding on us to perform once we concede a stupid goal like that. We didn't deserve to lose this game as we created three or four good chances in the first half. We need to score from these chances if not it can make it difficult later on and it certainly did that today. We desperately wanted to win which wasn't going to be easy against a team like Chelsea who have top players but we took the risk and the guys were fantastic. I was a little frustrated at half-time with the chances we missed as it felt like it was going to be like the other games which we have lost but tonight was more about the three points. The win was more than just three points. Carlos [Tevez] came on and he wasn't 100% but can still do things that can change matches. He knows football well and he has the intelligence and awareness and he provided a fantastic assist for Samir [Nasri]."

Click here for the full thoughts of City boss Roberto Mancini


Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo

"We are very disappointed naturally because I felt we deserved something from the game. We did enough to get a point and we took the advantage by getting the first goal and I thought we looked comfortable in the game up until that point. The penalty was the turning point as it gave them the lift they needed and after that we couldn't keep enough possession and we were defending a little too deep. The players were good though tonight and they put in a lot of effort which we needed. We know how difficult it is to come here- nobody has got any points here this season. As far as chasing Tottenham is concerned, we still have nine games to go and we have to play Tottenham at the weekend so we are looking certainly at the bright side. Two weeks ago, we were seven points behind third place and now we are six points behind. It was a setback but we are confident we can recover in the future matches. Fernando [Torres] was a little unhappy when he was taken off but that is the normal reaction of any striker who wants to stay on and get a goal."

Click here for the full thoughts of Blues interim boss Roberto Di Matteo


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