HomeEPL - TeamsChelseaChelsea Maintain Lead after Tactical Stalemate with Manchester City

Chelsea Maintain Lead after Tactical Stalemate with Manchester City

Manchester City and Chelsea shared the points at Stamford Bridge in a game that saw chances come at a premium with both teams entering the game with the motto: “Do not lose.” Loic Remy, who replaced Diego Costa who is out with a three game ban, made the breakthrough with David Silva equalising for the Citizens. It is still a long way to go but Chelsea will be more content with the point than the reigning champions who wasted an opportunity to close the gap to two points, giving Chelsea the advantage in the remainder of the title race.

Chelsea 1 City 1

With Manchester City and Chelsea the only real title candidates, this was expected to be the title deciding game. The highlight of the season, the so-called six point game which could either have left Chelsea clear at the top with an eight point advantage and the title all but certain, or could have put Manchester City just 2 points behind the league leaders with 15 games to go. A point would have been good enough for Chelsea but not necessarily good enough for Pellegrini, who was looking to snap Chelsea’s 100% home record.

Chelsea came off a midweek 120 minute high tempo clash with Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final, which ended up costing them dearly having lost Diego Costa to a three match ban after a naughty stamp on Emre Can; and losing Cesc Fabregas to a hamstring injury. The effects of the game also reflected on some of the Blues players who appeared to be tired, particularly in the second half. Manchester City meanwhile were without Yaya Toure, a player who they have not won without all season, who is at the African Cup of Nations along with new signing Bony Wilfried.

Lineups

Manchester City were the side with the bigger need for a win andmade their intentions clear with a sharp start. Just 20 seconds into the game, Navas who proved to be a handful for Azpilicueta all evening, stung the gloves of Courtois in the Chelsea goal with a shot from the Screenshot 2015-02-01 at 03.31.04corner of the box with the Belgian beating it away. The visitors continued pressing and Fernandinho almost punished Ivanovic for turning the ball over just outside his own box but the Brazilian’s low cross was deflected for a corner. Another Ivanovic mistake almost cost the home team when the Serb was stripped of the ball by Milner, who straight away found Aguero on the edge of the box. Fortunately for the Blues, the Argentine forward was forced onto his left foot and into a wide angle by Terry and Zouma and his effort was easily parried by Courtois.

Chelsea got their first notable chance on the half hour mark when Remy nicked the ball off Kompany on the left wing and set up a quick counter. His pass to the edge of the box was cleverly dummied by Hazard and fell kindly for Oscar but his left footed one time shot was easily dealt with by Hart. Just minutes later, Willian deflected a pass into the pass of Ramires, who tried to chip the ball in for Remy from the edge of the box but it was blocked by the arm of Demichelis and Kompany cleared. The Chelsea players and supporters were loudly demanding a penalty but the referee Mark Clattenburg correctly denied their claims. From the follow up of the play, Kompany’s long clearance was badly read by John Terry who got under it and Aguero was allowed to go alone at Courtois from the right despite being closed down by Zouma. The Argentine was looking for the far post Remy goalbut his shot was always going wide.

Just as it looked the tactical battle would not give any goals before half time, the home team drew first blood. With five minutes to go, a quick counter attack through Remy, Hazard and Willian saw the Brazilian end up with the ball on the right. Through Ramires, the ball got to Ivanovic, who sent a left footed defense splitting cross for Hazard, who was peeling away at the far post. The Belgian winger sent a delightful one touch pass across the face of goal and with the sliding Kompany getting his foot out of the way in fear of conceding an own goal, Remy was left with a simple task of tapping into the empty goal.

However the lead didn’t last too long for the home side. In the last minute of regulation time, Hazard did his very best to keep a ball on the pitch, but the referees assistant saw it differently. The Blues won the ball back from the resulting throw in but Matic very unSilva goalcharacteristically gave it away, which unleashed a one touch attack down the left for City with Fernandinho, Silva and Sagna all involved. The full back drew Azpilicueta onto himself and found Navas free behind the Spanish left-back. Navas sent a great one time cross onto the six yard box where Courtois flapped at it after James Milner distracted him by running just in front of him. The free ball kindly fell to Aguero on the edge of the box and his one time left footed shot was deflected into the net by David Silva from the small box. It was a vital touch by the Spaniard as Aguero’s initial shot was heading off target.

Mourinho will not be happy with his men as a series of four individual errors lead to the Citizens goal. Matic lost possession, Azpilicueta was caught out of position, Courtois flapped at a cross and Ramires failed to follow Silva into the box. The teams went to the dressing rooms with the score level at 0-0. In the 55th minute, Navas again escaped on the right wing and his cross from the byline found Fernandinho on the edge of the box who sent his header well into the ground and Courtois tipped it over the bar just in case. Ten minutes later, Milner produced a borderline tackle to dispossess Ramires in his own half, turning the ball around for Fernandinho but his shot to the right was dealt with by Courtois.

One of the few moments of the second half that raised the fans from the seats was Frank Lampards introduction 15 minutes from the end, the Blues legend and all time top goalscorer received a standing by (a majority of) the Chelsea fans. The last chance of the game fell to Milner who was spotted by Silva but his shot from an angle went well wide of goal. Jose Mourinho then made a point with bringing on Gary Cahill for Loic Remy, the Portuguese manager was satisfied with a point.

It was a tactical battle at Stamford Bridge more than anything else, with neither team willing to open their game too much and invite the other to counter. Overall Manchester City were the better side but were handed a goal only courtesy of a rare Courtois mistake. The Chelsea players appeared tired in the dying stages of the game but coming out of this game with a five point lead, it is their title to throw away. Jose Mourinho knew a point would be sufficient and he had no desire to win at all costs because he did not have to. The Chelsea boss set up his side accordingly, opting for Remy ahead of Drogba to give his team pace on the counter, rather than physical strength up front. In the second half, Chelsea were content just to sit outside their box and not allow Manchester City anywhere near their goal with Mourinho clearly settling for a draw. Sitting at the top of the table, few can argue against him. The visitors had more of the game but failed create a single clear cut chance thanks to a good defensive team performance.

With Champions League knockout stages starting again soon, Mourinho should look to give key players of his team a rest to find the spark they had at the start of the season. His squad management sees him pick his starting 11 over and over if they are available. No one knows his squad better than the Portuguese but he should be wary of potential exhaustion among his players. That is what can stand between Chelsea and their glory in their League Cup, Premier League and Champions League campaigns.

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