Chelsea's blue bus drives through Man City fortress
Man City 0 Chelsea 1
Published 04/02/2014 | 02:30
Who needs to park the bus when you've got the coach?
Jose Mourinho's tactical mastery won this match, instilling in his players the perfect mindset and game-plan to shred Manchester City's 100pc record at home in the Premier League.
Mourinho is brilliant at finding the right strategy for the major challenges, drawing at Arsenal and at Manchester United, defeating City at home and now masterminding this deserved victory.
Branislav Ivanovic scored the decisive goal, Eden Hazard was man of the match, Nemanja Matic was exceptional in midfield while Gary Cahill and John Terry were immense at centre-half. As for claims that they might be over-defensive, Chelsea managed to hit the woodwork three times.
There had been no parked bus by Chelsea; or if it had been parked, Mourinho left the handbrake off and it rolled down and over City in the first half. Chelsea defended in numbers but also countered in numbers, pouring forward and taking the lead through Ivanovic's thunderous finish.
The Serb does not score that frequently but they tend to be goals of real significance such as his header to win the Europa League last season. In typical Ivanovic fashion, he also got cautioned for catching David Silva.
Chelsea were in no mood for niceties. They had a hunger for this, a game-plan too, speedily reaching out for the jugular in a fascinating match. The game had started at a frightening tempo and rarely dipped.
Yaya Toure was charging forward, slightly overconfidently leaving Martin Demichelis to guard the back four. Demichelis, bordering on a liability at times, was playing in midfield because Fernandinho had succumbed to a muscle injury, leaving gaps in the centre which Chelsea's counter-attackers exploited. Fernandinho was particularly missed in the first half.
Mourinho's players were working so hard, their tone set by the coach himself who leapt around the technical area, commanding plenty of abuse from the neighbouring City fans.
"Jose Mourinho, your football is s***e," chanted the locals. Matching their players for rapidity of thought, Chelsea supporters retorted with: "Jose Mourinho, he's won more than you".
Twice a Champions League winner, Mourinho applauded the industry and tactical discipline of his players, saluting Nemanja Matic as he ushered David Silva away from goal.
He clapped as the outstanding Hazard tore upfield, running at and past Pablo Zabaleta. The Belgian also tracked back tirelessly, delivering a commanding all-round display.
Hazard graced this pulsating encounter, a strong advertisement for the Premier League, although rather less for the national team with more Serbs than English (4-3). City, missing the injured Sergio Aguero, fought to impose their usual prolific selves, staring through some windows of opportunity in the breathless opening stages. Toure shot over.
He also linked well with the flitting Spanish firefly that is Silva, but still they struggled to break down the thick blue line. Mourinho's chosen ones were defending with organisation and concentration. John Terry was to the fore, making some fierce clearances.
Absorbing City's jabs, Chelsea stormed back, winning a free-kick that David Luiz sent rising almost comically over.
Chelsea were expertly soaking up the pressure, looking to unreel their punches on the counter. After 27 minutes, Nemanja Matic found Willian and suddenly it was four on two, Chelsea looking to claim the lead.
Willian ran through the middle and laid the ball off to Ramires, whose attempt to curl the ball around Joe Hart was anticipated well by the England international.
The attention was immediately dragged down the other end, Edin Dzeko and Silva combining before Matic, arms tucked behind his back, blocked Jesus Navas' shot.
Back the game went, flowing down the other end, leading to Chelsea's 32nd-minute goal. Hazard, inevitably, played a part, cutting the ball in to Ramires, whose shot was blocked by Vincent Kompany.
Ivanovic stormed on to the loose ball, powering it left-footed past Hart. Ivanovic ran away, pretending to wash his hair, seemingly mimicking Hart's shampoo endorsement.
Chelsea could have added more either side of the break. Running on to a Hazard cross from the left, Samuel Eto'o hit the bar as the visiting fans sang "boring, boring Chelsea". Their spirits nearly lifted even higher shortly into the second period when Matic let fly from range, almost snapping the post.
Being outwitted by Mourinho, a theme from their La Liga days, Pellegrini made his first move. He removed Alvaro Negredo and sent on Stevan Jovetic.
Cesar Azpilicueta headed clear from Kolarov shot. Then Oscar turned Nastasic on the halfway line, being clearly pulled back. Mourinho was incensed, demanding a sending-off but Mike Dean, the referee, ruled that it was too far out to be a clear goalscoring opportunity.
As the clock ticked down through three minutes of injury-time, Cech was required to show his abilities again, pushing a Jovetic drive over. Nastasic had a late chance but nothing could deny the coach. One-nil to Mourinho. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Irish IndependentFollow @IndoSport