Saturday 14 December 2019

Ancelotti glad of break as Blues fall

Lampard 42, pen 90
Tevez 45, pen 76, Bellamy 51, 87

Mark Fleming

NOTHING brings people together better than a touch of adversity. Manchester City’s collective support for Wayne Bridge in his hour of emotional need helped carry them to a remarkable victory over Chelsea.

Now Chelsea need to show the same kind of spirit, on the back of two defeats in the space of four days and with the injuries and suspensions starting to mount up.

The loss of discipline was the most worrying aspect for Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti. In midweek against Internazionale his side had dominated possession and were unfortunate not to come away with a draw. The disappointment at losing in the San Siro was lingering just below the surface. Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack have a combined age of 66, yet despite being two of the most experienced players in the Premier League, they were guilty of allowing their frustrations to get the better of them. Belletti was given a straight red for tripping Gareth Barry to concede a penalty that Carlos Tevez converted to make the scoreline 3-1. Six minutes later Ballack flew in dangerously high on Tevez and was handed a second yellow card.

Ten days ago Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, dispatched his chief executive Ron Gourlay to order the players to be disciplined in their private lives, in the wake of scandalous revelations about the sex lives of John Terry and Ashley Cole. After seeing the way Chelsea lost their rag against City, Abramovich may be minded to send Gourlay off again, to remind them that discipline should also be shown on the pitch.

Ancelotti acknowledged this week’s international break for once will be welcome at Chelsea. He said: “It is not bad to have a break now because when they come back we have time to prepare, because we play on Sunday (against Stoke). I think that is a good thing. It is better to forget this game immediately. We lost our discipline because we lost balance, we lost concentration, and we made some mistakes. It is not the time to be angry; now we have to look forward.”

The similarity in the defeats to Inter and City, however, will give Ancelotti concern. In both games Chelsea were the dominant side. Against Inter they had 18 shots on goal, and against City they had 23, giving a total of 41 goal attempts over both games, more than enough to have finished up with two wins. Instead they only scored three goals, and notably Didier Drogba did not score. Chelsea have become overreliant on Drogba whose form in the last two games has taken a dip.

At the back, Chelsea limited Inter and City to eight goal attempts each. But in both games they were susceptible to counter-attacks every time the opposition crossed the halfway line. With Ashley Cole and Petr Cech injured, Chelsea resemble heavyweights with a glass chin.

City, galvanised by the sense of injustice concerning Bridge’s shattered love life, proved what a good side they are, when they can be bothered. Tevez returned after missing four games to be at the birth of daughter Katie in Argentina, and promptly brought Chelsea’s 37-game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge to an end with his tenacity and creativity.

Frank Lampard put Chelsea ahead but Tevez poached an equaliser when Mikel and John Terry made a mess of dealing with a hoofed clearance by Bridge. Bellamy scored a classic counter-attacking goal to put City ahead, but Chelsea still looked comfortable. That composure was blown apart in the 75th minute, when Belletti fouled Barry and Tevez converted the penalty. Bellamy made it four before Lampard scored a penalty in stoppage-time.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Hilario; Ivanovic, Carvalho (Kalou 70), Terry, Malouda; Ballack, Mikel (Belletti 61), Lampard; J Cole (Sturridge 61), Drogba, Anelka. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Ferreira, Matic, Alex.

Man City (4-5-1): Given; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Bridge (Santa Cruz 78); A Johnson (Wright-Phillips 61), Zabaleta, De Jong, Barry, Bellamy; Tevez (Sylvinho, 90). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Onuoha, Santa Cruz, Toure, Ibrahim. Bookings: Chelsea: Terry, Ivanovic, Ballack. City: Zabaleta. Sent off: Chelsea: Belletti, Ballack.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Man of the Match: Tevez.

Attendance: 41,814.

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

The Left Wing: John Cooney on Ulster's European run and bouncing back from World Cup disappointment

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport