Chelsea have done rest of premier league a favour
A victory for Manchester City last night and they would have been champions-elect.
Instead they lost for the first time this season -- and lost their cool -- and Chelsea not only hauled themselves back into contention but blew the title race wide open.
For half an hour City were irrepressible and should have been out of sight before Chelsea's equalising goal. City shelved the disappointment of a Champions League exit and came to the Bridge to attack.
Full marks to Roberto Mancini for unleashing the creative talent at his disposal and it was only with a slice of fortune, and a tactical reorganisation, that Chelsea worked their way back into the contest.
But then City lost their way. Gael Clichy's dismissal didn't help -- a third red card for City in six matches -- while a rash of cautions were a concern as Chelsea pushed them back.
They need to keep their discipline and keep the ball or their good work will be undone.
FRANK LAMPARD IS NO LONGER A FIRST-CHOICE STARTER
For Lampard, at 33, the writing is on the wall -- despite his penalty winner.
His Chelsea career is not over but having been on the bench for last week's vital Champions League tie against Valencia, he was among the substitutes here as well until the final 20 minutes.
Maybe it gave a pointer to how he will be used -- when the opposition is tiring and a goal is needed.
It must also be noted that his replacement, Raul Meireles, scored Chelsea's equaliser with the kind of run into the penalty area that has been synonymous with Lampard over the years.
Nevertheless the way Chelsea are playing now, with movement and energy in the midfield, puts Lampard's place in jeopardy and he must be contemplating his future.
Samir Nasri, after his £24m switch from Arsenal, will be wondering whether he has made the right move. Financially he has, but it will be a shock to him to be a bench player for major matches like this.
CHELSEA AND CITY WILL BOTH HAVE TRANSFER REGRETS
Two years ago Chelsea had the chance to sign Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid but decided, in the end, that the fee was too high and the talent too raw.
They were wrong, of course, especially as he is the kind of quick, mobile striker that they lack. His arrival at City has transformed their attack and made it much easier for Mancini to exile Carlos Tevez.
Aguero was central to much of City's threat last night and his running and work-rate was similar to that of his Argentinian compatriot.
Daniel Sturridge, meanwhile, gave Clichy a torrid time -- setting up Chelsea's goal and drawing the foul that resulted in the defender's first booking. He easily had the beating of the left-back.
Sturridge left City after running down his contract and although compensation was paid, it was nothing like his market value. Sturridge is most definitely Chelsea's future, as Andre Villas-Boas has quickly discovered.
REFEREES ARE NOW UNDER MORE SCRUTINY THAN EVER
It was a torrid evening for Mark Clattenburg, who had a number of big calls to make -- and he didn't get them all right.
The biggest controversy will surround his failure to award City a penalty when David Silva appeared to be tripped by Jose Bosingwa inside the area.
The City bench was furious. If it wasn't a penalty -- and it certainly looked like one -- then Silva should have been cautioned for simulation.
Clattenburg gave nothing and it was a pivotal moment -- a goal then and City would have been in charge.
He also could have dismissed Yaya Toure for an apparent slap on Juan Mata, and Meireles for a reckless tackle, but was right to red-card Clichy for two foolish challenges.
The conditions were tricky, but the referee's performance wasn't up to scratch and, by the end, almost every strong challenge was drawing a caution. He then, rightly, awarded Chelsea a penalty.
CHELSEA NEED A NEW CENTRE-HALF AND A RIGHT-BACK
Focus will fall on Branislav Ivanovic's ponderous turn as he was completely wrong-footed for City's goal inside two minutes -- but where was John Terry?
The captain looked equally slow and the fact is that the Chelsea defence lacks pace in the centre.
They can be dissected too easily and with speedy strikers they cannot carry on like this, which is why the high defensive line has been shelved.
David Luiz was suspended last night but neither is he the quickest, while Villas-Boas has to find someone who is able to sweep up more rapidly.
Chelsea have never replaced Ricardo Carvalho, while Bosingwa, at right-back, is a liability in defence -- often caught out of position.
For years, right-back has been a problem position for Chelsea and it doesn't help the rest of the defence that it is such a vulnerable area. (© Daily Telegraph, London)