Man City 1-0 Chelsea (De Bruyne 70 ‘)
The champions dominated for long periods, but struggled to break down their compact guests until Kevin De Bruyne scored a brilliant goal from the edge of the box 20 minutes into play.
Although the whole team were struggling to impress, FC’s Raheem Sterling was singled out as being the problem as he was called off the pitch after 22 minutes.
It was the Belgian’s fifth goal against Chelsea and leaves his former club 13 points behind City with just 16 games left.
It had until that time been a cagey match where both sides fluffed their lines in front of goal on the few occasions where the chances presented themselves.
Jack Grealish had the best chance of the first half, but was thwarted by Kepa, who dived low to deny City forward and save Kovacic’s blush after the Chelsea midfielder gave up possession with a sloppy inside pass in his own third.
Chelsea’s best two chances fell to Romelu Lukaku, one in each half. He played a bad pass to Hakim Ziyech in the first, as the shot would have been the better option before he saw his shot saved by Ederson as he was through one on one in the other.
City got the game in the end, where De Bruyne showed the type of precision that is so lacking from his compatriot.
Man City vs Chelsea player ratings
- Ederson 7
- Walker 7
- Stone 7
- Laporte 7
- Cancel 7
- De Bruyne 9
- Rodri 7
- B Silva 7
- Sterling 9
- Grealish 6
- Foot 7
- Kepa 4
- Rudiger 7
- T Silva 6
- Sarr 6
- Azpilicueta 7
- Alonso 4
- Edge 6
- Kovacic 6
- Ziyech 4
- Pulisic 5
- Lukaku 4
- Assembly 5
- Werner 5
- Hudson-Odoi 5
Player of the match: Raheem Sterling
The biggest threat to City came through the electric Raheem Sterling. The English striker ran Alonso unevenly, made an early mistake and booked from the Spaniard and put him in front for the rest of the meeting. Unlucky not to win a penalty kick in the second half as Kyle Walker had strayed offside.
Analysis: Why Grealish escapes the investigation into Lukaku
by Daniel Storey, I‘s chief football writer at Etihad Stadium
Lukaku spent 95 percent of the fight on lack of service, and five percent failed to do enough with the leftovers he was fed. On the occasions when Chelsea came back, outside the penalty area, their posts were sadly under or over-beaten.
Lukaku is not immaculate in this stagnant relationship, but it’s hard to figure out why Tuchel thinks it’s a viable strategy to make it work, to leave his attacker isolated and to force him to both rely on long balls and play with back to the goal. With 10 minutes left, Tuchel switched to 4-2-3-1 and played with Mason Mount as No. 10 close to Lukaku. About 80 minutes late, Chelsea fans might say.
But then it’s the advantage of playing for Manchester City over anyone else. Saturday’s match saw the two most expensive signings in Europe last summer in direct competition, and both are having a hard time. Jack Grealish had another off those Games: Lots of touches, lots of bright ideas, occasional glimpses of magic that eventually turned into nothing, and a missed chance to gain some much-needed confidence. It’s pretty much been his season on the loop.
But while Lukaku’s hardships are painfully evident when watching Chelsea, Grealish is able to escape censorship and increased control because everything around him works so well. He could (as many Guardiola signings have) take 12 months to decide and everyone will remain largely patient because City will have won at least one big trophy in the meantime.
It is the harmonious environment that Guardiola has created in this club. They can sign a £ 100m footballer who flatters to cheat during his first five months at the club and the only result is that everyone assumes it will just take a little more time. They can welcome the European champions to a decisive league match and no one thinks for a second that they might not win it. Maybe next season; quite possibly not.