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Review: Chelsea – Manchester City

Review: Chelsea – Manchester City
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In an unexpected turn of events, Maurizio Sarri got the better of Pep Guardiola for the first time as Chelsea defeated Manchester City 2-0 thanks to N’Golo Kante and David Luiz

Chelsea starting lineup: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Marcos Alonso, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Pedro, Willian, Eden Hazard
Manchester City starting lineup:
Ederson, Fabian Delph, Aymeric Laporte, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Fernandinho, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling

The first 20 minutes of the game were pretty awful for the neutral viewer, as the teams basically employed the same false nine tactics and cancelled each other out completely. Manchester City did have a couple of opportunities to threaten Chelsea’s goal thanks to some prolific passing, but a shot wasn’t fired. It was a really scrappy game, with lots of duels, lost balls and very little space to operate. Cesar Azpilicueta came to the rescue in the 32nd minute, when Raheem Sterling rounded Marcos Alonso and made him look silly. Sterling then sent a low ball across the penalty box and if it weren’t for Azpilicueta’s phenomenal sliding block, City would’ve likely been ahead.

As much as The Blues were trying to replicate and imitate the defending champions’ style, it was visible they weren’t near City’s level yet. The visitors’ pressure was increasing as the half wore on. Then, a change of fortunes. A fantastic side-to-side long pass by David Luiz found Pedro and automatically stretched The Citizens’ formation. Pedro immediately crossed back to the other side to an incoming Willian, whose first touch wasn’t the best. He kept the ball though, and it eventually reached Eden Hazard, who made a couple of dummy dribbles before releasing the ball to an open area inside the box. Leroy Sane didn’t cover the empty space, which allowed N’Golo Kante to take a first-time shot and score magnificently in the upper corner to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead.

Right at the start of the second half, Willian earned a free kick and Willian took it himself. Ederson was ready and made a quality save to prevent Chelsea from going up by two. The Blues came out of the locker room with great energy. Kante was their wild card, as City’s players had trouble controlling his movement. Guardiola was quick to react and Leroy Sane was the sacrificial lamb, as he was the one Gabriel Jesus replaced. In the 57th minute, Kyle Walker had a bending free kick saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga. In the 64th minute, Mateo Kovacic suffered an injury that saw him get substituted by Ross Barkley. The next change in the match was Ilkay Gundogan for a tired David Silva. Willian, who didn’t look too happy about it, was substituted next. His replacement was Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Manchester City weren’t able to establish their recognizable game-play and were left frustrated by an opponent that was practically copying their style. The frustrations turned into disappointment in the 78th minute, when David Luiz’s header gave Chelsea a 2-0 lead. The Brazilian defender jumped higher than everyone else and managed to divert the ball into the net following a corner kick. The goal definitely stung as City was just getting ready to make one final push.

Phil Foden came in for Riyad Mahrez in the 85th minute in what was Guardiola’s last-ditch attempt to reshuffle the deck and bring about change. In the last minute of stoppage time, Kepa made a mistake and gave up an easy ball, but made up for his error with a great save on Gabriel Jesus’ effort. The score remained 2-0. Nothing signalled such a turn of events when the match started today, yet Sarri’s team found a way to get the better of the dominant champions, whose first domestic loss this season will serve as a wake-up call ahead of the dense Christmas schedule.