Chelsea stun Man City as 'little horse' shakes up title race

Feb 4, 2014
Bill Mann

Tactical masterclass from Mourinho shatters City's home record and aura of invincibility

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Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1. A goal from Branislav Ivanovic threw the title race wide open on Monday night as Manchester City suffered their first home league defeat of the season. The result leaves Arsenal two points clear at the top of the table with City and Chelsea level on 53 points.

More importantly Chelsea's win has shattered the aura of invincibility that had been building around City in the last three months. Since losing 1-0 at Sunderland on 10 November, the Sky Blues had embarked on a streak of 20 games unbeaten in all competitions - including a win away at Bayern Munich and thumping victories over Tottenham (6-0), Arsenal (6-3) and West Ham (6-0).

Against Chelsea the juggernaut was derailed as City were outplayed and out-thought by their visitors. Mourinho employed two holding midfielders and in front of them Eden Hazard was outstanding. The Londoners absorbed City's early pressure and began hitting them on the counter-attack. The only goal of the game came just after the half-hour mark when Branislav Ivanovic sent a rasping left-foot strike past Joe Hart but Samuel Eto'o almost doubled the advantage minutes later when he struck the crossbar.

Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill also rattled the woodwork as Chelsea began to control the game and City - forced to field central defender Martín Demichelis in midfield for the injured Fernandinho - began running out of energy and ideas. The hosts did come close to scoring late on but Petr Cech produced a fine save from David Silva's free-kick.

It was the first time that City had failed to score since defeat to Sunderland in early November as Chelsea became the first side to stop the Citizens scoring at home since Birmingham City managed it on 13 November 2010, 62 games ago.

Afterwards manager Manuel Pellegrini was forced to concede his boys "lost against a good team that played very well". Nonetheless, the Chilean believes the result will prove only a temporary blip for the Sky Blues. "For Chelsea it was a decisive game, not for us," he said. "If we win, we were six points ahead of them. Now we are two points behind Arsenal. We have [42] points to play for."

For Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho it was another tactical triumph over one of his rivals, although the Special One did his best to downplay the significance of the result. Asked if the title race was a three-horse race, he replied: "Two horses and a little horse. A little horse who needs milk and to learn how to jump."

His team is the "little horse", he explained, because "we are a team in evolution but this is the kind of performance that helps the team to grow up a lot, tactically, mentally, I think it was fantastic".

Mourinho then opened up a new front in the war of mind games by declaring Arsenal the favourites to win the title. "Arsenal are working for many, many years for the evolution of their team," he said. "They are top of the league and they are the favourites. We go behind them and play and watch."

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