Chelsea title charge as Man City fade


Written By: Robert Halter


A midweek game beginning of April at Stamford Bridge, represented the fortieth match between Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League era. It was the Blues that pressed for an early advantage and Chelsea got the breakthrough in the tenth minute, after build up play with Pedro and then Cesar Azpilicueta down the right before a curling strike by Hazard, took a cruel deflection off the head of the City captain, Vincent Kompany, leaving his keeper, Willy Caballero, to paddle thin air, as the ball drifted past him into the bottom left corner. In the sixteenth minute, from a ball across by Jesus Navas, a long range strike by Fabian Delph, was bent high over the upright. City reacted again with link up play between Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, before from outside the box, Fernandinho, riffled a shot that was plucked from the air by Thibaut Courtois. In the twenty first minute, David Silva combined with Aguero, who went down the middle before his low drive was saved to the right by Courtois. But Chelsea responded a minute later as a cross on the left by Hazard was struck first time by Cesc Fabregas, as the ball bobbled onto the outside crossbar, by bouncing off Gael Clichy. But Courtois gifted the Citizens an equaliser on twenty six minutes, when from Kurt Zouma’s back pass, Courtois kicked the ball straight into the path of Silva, who struck an effort against the Blues keeper, before the predator Aguero was in the box to tuck away the rebound. Although Courtois made amends two minutes later, to charge down an attack by Leroy Sane in the centre of the goal, who had collected a through ball by Silva. However on thirty four minutes, after a threaded pass by Fabregas, after going into the left side of the area, Pedro was brought down by Fernandinho, and referee Mike Dean awarded a penalty. Up stepped Hazard, and after Caballero saved his spot kick, the rebound was spilled back out and Hazard put the ball away into the centre of the net to put Chelsea back in the lead. The Citizens looked for a quick response as Silva found Aguero, whose low left footed strike deflected off Blues captain, Gary Cahill, but wide of the left post. On thirty eight minutes, Silva found De Bruyne down the right, whose thumping shot from an acute angle, was pushed over by the outstretched palm of Courtois. A half time substitution saw Nemanja Matic replace Zouma. Early in the second half, N’Golo Kante pulled down Silva, and from a quickly taken free kick by Silva and De Bruyne,  his deep delivery into the box was met with a looping header by Kompany that crashed against the crossbar. On fifty one minutes, after Sane drew a foul by Azpilicueta, a free kick by Silva, was put back out from a miss placed header by Cahill into the path of Delph, who lifted the ball back into the area for Fernandinho, to slice a volley over from an unmarked position before the linesman’s flag was raised. On sixty five minutes, from a Silva corner, it presented a free header to John Stones, who directed the ball straight into the arms of Courtois. Two minutes later, from a ball over by Hazard, after cutting back in, Pedro, drove the ball low down towards Caballero’s right. On seventy five minutes, from a pull back by Fabregas, the ball was blazed over by Hazard with a clear sight of goal. The Citizens soon replaced De Bruyne with Raheem Sterling. In the eightieth minute from a Silva corner and header on by Stones, the ball was driven wide on the right by Aguero, who was in range of the target. The Blues then took off Fabregas for Willian and the Citizens later replaced Sane with Nolito, before the Blues gave Ruben Loftus-Cheek a brief appearance for Hazard. But right at the death, Nolito put a ball over to Aguero, who was unmarked but he prodded the ball against Courtois, as the ball went behind for a corner that Silva put over and from Kompany’s headed pass, at close range, Stones missed with a glaring sliced effort over the bar as the Blues weathered the storm for a vital three points in their quest to win the Premier League title with a 2-1 victory.