Chelsea 2 - 1 Manchester City: match report
Eden Hazard scored two goals in an insatiable first half performance to maintain Chelsea's seven point lead at the head of the Premier League. Aguero temporarily pulled Manchester City level from close range, but City lacked incision in the second half at Stamford Bridge.
Before kick-off in West London, Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola were at the centre of the narrative. Two meticulous, imaginative tactical thinkers. Ultimately, the two teams nullified each other in the tactical skirmish, and it was Hazard's individual excellence that decided the match.
With ten minutes on the clock, neat interplay by the Chelsea midfield allowed Pedro to find space on the right of the box. The Spaniard, deployed in a more attacking position than against Crystal Palace, had the presence of mind to cut the ball back to Hazard, who was waiting, poised. The Belgian side-footed the ball to the right of Willy Caballero who, distracted by Vincent Kompany's desperate attempt to block, could only palm the ball in to the net. The Argentine stopper, introduced in the place of the shaky Claudio Bravo in recent weeks, did little to suggest he is the answer to City's conundrum between the sticks.
The away side, clad in a garish orange kit, felt their way back in to the contest. Courtois miscued a clearance, which arrowed straight to David Silva. The playmaker, as delectably-balanced as ever, unleashed a fierce shot that Courtois could only parry in to the path of Aguero. City's poacher rolled the ball in to net from six yards.
Yet the lead would only last for eight minutes. Hazard, so slippery and agile, teased Fernandinho in the box; drawing the Brazilian in to the tackle, before dashing away. Fernandinho extended a desperate leg, and brought Hazard tumbling to the turf. A clear penalty. Hazard himself placed the ball on the spot, and aimed for the bottom-right corner. Caballero guessed correctly, and kept the ball out at the first attempt, but he was unable to prevent Hazard slamming in the rebound.
After the break, the match descended in to a scrappy affair. Conte's revered three-man defence denied the away side space to operate.
David Silva continued to probe, but his gliding runs were often ended abruptly by agricultural Chelsea defending. The home side were cynical at times. Matic and Kanté each nibbling at Silva as he threatened to launch an attack. It is this bloody-mindedness, combined with the sumptuous flair of Hazard, that makes them so formidable.
It is indicative of Manchester City's bluntness, that their two best chances of the second half fell to John Stones, following set-pieces. At the death, the Yorkshireman scooped the ball over from close range. He returned to position with his head in his hands. On the touchline, his manager looked anguished.
Manchester City remain in fourth place, four points clear of Arsenal. Chelsea stride on, ostentatiously and with a steely nerve, towards the Premier League trophy.
Chelsea 2 - 1 Manchester City: second half live
FT - It's all over at Stamford Bridge. A crucial victory for Chelsea, who continue to stride towards the title. The home fans are ecstatic, you sense that they fully grasp the significance of this result.
Min 90+2 | A big chance goes begging for John Stones. The ball fell to the defender from a corner, but he scooped it over from close range. Chelsea have a chance to reorganise.
Min 90+1 | Sterling tries to chip it in to the path of Aguero, but Cahill heads clear. It works its way back to Nolito, who arrows a ball to the far post, where Aguero is waiting again. The striker gets a toe to it, but Courtois is equal, and dodges it behind for a corner.
Min 90 | Hazard leaves the pitch to a standing ovation. His first-half performance was succulent. Loftus-Cheek is on.
Min 89 | City morph in to a 2-4-3-1 formation, as they press for an equaliser.
Min 88 | Conte is charging the length of his technical area, pointing to where he wants his players to position themselves. His side have managed the second half astutely so far.
Min 86 | City substitution: Nolito replaces Sané.
Min 85 | City are looking short on ideas. Chelsea are dominating the match as we edge towards full time. No clear chances, but the home side are in the territorial ascendancy.
Min 83 | Hazard nips in ahead of Kompany at the byline. The defender emerges with the ball, but the linesman adjudged that he went through the man to get it. Kompany receives a booking. Willian delivers an inswinging free kick, which is comfortably nodded away.
Min 81 | Chelsea substitution: Willian replaces Fabregas.
Min 80 | Ooh, half chance for City. John Stones nods a corner on to the far post, where Aguero is skulking. The Argentine drills the ball on the bounce, but flashes it in to the side netting and behind, from an acute angle.
Min 79 | City substitution: Sterling replaces De Bruyne.
Min 79 | City are cautiously probing, playing it patiently around the back, waiting for an opening.
Min 77 | It's a booking for Fabian Delph. He stretched to take the ball off Diego Costa, and it looked like he got a toe to it. Mike Dean does not concur, and reaches for his pocket.
Min 75 | Hazard goes close to scoring his third! As with his first goal, it's sculpted by a Pedro cut-back. But this time, Hazard leans back and fires over the bar.
Min 72 | David Luiz slams a free kick in to the wall, after John Stones had barged in to the back of Diego Costa. It looked like it hit one of the defenders square on the bonce; they'll certainly know about it.
Min 70 | Superb defending by Gary Cahill. David Silva has space on the left and slips a wicked ball in to the path of Aguero, who is waiting six yards out ready to pounce. Cahill gets back just in time to clear.
Min 68 | The match has become scrappy in the last ten minutes, which you would think will suit Chelsea. The home side are willing to be cynical in order to prevent City settling in to a rhythm.
Min 65 | Chelsea have an attempt at goal for what feels like the first time in an age. Pedro cuts in from the right, and bends a left-footed shot towards the far corner. Caballero gets everything behind it, and smothers with ease.
Min 64 | That man Silva is at the centre of everything positive for City. His dynamic running wins a corner for the visitors. John Stones gets a strong head on it inside the six yard box, but he directs it straight in to the midriff of Courtois. The centre half trots back in to position rubbing his head in frustration. That was a great chance.
Min 63 | Silva is receiving a real kicking. This time, it's Pedro who comes steaming in. Guardiola is dischuffed, and animated, on the touchline. The Fourth Official is bearing the brunt of his frustration.
Min 61 | A training ground routine from that set piece; De Bruyne shapes to shoot, but slides in Sané at the near post. He can't quite wriggle in to enough space to cut the ball across goal.
Min 60 | Free-kick to City on the edge of the Chelsea box. Matic hauls down Silva. It's well in range for a certain Mr Kevin De Bruyne.
Min 58 | Sané hasn't managed to get in to the game so far. He has steadily emerged in to one of the most potent attackers in the league, but has been anonymous at Stamford Bridge.
Min 55 | Delph, exuberant as ever, flies through the air and dispossesses Fabregas. It was a little unorthodox, but important nonetheless as Chelsea looked to scamper forward on the break. He and Fernandinho are beginning to take control of the centre of the park.
Min 54 | Chelsea are matching City's pressing tactics at goal kicks. Caballero is forced to kick it long, and City don't have the physical presence in attack to retain possession.
Min 52 | Clichy enters the book. Pedro shows Clichy the ball, then takes it away, and Clichy promptly takes him down. That wasn't particularly subtle.
Min 51 | Free kick to City, after Azpilicueta cleans out Sané. The delivery from Silva is headed out, but hooked back in to Fernandinho, who scoops it over from an offside position.
Min 49 | Lovely tackle from Kompany to prevent Costa having a run on goal. Clean, yet full of grunt. How City have missed their captain.
Min 46 | An early free-kick for City. Silva's footwork is too slick for Kante, who kicks out and brings the diminutive playmaker down. Surprisingly, no card given, although Mike Dean gives him a 'no more of that' chat. From the resultant free kick, Kompany hits the top of the bar with a header, as he nodded the ball across goal in search of another orange shirt.
Antonio Conte makes a change at half time. Matic enters the fray, with Zouma not emerging for the second half. Presumably an enforced change, as Zouma was playing well.
Chelsea 2 - 1 Manchester City: first half live
Chelsea lead at the break courtesy of two goals from Eden Hazard (the second a penalty), either side of a Sergio Aguero equaliser. City have had most of the ball, and have probably, on balance, had the better chances. Yet the home side have been clinical. It has been the Hazard Show in the first hald, and I expect the Belgian to have a fruitful second half against a positionally-unsure Jesus Navas.
HT - Mike Dean puts his whistle to his lips, and the two teams trudge in for the break.
Min 45 | Zouma possesses many of the same qualities as a brick wall. City put together a neat, drawn-out series of passes, but Aguero can find no way past the former St Etienne centre half. He's on the mend from injury now, and will be a real asset for Chelsea in the Premier League run-in.
Min 43 | Silva gets some revenge on his compatriot with a crunching, but fair tackle in the centre circle.
Min 40 | Mike Dean plays an astute advantage after Fabregas cleans out Silva with an ugly, scything tackle. City break, but lose the ball after Aguero and Luiz come together. Luiz barged in to the back of the stout striker, and sends him tumbling in to the advertising hoarding. No foul given this time, surprisingly. That definitely wasn't 'shoulder-on-shoulder'.
Min 37 | Ooof, corner to City. De Bruyne whips a wicked cross in from the right hand side. Courtois takes no chances, and palms it behind, leaping through the air. Perhaps one for the cameras, but it was certainly a tricky one to deal with. The resultant corner is cleared by the first man; cardinal corner sin committed by De Bruyne there.
Min 35 | Almost an immediate response from City. This is frenetic. Aguero shot is deflected just wide by a sprawling Gary Cahill. The corner is cleared, but City retain possession through a throw in, in line with the box.
Min 34 | GOALLLLLLL! Caballero gets something on the initial shot from the penalty, but Hazard slots in the rebound.
Min 34 | PENALTY! Hazard, skips past Fernandinho, and the Brazilian chops him down. No complaints, that was clear. Hazard over it.
Min 33 | The Frenchman nearly makes amends at the other end, he fizzes a ball in to the 'corridor of uncertainty', but the 'keeper smothers it.
Min 32 | Eugh, horrible. Chelsea clear the ball long and Clichy doesn't connect properly with the ball as it emerges from the sky. Straight in to touch on the half way line. Cup of tea with that slice, Gael?
Min 30 | The game is taking place in Chelsea's half at the moment. The home side are struggling to play out. On the touchline, Pep is brooding, Conte skulking. You could make a David Attenborough documentary out of these two.
Min 28 | City surge forward once again. Silva slides a ball in to the path of Sané on the left, who somehow manages to make up the ground and get there ahead of an onrushing Courtois, but he couldn't lift the ball over the 'keeper's body. He's got some wheels, Sané.
Min 26 | GOAL GOAL GOAL! City are level! Courtois makes a hash of a clearance, and send the ball straight in to the chest of David Silva. The Spaniard skipped forward, and and unleashed a fierce shot that the 'keeper could only parry in to the path of Aguero, who turned it to gold from close range. Courtois was unable to make amends for his initial error.
Min 24 | Aguero is down holding his ankle following a sliding tackle from Luiz, but Mike Dean waves play on with his trademark exuberance.
Min 22 | Ooof, Chelsea nearly double their lead. A Fabregas shot glances off the top of Kompany's thigh, and Caballero can only watch, wrong-footed, as it loops on to the roof of the net. City clear the resultant corner at the back post.
Min 21 | Intricate, delightful interplay between Silva and Aguero allows the latter to send a low shot across Courtois. Saved.
Min 20 | Both teams are executing 'the press' well. At the other end, Clichy is harried off the ball in a dangerous position, but Hazard can't pounce on the loose ball.
Min 19 | Chance for City! Fernandinho stings the palms of Courtois from 25 yards out. The Belgian can't hold it, but he parries it with relative ease.
Min 15 | City's front three are pressing high up the pitch, man marking the Zouma, Cahill, and Luiz when Chelsea have a goal kick. Courtois will need to show cunning to distribute from the back.
Min 13 | Now it's City's turn to career forward. Silva skips through the centre of the park, with Aguero to his left, and Sane to his right. He plays it to Aguero, who sees his shot blocked. It seems like that early goal has whipped Pep's team in to action.
Min 10 | GOAAALLLLL! Hazard puts the home side in to the lead! A neat passing movement places Pedro in space on the right of the box, he cuts it back to Hazard and the Belgian sweeps a right-footed shot in to the far corner. Caballero got a palm to it, but there was too much force behind it. Conte, volcanic, erupts on the touchline.
Min 9 | Silva dispossesses Kante in Chelsea's half, and he threads a ball through to Aguero. Under pressure from Zouma, the Argentine striker takes a heavy touch and it runs through to Courtois.
Min 9 | The City full backs are pushing very high up, with Sané and De Bruyne cutting in from the flanks further ahead. It makes the pitch expansive in possession, but I can see Hazard exploiting the space on the left, especially as he's up against Navas, a natural winger.
Min 6 | Diego Costa gets a snapshot away from the edge of the box, but the burly striker is leaning back and he skews it in to the crowd.
Min 5 | City have been dominant in possession thus far, as we would have expected. Yet Chelsea are well structured, and look comfortable to sit back and gallop forward when The Blues leave a gap.
Min 3 | Chelsea get forward on the break through Eden Hazard, and Alonso finds room to bend a deep cross in. It goes all the way through the Azpilicueta, whose dink in to the six yard box is cleared by John Stones.
Min 2 | The visitors are lining up in a rather 'loud' orange and purple kit. They won't miss each other, that's for sure. Navas has lined up at right-back, with Delph and Fernandinho holding the midfield.
Min 1 | Mike Dean gets us underway, City kick off.
Chelsea vs Manchester City: team news
Chelsea XI: Courtois; Zouma, David Luiz, Cahill (c), Azpilicueta, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso, Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard.
Coach: Antonio Conte
Manchester City XI: Caballero, Clichy, Stones, Kompany (c), Fernandinho, Delph, Sane, Silva, De Bruyne, Navas, Aguero.
Coach: Pep Guardiola
Chelsea vs Manchester City live stream: latest news
20:58 | 'Chelsea: Pride of London', reads the giant flag moving across the Matthew Harding Stand. 'The Shed', says the one moving across the, erm, Shed End.
20:56 | It's a pleasant spring evening in West London. The teams are making their way out.
20:50 | Over in South Wales, it's 0-0 in the early stages of Swansea v Tottenham. A Swansea victory would go a long way in Chelsea's hunt for the title.
20:48 | The teams are heading back to their dressing rooms following the warm-ups. It really is a thigh-rubber for the tactics buffs tonight. Conte and Guardiola are both managers who like to 'play on the blackboard', as the saying goes in Spain. It'll be a fascinating tactical match-up.
20:46 | It could be a tasty one this evening. In the last five meetings between Chelsea and City, there have been four red cards. Earlier this season, Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero were both sent off as Chelsea won 1-3 at The Etihad in December.
20:40 | It was almost a record-breaking, or at least record-equalling season for Chelsea. They were chasing down Arsenal's record of 14 consecutive wins in the Premier League, but Tottenham halted them at 13, thanks to a dazzling Dele Alli display. The run began after *that* 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, which precipitated Conte's tactical shift to a three-man defence.
20:35 | It's Thibaut Courtois' 100th appearance for Chelsea, and he feels like a big, Belgian part of the furniture at Stamford Bridge. He has been one of the first names on the Chelsea team-sheet since he replaced Petr Cech back in 2014.
20:25 | Pep's selection raises more questions. Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany come in to the side, and the former has played just 40 minutes of football in the Premier League this season. Kompany isn't much better off, with just 116 minutes. Meanwhile, City are still without a recognised right back in the side. Presumably, Navas will continue to deputise.
20:20 | Some food for thought there in the line-ups from Conte and Guardiola. Chelsea's is pretty straightforward; Zouma will enter the back three, with Azpilicueta completing a solid-looking defence at right wing back. Conte ostensibly opting for a natural defender to counter the threat of Leroy Sané on Manchester City's left. Pedro shifts forward in to a more attacking role.
19:58 | Conte's had one, would Pep want one...? It's football's top 10 hair transplants.
19:50 | While there is talk of Courtois heading to Real Madrid, there have also been suggestions that Antonio Conte would like to bring Alvaro Morata in the opposite direction. The two were together at Juventus.
19:32 | Antonio Conte has taken to his calculator to assess Chelsea's position. He reckons they're in a good place: "It's normal with 27 points available that anything can happen in the league. We need 21 points to win the league mathematically. I think we are in a really good position."
19:20 | Raheem Sterling has generated headlines since he burst on to the scene at Liverpool, and not necessarily for his exploits on the pitch. In this interview, the winger (who is still just 22 years old) wonders if he just has a face that people don't like.
19:15 | Thibaut Courtois has been the talk of the town in Madrid recently. The rumours of a a summer move to Real Madrid will not go away. David de Gea has been mentioned in the same breath; both former Atlético 'keepers, of course.
19:05 | Antonio Conte adopted a 'three at the back' system after that watershed 3-0 defeat to Arsenal on the 24th of September. From then, until the last match against Crystal Palace, Conte fielded the same back six: Courtois; Moses, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Alonso. The Italian coach will have to make to without Victor Moses again this evening. He has enjoyed a right-wing-back renaissance this season, but is currently nursing a toe injury.
18:50 | Diego Costa played up the importance of tonight's fixture: "this game against City will be a six-point affair since if we win... they will [effectively] be out of the title race while we keep the advantage." It is hard to disagree with the striker, not only because a victory would deliver a blow to Manchester City. A victory could also stretch the gap between Chelsea and second-placed Tottenham to ten points, if Spurs lose at Swansea this evening. Psychologically, that would be a mountain to climb for Pochettino's team.
18:38 | Stamford Bridge has been a fortress this season. Chelsea have dropped just six points at home this campaign. Last weekend, they incurred the wrath (and defensive stoicism) of Big Sam's Crystal Palace. Chelsea's only other home defeat was to Liverpool (1-2) way back in September.
18:20 | Here's a reminder of how and where to watch this evening's box-office Premier League clash in West London.
17:45 | If Chelsea lose, meanwhile, they'll have posted consecutive home league defeats for the first time since back in November 2011, when André Villas-Boas was still prowling the Stamford Bridge touchline.
17:00 | No side has ever managed to pull off a league double over one managed by Pep Guardiola throughout his career. If Chelsea achieve the feat this evening, it will also represent the first time Guardiola has ever been beaten six times in a league season.
16:30 | Chelsea have kept just two clean sheets in their last 11 Premier League outings, having managed 10 in their previous 12. Agüero meanwhile has scored four in his last three games against Chelsea, including that Stamford Bridge hat-trick last season, but was sent off when last the sides met in a feisty affair in December.
16:00 | However, that was one of only two wins for City at Stamford bridge in their last 19 attempts in all competitions, their record in West London reading drawn five, lost 12 other than those two victories.
15:15 | In this fixture last season Sergio Agüero bagged a hat-trick as City won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge. The Argentinean will start tonight with Gabriel Jesus still on the sidelines.
14:23 | Stamford Bridge is a fine venue but there are plans in place to upgrade it further giving a very modern feel to it. The current stadium already does well on occupancy.
14:03 | At AS English we have a colleague with an unhealthy obsession with iconic football boots and he'll be on the watch for what the players are wearing tonight.
13:37 | A big question for Pep to answer tonight is whether or not he returns Vincent Kompany to the starting line up. The Belgian defender has not played this year but is in contention to face up to Diego Costa and could bring some much needed organisation to the City backline.
13:04 | In a full Premier League midweek schedule, last night's home draw with Everton did not do Manchester United's Champions League ambitions any favours. Arsenal, and City, will look to take full advantage tonight. (Fans of the Red Devils will, of course, point to the Europa League doorway).
12:43 | City manager, Pep Guardiola, has been speaking ahead of the game and is already looking at required changes in personnel.
11:47 | With Spurs expected to take all three points at relegation-threatened Swansea tonight, there's a little more pressure on Chelsea. Defeat for the Blues could mean just a four-point advantage going into the weekend's fixtures.
11:15 | What a game in store for us all tonight as the run-away leaders (well, until Crystal Palace rocked up at Stamford Bridge last weekend!) host one of the other pre-season favourites, City. So many angles and talking points on this to keep us busy throughout the day as we build up.
Chelsea vs Man City: preview
Pep Guardiola’s team have the chance to upset the top of the Premier League table and do themselves, and especially second-placed Tottenham a favour should they become the fifth side to beat Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. Manchester United snatched a late draw at home to Everton on Tuesday – a chance for City to consolidate one of the Champions League positions. They are currently sat fourth on 58 points – one behind Liverpool who will be entertaining Bournemouth in tonight’s other late game.
The Stamford Bridge side have looked invincible all season (certainly since the initial slow start) and have only lost twice since the New Year was ushered in – a 2-0 reverse to Spurs in January and last week’s shock home defeat to Crystal Palace. They are still probably too far ahead to be stopped at this stage, but a second consecutive loss could see cracks starting to appear and Conte will be keen to ensure that doesn’t happen with 27 points left to play for.
The Blues have just one injury doubt – Victor Moses who is still suffering from a sore toe. His place in the side could go to Pedro once again; the Spaniard is now fully accustomed to deputizing as a makeshift full-back.
City will be eager to get back to winning ways after having drawn their last three games (Stoke, Liverpool, Arsenal). Manager Pep Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference that for being out of European competition, Chelsea will be fresher than their direct rivals, before adding that the London side deserves to top the Premier League table. Guardiola has Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus sidelined but his City side won this fixture easily last season and they remain unbeaten in eight games.
Chelsea vs Manchester City: live online betting odds
Naturally, the bookies are going with the home side and table toppers, with a Chelsea win paying 11/8. A draw wouldn’t be a surprising result as this is a game which Chelsea might rather not lose rather than go all out for a win – such an outcome would pay out at almost 4/1 while a City victory would pay 3/1.