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Incredible Ivanovic strike sinks City


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A wonderstrike from Branislav Ivanovic saw Chelsea deservedly beat Manchester City to close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal to a paltry two points.

The Serbian rifled in a magnificent drive from the edge of the box on the half-hour after Ramires had seen a shot well blocked by City captain Vincent Kompany, for what proved to be the game-winning goal.

Chelsea were absolutely fantastic, putting in what is surely their best performance of the season to totally dominate the Premier League title favourites in their own backyard.

Whilst Petr Cech was forced to make a couple of outstanding late saves from David Silva and City sub Stevan Jovetic, it was the Blues who – by far – carried the greater threat, with Samuel Eto’o, Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill all hitting the woodwork.

It also took fine Joe Hart saves to deny Ramires, Eden Hazard and John Terry as the away side inflicted City’s first home league defeat since May – and preventing them from scoring in the league at the Etihad for the first time in 63 matches.

The victory is a result more than warranted by Chelsea’s performance. On a night that will go a long way towards deciding the destiny of the league title come May, Jose Mourinho unequivocally won the tactical battle with Manuel Pellegrini.

Mourinho’s decision to field David Luiz alongside Matic in the defensive midfield pivot was a masterstroke – the Brazilian was one of many stand-out players for Chelsea, with his industry and work-rate typifying both a miserly defensive showing and an exhilarating attacking display.

This was the full package from Mourinho’s Chelsea. Talk prior to the game was of the Blues’ supposedly defensive-orientated mindset in this type of fixture, with critics pointing to less than exciting draws at Old Trafford and the Emirates as a negative approach to the game.

But after a scathing attack on Sam Allardyce’s nineteenth-century football that saw West Ham somehow conjure a draw back at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, Mourinho was only ever going to set his team out to attack.

That move, always likely, was anticipated by Pellegrini, who, in the absence of arguably City’s most crucial player, Fernandinho, elected to play Martin Demichelis as their holding player.

This tactical game was won in the midfield. Demichelis, a centre-half by trade, was torn to pieces. Hazard, enjoying arguably his best performance in a Chelsea shirt, countlessly left the Argentine defender trailing in his wake. Demichelis’ midfield partner Yaya Toure fared little better. Considered to be the Premier League’s bully-boy enforcer, the Ivorian was dominated by Luiz and Matic.

City paid the Blues a great deal of respect with their relatively reserved showing. When you consider this is the same side that has put eleven goals past Tottenham in two games this season, as well as beating the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United by heavy margins, this Chelsea performance is all the more impressive.

Simply put, Pellegrini’s side weren’t allowed to play with the sort of freedom that has seen them net 42 goals in eleven home league matches prior to this evening.

City created the better early chances, with Yaya Toure scuffing wide and David Silva later failing to make a good connection with the midfield man's cross, scuffing an effort across the face of goal from inside the six yard box.

Chelsea, however, were set up to hit City on the counter-attack with pace and movement, a ploy that reduced the home side to the sort of anxiety rarely seen at the Etihad this season.

First Hart had to make a fine close-range save to deny Ramires when the Blues had a four-on-one attacking overload after a swift break. Looking back, the Brazilian really should have opened the scoring.

Fear not – Ivanovic popped up to thunder an incredible half-volley from the edge of the box past Hart moments later after Ramires had again seen a fine chance wasted.

The Blues might even have doubled their lead when Eto’o smacked the ball against the crossbar as the half drew to a close. Chelsea led 1-0 at the interval – and it is likely City would have been the happier side considering the Blues’ first-half dominance.

Chelsea came out the far superior of the two sides after the break, with first Matic thundering an arcing effort off the post from 25 yards, before Cahill headed against the woodwork from a Willian corner. Joe Hart was a mere spectator on both occasions, and the home side were incredibly lucky not to fall further behind.

That – coupled with the introduction from the bench of Jovetic – seemed to spark City into life, and Cech had to be alert to expertly palm over David Silva’s excellent free kick as the home side looked for a response.

Chelsea continued to threaten on the counter, but Cech again had to react to a fierce Jovetic drive. At the other end, Mourinho was incandescent that Matija Nastastic was not sent off after a clear shirt pull on Blues sub Oscar as the visitors broke after a City corner – but he was celebrating moments later.

The final whistle sounded to screams of delight from the travelling support from West London. Elsewhere, an eerie silence crept over the Etihad Stadium. City fans have been reminded their team are not infallible.

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