Once again it was a Kevin De Bruyne wonder goal giving Manchester City a late win against Chelsea. The defending champions have now won 12 straight and with a 13 point lead at the top of the table.
Pep Guardiola and most of the Manchester City squad returned to action today after the defending champions were hit with a COVID outbreak. Oleks Zinchenko, Nathan Ake and Cole Palmer were left out of the squad completely, so they may be in the new bath of positives.
Guardiola did make one maker tactical change. Most notably was the decision to start Aymeric Laporte and John Stones and drop Ruben Dias. Knowing Tuchel’s defensive setup, Guardiola likely wanted to have his two best ball-playing defenders on the pitch.
City had control throughout most of the game, but Chelsea had an opportunity in the first 10 minutes. John Stones slipped while fighting Romelu Lukaku for the ball. Allowing Chelsea an opportunity on goal, but by the time the Belgian could find Hakim Ziyech on goal, the offside flag was raised.
City struggled to get shots off in the opening of the game. In expected fashion, Chelsea sat deep with five at the back and invited pressure. In the 13th minute, Stones had City’s first chance of the game, heading the ball directly into Kepa’s hands.
City relied heavily on Raheem Sterling in the first half. The England international was the only City forward who consistently found himself dribbling through on goal and crossing the ball into the Chelsea box. It was further proof that Sterling’s form has returned.
City began to take full control later in the first half. In the 31st minute, Jack Grealish nipped the ball from Kante, which landed perfectly at the feet of Bernardo. This forced Kovacic to make a dangerous tackle from behind the former Monaco midfielder, earning him a yellow card. From there Chelsea’s defensibly solidity began to show cracks.
Ten minutes later, City should have gone ahead. Jack Grealish found himself one on one with Kepa, who came off his line and made a phenomenal point-blank save.
Grealish nearly redeemed himself a few moments later in the 42nd minute when he found De Bruyne on the edge of the six-yard box. But his shot went well over the bar.
City failed to take control of the game early in the second half. Just one minute into the second half Kovacic split City’s defence and put Lukaku through on goal. But his shot was parried by Ederson who came rushing off his line. The save rebounded to Ziyech who launched his shot well over the bar.
City and Chelsea traded a few dangerous counter attacks in the following 10 minutes before City started to slowly regain control.
In the 68th minute, Sterling nearly got his goal after finding just an inch of space, but his shot was just a yard too wide.
Moments later, Kepa launched a ball to midfield, Laporte calmly won the header and the ball found its way to Cancelo. De Bruyne began to make a run in behind Chelsea midfield, and Cancelo fired a ball in past Werner, Azpilicueta and Kante. De Bruyne immediately turned through on goal, fought off a hard tackle by a recovering Kante and fired an off-balance shot that perfectly curled into the bottom right corner of the net.
It was a deserving goal from another dominating performance by the defending champions. The Ethiad responded by singing “Championes, Championes ole ole ole.”
Following the goal, Chelsea were forced to open up and attack, but their lone chance came when Azpilicueta rifled in a cross into the City box that Werner refused to make a run towards.
At the final whistle, Grealish drew a foul and threw his hands in the air, mirroring Bernardo’s same reaction just a few months prior at Stamford Bridge.
Man of the Match - Raheem Sterling
Another brilliant performance put in by the current Premier League Player of the Month. It became apparent very early on that Marcos Alonso was going to have his hands full. Sterling drew a yellow card from the Spaniard in the opening 10 minutes and that set the tone for the remainder of the match.
Ederson - 7: Ederson wasn’t asked to do much today against Chelsea. However, the Brazilian did come up with. Big save one on one against Lukaku in Chelsea’s only big chance of the game.
Walker - 8: Typical Walker performance. Completely locked down the right side of the pitch. Rarely out of position and has a massive recovery against Zyech in the second half.
Stones - 7: Overall solid performance. Had a slip in the opening 10 minutes that led to one of Chelsea’s few chances, but immediately recovered and did not lose control.
Laporte - 9: Maybe Laporte’s best game in a City shirt. It was a rough outing earlier this year against Lukaku and Chelsea, but he was borderline perfect for all 90 minutes today.
Cancelo - 8: Continues to perform in his new position. Played a perfect ball to unlock De Bruyne for the goal, created a few chances as well.
Rodri - 7: Not a bad performance, lost possession once or twice but fortunately, City weren’t punished for it.
Bernardo - 8: Quiet but impressive performance. Drew an important yellow card early on, and was vital in keeping control of the game.
Kevin De Bruyne - 7: Absolute world-class goal. But other than that it was a pretty pedestrian performance from the Belgian.
Grealish - 6: Decent performance. Created a few chances, drew a few key fouls and should have scored. Keep giving it time.
Foden - 6: We’ve been spoiled by how well he has played in the last 18 months. Had a few shots, played a beautiful ball into an empty six-yard box, but also lost possession multiple times in transition in the second half.
Sterling - 9: Absolutely terrorized Alonso and Sarr all game long. Best game this season and deserved a goal. Might have even won a penalty if Walker hadn’t been offside by a step.
City’s next match will be away against Southampton on January 22nd at 5:30 pm GMT.
Written by: @IVIeehan
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