Honours even in the biggest match of the season, and a well-earned point I was very pleased with at full-time seems less of an achievement now that the dust has settled.
A little part of me was not nervous about the match, having accepted that the team can’t win them all, and that a trophy-less season is hardly the end of the world. I had my glass half empty as usual.
The team had few surprises bar the inclusion of Sagna over Zabaleta, though considering Pablo’s travails against Hazard in the past, there was logic to it, and it proved a wise decision.
Fernando and Fernandinho, predictable but not that inspiring, however, this was always going to be a tight, tactical game, so the two were needed there to keep the midfield secure.
The rest of the team picked itself, the energy of Milner necessary to help negate Chelsea’s attacking threat and Navas out wide to hopefully pin back at least one Chelsea full-back.
And all of that generally worked. It was tight, supposedly boring to the neutral (though not to me), as the midfield was swamped and space was at a premium. City dominated possession and posed the early threats with some half-chances, the best being Aguero’s wasteful shot wide, whilst Zouma prevented another chance with a great tackle and Courtois batted a shot away. Out of nowhere though, Chelsea were ahead, and the captain will attract more criticism. Hazard was given far too much space at the side of the penalty area, something Sagna shouldn’t have allowed, and his superb cross was left by Kompany for Remy to slot home.
It’s easy to criticise Kompany from my seat in the pub I guess, and I would speculate that he didn’t know who was behind him. For me though, he had to attempt to clear the ball, even if that meant the possibility of an own goal. That aside, and a foolish attempt to control the ball earlier that allowed Chelsea to break on goal, he did better than in previous weeks.
And that was Chelsea’s last shot on goal.
And thankfully for City, they hit back quickly. Sky spent plenty of time looking at whether City should have got the throw-in prior to the goal, but quite frankly who cares? If we go down that route then we could pick apart 100 occurrences during a match, and Chelsea actually regained control of the ball briefly after the throw-in so it was irrelevant.
As for the goal itself, credit to Navas for another good cross that had Courtois flapping and Aguero’s wayward shot was turned in by an alert Silva.
Level then at half-time, and that’s how it was at full-time too. City dominated the second half, as all the stats suggested, but didn’t really threaten too often. Milner headed tamely over, Fernandinho headed tamely down, and Milner shot wide. But Mourinho did what he does best, and played for a draw, as he is entitled to do, and it’s hard to score against his sides when they do that – better sides have failed in the past.
The subs showed City’s intent, whilst Mourinho brought on Cahill to screen Lampard, but there was no special script to be written for the ex-Chelsea man on his return to Stamford Bridge, though thankfully the majority (though not all) of the crowd applauded him as she entered the pitch. He couldn’t make a crucial difference, and nor could Jovetic.
Still Duncan Castles at the Times, a man never knowingly wrong, scored Chelsea players as the better on the day, bizarrely commenting on how Remy and Hazard’s pace had troubled Kompany (5/10), so what do I know eh?
The full-backs did fine (I doubt you’ll see much praise for Sagna though, who kept Hazard quiet), as did the central defenders, bar one obvious example. Hart had nothing to do, Navas and Milner were excellent, apart from awful corners as per usual from Navas, Aguero was not on top form but is getting back to his usual self and Silva ran the show as always. Fernandinho was great too, apart from wasting a half-chance on the right in the first-half and Fernando did his job. Chelsea had fewer shots than any game for many years, but they’ll take the point, and having seen their upcoming fixtures, perhaps this wasn’t such a great day for City after all – time will tell, and City now need to go on another great run, which includes tricky games at Stoke and Liverpool.
Were Chelsea there for the taking? I don’t agree that they were exhausted, as they hadn’t played for five days. Both teams had two big players out so it rather evened out on that score. As mentioned above, Chelsea played for that draw, not fashioning a shot in the second half, and were successful. City are still that little bit short in attack as shown in recent games, and the result was probably fair.
City were caught between a rock and a hard place. They could not afford to lose as that was the title race pretty much over, but a win would have been a huge bonus to City, cutting the gap to a mere two points again. City generally played it right I thought, dominating possession and probing, but in the end they didn’t have enough to break through. Still, the season has a long, long way to go, and this Chelsea team is excellent, but no where near the peerless group of individuals painted by many journalists earlier in the season.
Empty seats aplenty at the Emirates as Arsenal take on Aston Villa, yet a lack of banter about the Emptyrates on Twitter (thankfully). Of course City get it more as much of it comes from United fans that have nothing else to crow about, but Arsenal fans more than anyone face being priced out of the game we all love. Hopefully as the Premier League go to clubs following fans groups’ concerns, something more can be done in the near future, but I won’t hold my breath.