City ground out a hard-fought but thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory over Chelsea to move 18 points clear at the top. The Blues may see that lead cut back by three points tomorrow evening when Manchester United play Crystal Palace, but the three points move the Blues to within four points of the title. Bernardo Silva sealed the win with a goal seconds after the restart in a game of few clear opportunities.
What happened? Chelsea began the game without a recognised striker, perhaps making their intentions clear from the outset. Indeed, the visitors had the ball in the Blues’ half just once of their own volition in the first 15 minutes as they sat back en masse and let City dictate possession. Leroy Sane was looking menacing on the left flank and caused one or two flutters at the back for the visitors, particularly with one electric run that took out three players almost in a split second and Bernardo curled a shot a few inches over on 20. City came close to a breakthrough on 27 minutes and inevitably Sane was involved. Kevin De Bruyne whipped a free-kick in from the right and Sane pulled the ball down with his left foot and then sent in a fierce right foot shot that Cesar Azpilicueta did well to clear almost off his own line with Thibaut Courtois well beaten. The half continued without too much incident until a quickly-taken free-kick by De Bruyne saw Sergio Aguero break clear, mis-hit a low shot towards the far post where Sane slid the ball home – but the assistant referee’s flag was raised for offside. That was arguably the highlight of an otherwise quiet first period. However, the second-half was a different story with City going ahead within 35 seconds of the restart. Aguero capitalised on a mix-up in the Chelsea defence, fed the ball to the overlapping David Silva and his fine cross was met by Bernardo whose improvised finish left Courtois floundering as the ball skipped over his head. It was a thoroughly deserved lead given the Blues’ first-half domination. The visitors, it seemed, would have to change their game-plan and perhaps be a little more expansive, but the reigning Premier League champions offered little in the way of a response. The pattern of the game continued largely as it had done in the opening period, with an attack v defence feeling about proceedings. Sane, in thrilling form, continued to cause mayhem down the left and Aguero, De Bruyne and Silva continually probed and prodded as the Blues looked to put the game to bed. The visitors brought on two strikers in the last 12 minutes, but it was too little, too late for a team who swept all before them last season.
Key moment? Aguero winning possession and setting Silva away for the cross that provided the winning goal
City Matchday App star man: Leroy Sane Another electric display from the young German.
What it means… City move 18 points clear of Liverpool and edge ever closer to the Premier League title.
What’s next? City host FC Basel on Wednesday looking to progress into the Champions League quarter-finals - the Blues lead 4-0 from the first leg. Then it’s off to Stoke a week on Monday for the last Premier League game until the last day of March when we travel to Everton.
Manchester City (1): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko (Danilo, 87’); Gündogan, De Bruyne, Silva (Foden, 92’); Bernardo, Sané, Agüero (Gabriel Jesus, 84’)