Chelsea Bring Flying City Down To Earth

By Ikenga Chronicles December 9, 2018

Chelsea Bring Flying City Down To Earth

–Kennedy Emetulu, 

It’s turned out that the news of some Wolves devouring the Blues at the Molineux was hugely exaggerated. The proof came yeaterday at the Bridge where flying City were shot down in flames. The Champions’ first defeat this season in the Premiership has been handed out to them by Chelsea in a display that saw the matadors tame the rampaging bulls with two beautiful goals.

Young ones, come to the Bridge and learn! If you want a template of a bounce-back, talk to Sarri and the boys because that is what they’ve shown. After the loss at Wolves, most pundits were sure that City were coming to the Bridge to put an end to any supposedly silly notion that Chelsea are still in the running for the title. Though, despite the 2-0 win Chelsea are still 7 points behind City, the notion that Chelsea cannot be Champions has now receded with this win against the Champions.

The game itself started predictably. The Citizens took charge from the get go, playing sublime soccer and keeping Chelsea on the back foot for more than 40 minutes in the first half. The trio of Sterling, Mahrez and Sane tormented the Chelsea backline to no end while Fernandinho commanded the midfield admirably. But there was something about Chelsea even with City running rings round them that suggested they were not intimidated by their more skilful opponents. At the heart of Chelsea’s rearguard action was David Luiz who’d received scathing criticisms for his performance in Chelsea’s defeat against Spurs which obviously led to him losing his starting berth to Christensen in the game against Wolves. He took leadership of the Chelsea backline and commanded the middle and forward line in a dogged collective defensive display. But just as pundits were thinking it was only a matter of time before Chelsea buckle, David Liuz in a counter-attacking move picked the ball at the edge of the Chelsea penalty area and made a brilliant 70-yard pass to Eden Hazard on the left side of the City box. Hazard shimmies, feints and confuses the defenders as he finds an advancing N’Golo who slams it into the roof of the net with Sane on his tail. One nil to the Chelsea with our first shot on target!

City were shocked! Their supporters were shocked! What was that? What happened? A Chelsea goal totally against the run of play with City bossing possession at 62 percent in that half? Well, Chelsea were going in at half-time totally outplayed but a goal up from the unlikeliest of sources. Is this Sarri man trying to make a striker out of N’Golo Pampam by playing him further upfront? Well, this calm-looking Italian could actually be a crazy one, but we are the Chelsea and we were up by one goal and that was all that mattered at that point!

When the teams returned, there was a reversal of roles as Chelsea became the team keeping the ball and City chasing it. The City midfield began to feel the pressure as Fernandinho brought down a dancing Willian around the box in the 48th minute. Suddenly, Sterling that had the freedom of the left in the first half saw a rejuvenated Cesar Azpilicueta turn a massive obstacle and the Chelsea man stood his ground to reduce most of Sterling’s runs to corners. Perhaps Azpilicueta was taking inspiration from the fact that this was his 300th game in Chelsea colours. A Kyle Walker free-kick conceded by Hazard near the edge of the box was well saved by Kepa.

By the hour mark, Pep had started exhibiting his frustration on the touchline. In the 65th minute, Chelsea made their first change. Mateo Kovacic was limping and Ross Barkley came in to replace him. Three minutes after, David Silva also carrying a knock got replaced by Gundogan. In the 75th minute, Sarri took off Willian and replaced him with Ruben Loftus-Cheek in what seemed like a tactical change. It was a signal that Chelsea were not going to sit and defend one goal. Loftus-Cheek with his height was to be used as a target man. Two minutes later, Chelsea had their first corner of the game. Hazard floated in the ball and David Luiz who had won everything in the air in his own box rose like a Salmon to nod the ball over Ederson into the far corner! 2-0 to the Chelsea! You could hear the thud that was the drop in City’s spirit. This was not part of the script!

From then on till the end, it was Chelsea in control of the game with a desperate City chasing the ball. By the time Giroud was replacing Hazard in the 90th minute, it was clear to everyone that the game was over. A sullen looking Pep was in a state of shock as were his players! Maybe he was thinking of this game as another comparable to the one Chelsea beat his Barcelona team 1-0 with a Didier Drogba 45th minute strike in the first leg semi-final at the Bridge on our way to winning the Champions League title in 2012. Pep would have noted that like the 2012 game, Chelsea’s ruthlessness in exploiting little opportunities while leaving the visitors with possession is the key. They defended as a unit, broke up City’s play at crucial points and made sure to exploit counter-attacking and set-piece opportunities which produced the two goals with two first shots on target. Chelsea had a mere 39 percent of the possession, 8 shots to City’s 14 with 5 on target to City’s 4. Of the 14 corners in the game, City had a whooping 13. Chelsea’s only corner resulted in the second goal.

This is what tactical football is about. Do not be afraid to be dominated by a better and more skilful team, but don’t let them outwork you or outthink you in vital areas.

At the beginning, it looked like it was a game between Manchester City men and Chelsea boys, but by the end, it was a reverse view. Chelsea were calm and composed in defence and attack and they knew what they wanted with each move and despite Manchester City’s embarrassment of riches, Chelsea made sure they couldn’t read them. Every player with our jersey did us proud, but one thing giving me extra pleasure and great hope is that Kepa is beginning to organise his defence better and that is because he’s beginning to have that necessary understanding with his defenders. He’s growing into the team.

With this defeat of City, Chelsea have proved City can be beaten in the league and that would give other teams confidence and make the race to the title more competitive. The way City were running away with it with Liverpool hanging on was getting scary. But Chelsea had beaten Liverpool at Anfield in the League Cup to end their own unbeaten run then and now, they’ve done it to City in the Premiership, so we can now truly say the Premiership has really come to life.

We must also recognise that the game was a tactical masterclass and Chelsea won only because Sarri outthought Guardiola. I’m sure Guardiola would have felt a little amused to see that the Chelsea line-up had no recognised striker. It was one thing not to start Morata and not to even have him on the bench, but you would expect Giroud to step in. No, Sarri chose to play Hazard as a ‘false 9’. That decision may not have looked good in the first half before the goal because Hazard was cut off from the ball by City’s play, but Sarri trusts Hazard to show versatility, which was what he did by creating the two goals. It was all about economy of opportunities but with the right people at the the right place when those opportunities come. That is a championship winning strategy.

C’mon Blues!

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