Chelsea are five points adrift of Champions League slot after 1-0 defeat to champions-elect Manchest
Chelsea drifted further into the oblivion that is fifth place in the Premier League as they went down to successive defeats in Manchester - this evening’s 1-0 loss at champions-elect City following on from last week’s 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford.
The Londoners gave effort and worked their defensive shapes well, but ultimately all they did was give City the one chance they needed and the home side took it and effectually shut up shop too, resulting in a fairly drab encounter at the Etihad Stadium.
Sadly it was centre-back Andreas Christensen, who once again made the fatal error, seconds after the restart allowing City to tuck home somewhat fortuitously.
But a goal is a goal and the Dane, 21, will be having sleepless nights at the error, coming so close after the one that gave Barcelona an underserved equaliser at Stamford Bridge recently in the Champions League.
Chelsea are now five points off fourth place Spurs and look like they will have to content themselves with a slot in next season’s Europa Cup.
This was job done by the home side while Conte having to be happy at not getting a hammering.
With no recognised number nine, Antonio Conte opted for a deep Eden Hazard to spearhead and hopefully get at the end of any counter-attacks. It was a forlorn hope that never materialised.
For this was a formation designed to defend and hope to break quickly.
City started as expected, with the majority of the ball and lots of territory, but failed to crack open the Chelsea rearguard in the early stages.
Bernardo Silva had the first effort on goal, on 20 minutes, but his left-footed curler from the edge of the Chelsea area inched just a tad high and wide of Thibaut Courtois’s left upright.
On a rare foray forward, Chelsea broke on the right and the first yellow card saw Zinchenko enter Michael Olivier’s book for a late challenge on Victor Moses. The attack petered away.
A piece of sublime defending by skipper Cesar Azpilicueta, on 27 minutes thwarted Leroy Sane, who controlled a deep cross, took one touch and rifled a low, right-footer past Courtois. But the Spain defender was on the spot to stop the ball crossing the line and Courtois was quick to snaffle up the loose ball.
Silva then found himself free in the Chelsea area on 33 minutes, but again his shot was wayward.
City had the ball in the back of the Chelsea net with four minutes of the half remaining but Sergio Aguero had strayed into an offside position before latching onto a quick Kevin De Bruyne free-kick.
It took just 45 seconds of the restart for the home side to take the lead. A poor clearance by Christensen on the edge of his area, saw the ball fall to De Bruyne and his drive across the six-yard box saw Bernardo Silva slice the ball back past Courtois who had gone to ground and the ball nestled in the back of his net.
Eight minutes later and the near perfect counter attack from the Londoners saw an equaliser. Sadly for the champions the ball fell to Moses on the right and he flashed a great chance wide of Ederson’s goal.
Chelsea didn’thave many chances and when they got them, they needed to make them count.
David Silva warmed the gloves of Courtois with a fierce left-footer as the home side went in search of the goal to kill the game.
Antonio Rudiger was next in Oliver’s book - his fourth foul finally earning a yellow card.
Antonio Conte’s first substitution came with 12 minutes left on the clock - striker Olivier Giroud got the nod over Alvaro Morata and replaced Willian.
He was quickly followed by Emerson for Pedro.
With two minutes left, on came Morata for Eden Hazard.
It did not result in a sudden change in fortune - City simply ran the time down.
Next up for the Blues is a must win match, at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday
Chelsea: Chelsea team: Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Fabregas, Drinkwater, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro.
Subs: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Emerson, Chalobah, Giroud, Morata.
Man City team: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko, Gundogan, De Bruyne, D Silva, B Silva, Sane, Aguero.
Subs: Bravo, Danilo, Kompany, Stones, Toure, Foden, Gabriel Jesus.