Chelsea feel like bystanders at Man City title party as another Etihad defeat comes their way
Manchester City (1) 1 Alvarez 12
Chelsea (0) 0
Chelsea will be mightily glad to see the back of this season – and equally relieved to see the back of the Etihad.
After two chastening domestic cup defeats, the Blues were desperate for some crumbs of comfort on their third visit to Man City’s homeland in this campaign.
And they must have felt they could bring an end to a run of five straight defeats at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s team – all of them without scoring – when they saw the home team’s line up.
City, crowned champions for a third year running less than 24 hours earlier thanks to Arsenal’s defeat at Nottingham Forest, played what amounted to a second-string team.
With FA Cup and Champions League finals to come as they bid to become only the second team to secure the treble in this country, they could afford to rest Grealish, Haaland, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Rodri, Silva, Ederson and Stones following the midweek heroics against Real Madrid.
Seldom has a subs bench looked so ridiculously over-stocked.
But City’s hub or replacements showed there was still frighteningly abundant raft of talent to call upon and they looked full of motivation, even if they ultimately only managed to breach the Chelsea defence once – something of a consolation for the west Londoners.
It was enough to make it 12 Premier League wins in a row.
Cole Palmer’s darts down the Chelsea right caused havoc and a wayward Wesley Fofana pass paved the way for Palmer to dart forward and find Julian Alvarez with a perfectly-weighted pass and the Argentinian drilled in low to Kepa’s right.
The Blues held on and hit back, with Raheem Sterling going close – Stefan Ortega’s outstretched foot denying the former Etihad hero - and Conor Gallagher heading against a post.
City throttled back, as the second half became something of a non-event, but they still might have added to their tally. Kalvin Phillips headed against a post and Alvarez had a goal ruled out because Riyad Mahrez handled before crossing to the striker.
We did eventually see Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne on the pitch, but they were really just sent on to lap up the adulation.
Chelsea came close to snatching a late equaliser, with Phil Foden nipping in to deny Cesar Azpilicueta. But it was an otherwise tame end.
Blues fans did their best to make their voices heard amid the celebrating home fans and they chanted Frank Lampard’s name.. Next Sunday against Newcastle at the Bridge will be his definitive farewell after a visit to Old Trafford on Thursday.
After that, the rebuild must begin in earnest. The gap to the champions has never seemed bigger. Not since the 2021 Champions League final in Porto have the Blues got the better of a team they looked upon as equals not so long ago.
Citizens: (4-2-3-1) Ortega – Walker, Lewis, Laporte (Rodri 78), Akanji (Stones 57) – Phillips, Gomez (De Bruyne 78) – Mahrez (Haaland 74), Palmer, Foden – Alvarez. Subs not used: Ruben Dias, Gundogan, Grealish, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ederson
Blues: (3-4-2-1) Kepa – W Fofana, Thiago Silva, Chalobah – Azpilicueta, Fernandez, Loftus-Cheek (Chukweumeka 81), Hall (Koulibaly 81) – Sterling (Mudryk 69), Gallagher (Madueke 69) – Havertz (Pulisic 85). Subs not used: Joao Felix, Mendy, Ziyech, D Fofana