City slickers sever Chelsea’s slim title hopes
Kevin De Bruyne’s dazzling solo effort was enough to secure a potentially title-winning three points as Man City beat Chelsea at the Etihad to open up a 13-point gap at the top.
Even without a recognised striker for much of the campaign, Man City have still averaged at least three goals at the Etihad in the Premier League and, with Chelsea having only kept two clean sheets in 11 league matches, goals were expected. However, clear-cut chances were few and far between in a chess match-like first half.
Easily the game’s best opportunity for either side in a cagey opening period came five minutes before HT, when Mateo Kovačić’s misplaced pass sent Jack Grealish through on goal one-on-one with Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Englishman, though, deployed as part of a fluid front three, failed to capitalise, with his placed finish being turned around the post for a corner by the onrushing Spaniard.
Pep Guardiola has lost eight games as a manager against Chelsea, more than against any other club, but his relentless crop took the lead on 69 minutes after a marauding run through the heart of the Blues’ defence by City captain De Bruyne, who sumptuously bent a right-footed effort beyond Arrizabalaga into the bottom corner.
It was a goal that ignited the touch paper as the game opened up, with substitutes Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner stationed alongside a previously isolated Romelu Lukaku. But Thomas Tuchel’s changes came too late for Chelsea, who failed to fashion any sustained form of pressure on Ederson’s goal.
This was just the second-ever Premier League meeting between Man City and Chelsea as the top two sides in the division and, now City have recorded their 12th consecutive Premier League win, with only Preston North End and Liverpool winning 11 or more games in succession and not going on to win the top-flight title, Guardiola’s cohort look to be champions elect.