City blow their chance to beat Chelsea
(Loic Remy 41)
MAN CITY 1
(David Silva 45)
A spirited assault gradually descended into a futile exercise.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini attempted to pull off what no other team could achieve this Premiership season - beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
But it was Jose Mourinho who had the last laugh.
Man City became the first side to return from Chelsea's den with a point to show, but there is no solace for Pellegrini in the 1-1 draw yesterday morning (Singapore time), only disappointment.
The result meant City are back to where they started - five points behind leaders Chelsea in the standings.
The truth is, City blew it.
Chelsea were there for the taking.
Shorn of their Premiership top scorer Diego Costa and most prolific assist-maker in the league, Cesc Fabregas, their underbelly was horribly exposed.
They were tired and predictable.
They played not to lose.
Including this result, they haven't won in four games (in all competitions), so clearly, they were in the middle of a sticky spell.
City needed to strike a hammer blow to smash the Blues' state of mind, but ended up shattering their own title credentials.
It wasn't for a lack of trying.
Pellegrini did set up his team for the three points.
There were moments, especially in the second half, when his players practically camped in the Blues' half in search of the winner.
But, wary of Chelsea's counter-attacking ability, he didn't go the whole hog either.
From the start, he swopped the more adventurous Pablo Zabaleta for a more defensive alternative in Bacary Sagna.
In doing so, he took Zabaleta's overlapping runs out of City's offensive equation.
He opted for the industrious James Milner as part of his attacking midfield trio, when the more exciting Stevan Jovetic stood a better chance of causing more damage in the final third of the field.
As the game wore on, the home side's struggle to keep up with the pace of the match became increasingly conspicuous. It was only to be expected.
A sapping League Cup semi-final, second-leg encounter with Liverpool just four days prior to this match had drained the endurance out of Mourinho's men.
Pellegrini waited for the chance to turn up the pressure.
Former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, the first of Pellegrini's three substitutes, came on for defensive midfielder Fernando in the 77th minute.
Striker Edin Dzeko replaced the not-yet-fully-fit Sergio Aguero with just six minutes of regulation time remaining.
His final throw of the dice, Jovetic for David Silva, was a desperate attempt right on 90 minutes.
Did Pellegrini take too long to throw on his substitutes in a bid to turn the game around?
Did he play it a tad too cautious in his team selection?
Looking at the weakened Chelsea team, Pellegrini might have let the Blues off the hook.
What's certain is that City have blown the chance to beat a vulnerable Chelsea and reduce the five-point deficit.
Pellegrini said before the game that the result will not have a bearing on the destination of the league title. Come May, he may rue the crucial two points lost.
"Our team tried to win the game from the first minute till the end. I’m very proud about that. We created, especially in the first half, clear chances to deserve more than the point."
— Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini insisting his team played to win