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Match Report: Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea (City Fan's Perspective)

Thursday 22nd March 2012
Manchester City moved to within a point of leaders Manchester United with a comeback similar to those we've been seeing from their rivals for years.

In a match of great magnitude both teams were without key defenders, but the most intriguing news was the return of City's hero-turned-villain striker, Carlos Tevez. According to Roberto Mancini, the Argentinian wasn't fit enough to start so Tevez began on the bench. Micah Richards started in an unfamiliar centre-back role alongside Kolo Toure role in place of Vincent Kompany, while Gael Clichy returned in place of Aleksandr Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta took over the vacant right-back position. Mancini put out an attacking line-up with Mario Balotelli and Sergio Agüero up front, supported by David Silva and Samir Nasri.

Chelsea's captain John Terry was sidelined because of a knee injury, so David Luiz started at centre-back with Gary Cahill. Branislav Ivanovic moved over to right-back instead of Jose Bosingwa. Perhaps surprisingly, Fernando Torres retained his place in the starting XI ahead of Didier Drogba. Daniel Sturridge made way for Raul Meireles who was handed the ‘number 10' role and Juan Mata started on the left. Ramires was also handed an unfamiliar role on the right.

City were the quickest out of the blocks, inspired by the impressive Nasri. The home team carved out some decent chances, Silva fired over from Zabaleta's lay off and Nasri himself witnessed the crossbar come to Chelsea's rescue. The Londoners were not without their chances though, Juan Mata awkwardly fired wide with his weaker foot after Torres found him in space.

After the fast and furious start, the game calmed down as City started to take control but couldn't turn possession into goals. Both teams were sloppy in the final third and some of Chelsea's passing left a lot to be desired. Agüero and especially Nasri were making Chelsea's back line work extremely hard, but the away side were stubborn and determined to keep the score level. Ivanovic seemed to be struggling with a knock, so Bosingwa came on to replace the Serbian.

The away side's passing showed no sign of improvement during the first half, and Frank Lampard abysmally gifted possession to Balotelli from a free kick in City's half. The Italian ran through clear on goal, but somehow managed to miskick the ball and Cech was able to palm wide. Chelsea were still in the contest going into half-time, despite being pinned back in their own half for most of the game.

Many people were surprised to see Gareth Barry come on for Balotelli at half-time, but the striker had been quiet apart from the one missed chance. The second half mirrored the first in terms of the speed to start, but this time Chelsea had more of the ball and more opportunities.

Manchester City maintained control of the game, but both teams continued to threaten. The first goal of the game came against the run of play, Barry failed to clear from a corner and Cahill's deflected shot bobbled into the back of the net past a helpless Joe Hart.

City were shocked by the goal, but they kept on creating chances and pressurising Chelsea all over the pitch. Mancini decided it was time to add another striker, so off came De Jong and on came Tevez - greeted with lots of cheers and a few (understandable) boos from City fans.

Tevez seemed to have an impact on the game as City created even more good chances, Agüero went close with an acrobatic effort and Clichy shot straight at Cech. Nearly everyone inside the Etihad thought City had equalized when Zabaleta's driven cross was flicked just past the post by Silva. Edin Dzeko came on to increase City's firepower further, with Silva withdrawn. Drogba came on for Torres and Meireles was replaced by Michael Essien.

The equalizer arrived in the 78th minute, when Pablo Zabaleta's ferocious shot was stopped by Essien's hand. It was a harsh decision, but City have had their fair share of dodgy penalty decisions go against them this season. As Balotelli was no longer on the pitch, it was up to top scorer Agüero to take the penalty. And he didn't disappoint, sending Cech the wrong way.

City knew a draw wouldn't be enough to keep the pressure on their neighbours, so they continued to attack. And it soon wielded their reward. You just knew Tevez was going to contribute to this game, and he did so brilliantly with 5 minutes remaining. His movement allowed him to find some space in front of Cahill, then when Nasri fed it to the Argentinian he turned the ball beautifully back into the Frenchman's path for him to elegantly lift the ball over Cech.

The goal sent the Etihad wild, and City hung on for their 20th consecutive Premier League home win. Coming back to win from a goal down with 12 minutes remaining, surely that's the mark of Champions?
Jordan Lucas

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