Aguero (77mins Pen), Nasri (86mins)
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 21 March 2012 21:42
- Posted by Chris Bailey
City have set a Premier League record and sent a powerful message to all their rivals.
Amazingly this was a 20th consecutive home win for the Blues. It is the first time that any Premier League side has achieved that feat and City become only the fourth side in top-flight history to achieve it following Liverpool in 1972, Newcastle in 1906-07and Preston North End in 1891-92.
And it proved, if proof were needed, that the men in Blue will not bottle this title race.
One down and seemingly out of the match and the race for the crown, City summoned up every ounce of resilience and willpower to score twice in the final thirteen minutes and keep a thrilling Premier League chase alive.
To be honest, most of the talk pre-match was not about the sudden appearance of a four point gap in United’s favour, or whose fixture list offered the better chance for a bumper spring harvest of Premier League points but rather around a player whose name had not seen a City team sheet since the end of September.
Carlos Tevez was trending big time outside and inside the Etihad Stadium and just before 7pm came the news that he was on the bench for the Blues.
That decision made all that remained was the reception he would receive when trotting down the touchline to warm up.
The answer was inevitably – mixed but more in favour than not. Pragmatism is alive and well and thriving in every football stand in every country in the world.
In any case as the clock ticked just beyond 8.15pm and Tevez began trotting down the touchline all eyes were elsewhere as Mario Balotelli strode through unhindered on the Chelsea goal only for Petr Cech to make the save of the half just as the Etihad Stadium was about to celebrate.
They home fans had cheers strangled in their throats early in the game too this time when Sami Nasri’s chip looked sure to open have opened the scoring but though Cech was this time left stranded the bar came to Chelsea’s rescue.
City dominated proceedings for most of the 45 minutes with Nasri and Yaya Toure the game’s star turns. But Chelsea defended with depth and determination and protected Cech well.
There was more of the same in the opening quarter of the second half when a Nasri shot again skimmed the woodwork and it came as a seismic shock on the hour when the Blues failed to deal with a right wing corner and Gary Cahill’s deflected shot found the net.
It was time to call for the former skipper who replaced Nigel de Jong as the home side went for broke.
But it was Tevez’ Argentine countryman Aguero who brought City level from the penalty spot after Michael Essien had handled in the box and then Nasri, in his best performance of the season, who won the game with the deftest of finishes after being put through by, who else, Tevez.
Since AVB moved on and RDM stepped up it had been as easy as ABC for the Stamford Bridge side that had racked up WWWs in on two cup fronts and in the Premier League but they were outshone comfortably here and on the back foot for long periods.
They entered this game 17 points adrift of Mancini’s side with eyes accustomed to peeking at the summit focused instead on a base camp which will guarantee them entry into next season’s Champions League. That goal is less certain after this City win – just like the destination of the title.