Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Bernardo Silva fires City to within four wins of title
By Jack Wilkinson at Etihad Stadium
Last Updated: 04/03/18 10:34pm
Champions-elect Manchester City continued their title procession with a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.
Bernardo Silva opened the scoring for the second game running, bundling the winner home 34 seconds into the second half as City moved 18 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Antonio Conte's decision to not start a recognised striker backfired as Chelsea, missing midfield lynchpin N'Golo Kante, failed to register a single effort on target en-route to a fourth defeat in five.
The 25th victory of City's stellar season leaves Pep Guardiola needing just four more victories to dethrone Chelsea and claim a maiden title in English football.
Man City: Ederson (7), Walker (7), Laporte (7), Otamendi (7), Zinchenko (6), Gundogan (6), De Bruyne (7), D Silva (7), B Silva (7), Sane (7), Aguero (7).
Subs: Danilo (6), Jesus (6), Foden (n/a).
Chelsea: Courtois (6), Moses (6), Rudiger (6), Christensen (5), Azpilicueta (6), Alonso (5), Drinkwater (5), Fabregas (5), Willian (5), Pedro (5), Hazard (5).
Subs: Giroud (5), Emerson (5), Morata (n/a).
Man of the Match: David Silva.
The champions will have no doubt travelled to the home of their successors hoping to replicate last week's dominant first-half display at Old Trafford, but, as has been the case this season, City showed why they are 16 points clear of United with a dominant display of their own.
Chelsea were unable to break up City's precise passing game in the opening exchanges and errors soon followed as Cesc Fabregas was caught in possession in his own area by Leroy Sane. The ball ran for Sergio Aguero but a block from Antonio Rudiger denied the Argentine his 200th City goal.
After Bernardo Silva curled a shot onto the roof of the Chelsea goal, Oleksandr Zinchenko was fortunate only to see yellow for a lunge on Victor Moses that allowed Willian to race clear, but his driven cross was blocked.
Normal service soon resumed and City so nearly took the lead on 27 minutes as Kevin de Bruyne's free-kick found Sane at the back post, and his shot was cleared off the line by Cesar Azpilicueta.
City made two changes from Thursday’s win over Arsenal as Oleksandr Zinchenko and Aymeric Laporte replaced Danilo and Vincent Kompany. Chelsea followed suit as Cesc Fabregas and Pedro got the nod ahead of N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata.
City had the ball in the Chelsea net three minutes before as Nicolas Otamendi applied the finishing touch to a clever quick free-kick, but Aguero was ruled offside in the build-up and it was chalked off.
City's dominance continued after the break and it took less than a minute for the pressure to tell as Bernardo Silva ghosted in behind Marcos Alonso to turn David Silva's cross beyond Thibaut Courtois.
A deluge midway through the second half prevented the hosts from adding further gloss to the victory, but the conditions, and a toothless Chelsea attack, did little to dampen the mood as City edged ever closer to the title.
- Man City will end the day 18 points clear at the top of the Premier League, the biggest lead ahead of second place since March 2006, when Chelsea were 18 points ahead of Manchester United.
- David Silva has assisted 12 goals for City in all competitions this season, his most in a campaign since 2011/12, when he assisted 19 goals.
- Chelsea have lost four consecutive away matches in all competitions for the first time since January 2003, when they lost to Man Utd (twice), Leeds and Arsenal.
- Pep Guardiola is only the second manager to complete a league double over Antonio Conte, after Delio Rossi (for Sampdoria in 2012/13).
- Only Sergio Aguero (15) has scored more goals for Manchester City in 2018 in all competitions than Bernardo Silva (5).
- Chelsea failed to register a single shot in the first half, the first time they'd not had a shot in the first half of a Premier League game since 2003/04 (when Opta began recording the data).
Pep Guardiola: "It was so important, a win today is another step closer. We need four victories to be champions, it is in our hands and if our behaviour is like today we will be champions. Against a strong team like Chelsea, who are still the champions, and beat them in the way we did today, that is why it is so good."
Antonio Conte: "The players followed my instructions. We prepared the game this way, not to concede space in between the lines. But to concede a goal 30 seconds after half-time was a pity because it was difficult for us to come back."
Man of the Match - David Silva
It proved to be another trademark performance from the Spaniard. With Conte choosing not start either Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud, City were tasked with breaking down Chelsea and yet again Silva was key in doing so.
The midfielder kept things ticking over when a combination of Chelsea resilience and the weather tried to bog down City's title charge, while his cross for his namesake to score the winner was measured to perfection.
City look to rubber-stamp their place in the Champions League quarter-finals against Basel on Wednesday before travelling to Stoke on Monday Night Football. In between that, Chelsea host London rivals Crystal Palace in Saturday's teatime kick-off.