Report and highlights as Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez settle thriller at the Etihad in the champions' favour
Saturday 23 November 2019 22:24, UK
Manchester City returned to winning ways with a morale-boosting 2-1 victory over Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday Night Football.
A fortnight on from their damaging defeat at Anfield, City found themselves 12 points behind leaders Liverpool following their dramatic win at Crystal Palace, and their title challenge looked set to receive another blow when N'Golo Kante put Chelsea into a deserved lead midway through the first half.
But a deflected equaliser from Kevin De Bruyne hauled the champions level against the run of play before a brilliant solo goal from Riyad Mahrez completed the City comeback before half-time, while Raheem Sterling had a late third controversially ruled out for offside.
The victory sees City leapfrog Chelsea into third in the Premier League and brings the gap to Liverpool back down to nine points, while a third defeat of the season brings Chelsea's six-game winning run to an end.
Another dramatic, late Liverpool victory made for a subdued atmosphere ahead of kick-off, but a pulsating first half of football brought the Etihad to life.
De Bruyne came within inches of firing City into the lead when he was released in behind by Sergio Aguero inside four minutes, but that was all the champions could muster in their bright opening spell before Chelsea took charge.
Just four Chelsea players who started the 6-0 demolition at the Etihad in February were fielded by Frank Lampard, and it showed.
In the seven minutes leading up to the quarter-hour mark, Willian whistled a shot past the post, Tammy Abraham scooped an effort wide and Fikayo Tomori thought he had given Chelsea the lead when he instinctively lashed the ball towards goal when City failed to deal with a corner.
Chelsea finally made the pressure tell on 21 minutes as Kante outmuscled Benjamin Mendy to gather Mateo Kovacic's lofted pass, and the Frenchman bundled the ball over the on-rushing Ederson.
But just when it seemed Chelsea would add to their deserved lead, City drew level. Fortune favoured the champions as deflections off both Chelsea centre-backs sent the ball into the path of De Bruyne and, after he cut inside onto his left foot, a second deflection off Kurt Zouma turned his shot past the wrong-footed Kepa.
City hit the front for the first time thanks to a moment of brilliance from Mahrez. The Algerian gathered a cross-field ball on the right, weaved in between Emerson and Kovacic before firing a shot through Tomori's legs and past the unsighted Chelsea goalkeeper.
An encouraging first half threatened to unravel for Chelsea when Kepa's aimless pass out from the back fell at the feet of Aguero, but the Spaniard's blushes were spared by the crossbar.
The intensity of the first period transferred to the second, with both sides peppering each other's goals at will. A last-gasp Fernandinho block turned Kante's goal-bound shot behind within eight minutes of the restart before Mahrez's rasping volley drew a stunning fingertip save from Kepa.
Chelsea substitute Mason Mount flashed a free-kick inches wide from 30 yards late on and City then thought they had finally put Chelsea to bed deep into stoppage-time when Sterling's shot breached the defences of Kepa.
But another contentious VAR decision ruled the effort out with the England forward adjudged to have been millimetres offside, and City saw out the victory on a night when Chelsea were left wondering what might have been.
Man City manager Pep Guardiola: "Top game, top sides. Big opponent, big quality. They made it difficult for us. We started quite well, after we conceded the goal, and we suffered a bit with the quality they had, but in their best moments we scored.
"They are a top side, but we fought a lot and got a good victory. We suffered in the last minutes, but we controlled the game a lot better. Football is coming more like this - not teams coming and putting men behind the ball, managers having the courage to play."
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard: "Big parts of the performance were good, but there are bits we can improve on. It was a tough game, it felt like we went toe-to-toe in the main, and a moment of quality from Mahrez and a deflection for the first goal feels like the difference to me.
"There was a lot of detail in the game, but there were a number of times when we got into their third in either half but didn't have that little bit of quality which we can have. Games like this can be won or lost in the boxes, and that happened."
The return of the Champions League sees Manchester City host Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday at 8pm, while Chelsea travel to Valencia on Wednesday at 5.55pm.
City then travel to Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday at 12.30pm, before Chelsea host London rivals West Ham at 3pm.