Manchester City suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season and surrendered top spot in the table to Liverpool after losing 2-0 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
N’Golo Kante’s 44th-minute strike and David Luiz’s 78th-minute header secured Maurizio Sarri’s first-ever victory over a team managed by Pep Guardiola.
But while City were totally dominant until Kante scored against the run of play, Chelsea ultimately deserved their victory after building on the opening goal to take the game to the champions in the second half and double their winning margin through Luiz. This was no tactical masterclass by Sarri, however, rather a performance of spirit and desire by Chelsea that enabled them to defeat Guardiola’s team.
The home side, who lost at Wolves in midweek, were somehow able to repel City’s early dominance and turn the tide to claim a huge victory that lifts them to third in the table. City’s defeat leaves them second, a point behind Liverpool, after Jurgen Klopp’s men had claimed top spot earlier in the day with a 4-0 win at Bournemouth.
And with Liverpool due to travel to the Etihad at the beginning of January, the prospect of City running away with the league as they did last season now looks increasingly unlikely.
Luiz was back to his commanding best for Chelsea against Manchester City, two weeks after being at his awful worst in the 3-1 defeat against Tottenham at Wembley.
The 31-year-old is out of contract at Stamford Bridge in the summer, and his future remains uncertain, with no guarantee of a new deal forthcoming. But on nights like this, it is impossible to imagine a Chelsea team functioning without the unpredictable Brazilian.
Against Spurs last month, Luiz showcased all the negative aspects of his game: he dived into tackles, misread the game and allowed his mistakes to contribute to two Tottenham goals. But against City, he was outstanding alongside Antonio Rudiger at the heart of the Chelsea defence.
In every area of his game that let him down against Spurs, Luiz was exceptional in against Guardiola’s team. He was quick to read forward passes, and he used his physical strength wisely and productively — with the exception of a rash first-half challenge on Raheem Sterling — and he was integral to Chelsea’s victory.
The big question now — and it is one that even Luiz will not be able to answer — is whether he can be as impressive against Brighton in Chelsea’s next league game. He goes from one extreme to the other, but he needs to be like this every week.
Fernandinho is a crucial cog in Guardiola’s Manchester City machine, but against Chelsea, he showed signs of age catching up with him.
The Brazilian midfielder has been one of the best-ever imports in the Premier League with his ability to affect both ends of the pitch, but also provide rock-solid defensive cover in front of the back four. Yet Chelsea were able to get under his skin by swarming around him when he had the ball and putting him under intense pressure whenever they broke forward.
At 33, Fernandinho is not as mobile as he once was, although he still possesses the ability to read the game well. And his experience and nous are why he is able to come up with the so-called tactical fouls that break up play and give his teammates time to regroup.
There were several of those against Chelsea, but on this occasion they were not as subtle as they usually are and Fernandinho was fortunate not to be booked by referee Michael Oliver for a clumsy foul on Willian that led to a dangerous free kick on the edge of the penalty area. But it was a foul caused by exasperation at being exposed by his teammates, with no other player in light blue helping him to stem the Chelsea tide, particularly in the second half.
When it is going well for City, Fernandinho is a brilliant safety net for their marauding attacking players. But this game showed that they need more bodies in midfield to help the former Shakhtar Donetsk man.
Support InfoStride News' Credible Journalism: Only credible journalism can guarantee a fair, accountable and transparent society, including democracy and government. It involves a lot of efforts and money. We need your support. Click here to Donate