Man City rises above Chelsea challenge
Manchester City came back from the break with vigor, overcoming an early Chelsea goal to beat its Top Four rivals 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez scored for the two-time reigning PL champs, with Rodri getting an assist before heading off with an injury.
[ MORE: Grading Pulisic’s day at the Etihad ]
Sergio Aguero also limped off the pitch late for the City, who remains nine points back of leaders Liverpool.
N’Golo Kante scored for Chelsea, whose 26 points are good for fourth place and an 11-point gulf below Liverpool.
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Three things we learned
1. City’s not dead: The reigning champs City went behind early and inspired some worries that the shine might’ve left the big game hunters, but De Bruyne and Co. were composed in building City back into the lead. Guardiola’s three-man midfield of Rodri, David Silva, and De Bruyne dealt well with the ball and in the more than 50 percent of the game that Chelsea had it, while Riyad Mahrez was pretty great in addition to his wonderful, decisive goal. City boosted its goal differential to a joint league-best 23 (Leicester City).
2. Two more significant injury worries for City: Rodri left the match after 52 minutes and Aguero was carrying a heavy limp when he left the match for Gabriel Jesus. The Argentine then had a talk with Guardiola on the touch line to seemingly let him know the limps weren’t for show. Rodri is a bigger concern, but neither player can miss too much time as City’s title margins are oh-so-slim.
3. Chelsea’s trophy odds change camps: A lot can happen in 25 match days and it would be stunning if a team of the Blues quality dropped out of the Top Four, but the idea that the Blues can erase 11 points of Liverpool lead and have that happen without Man City taking similar advantage of a Reds collapse is a bit wild. Frank Lampard wouldn’t be wrong to think about prioritizing the UCL on occasion when sorting his lineups. We’ll be happy to eat our words and crowd Lampard “King of World Football” if today didn’t sound Chelsea’s PL title hopes death knell.
Man of the Match: Mahrez -- His goal was a reminder of his status as one of the Premier League players of the decade, the one-time Leicester City hero. Next-up status for Kovacic and De Bruyne.
What a goal.
Fernandinho hit a scintillating early through ball to help Aguero set up De Bruyne for a hard shot that dragged just wide of the goal.
Willian missed a similar chance at the other end in the same fashion, off the far post by inches.
Kante claimed a lead for Chelsea raced between Benjamin Mendy and Fernandinho to collect a wonderful Mateo Kovacic pass and beat a screened, charging Ederson.
De Bruyne leveled the score in the 29th, cutting to make room atop the 18 and slapping a shot that took a hard turn off Kurt Zouma to make it 1-1.
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Mahrez made it 2-1 when he took a Rodri pass and scythed between Emerson and Kovacic to lash past Arrizabalaga.
And Aguero was in prime position to score after Arrizabalaga passed the ball right to him, but the City man smashed off the cross bar.
The second half saw life for both teams, but City was again at the wheel for most of it. Sterling didn’t have a day to remember, but his clinical side-footed finish of a stoppage time flick was delightful. Unfortunately, it was chalked off by the slimmest of margins.