Substitute Riyad Mahrez’s second-half goal was enough to earn Manchester City a 1-0 win away to Chelsea that sees them move to within five points of Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Mahrez tapped home Jack Grealish’s cross from close range just after the hour mark to grab Pep Guardiola’s side a deserved win on a night of few chances at Stamford Bridge.
It took some time for both teams to warm into this game, with Erling Haaland not even getting a touch of the ball until the 20th minute, while Chelsea’s rhythm was disrupted by having to withdraw Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic due to injury.
The first real sight of goal came just before half-time, when Haaland burst on to a delightful pass, only to stab over the bar, while Chelsea substitute Carney Chukwuemeka hit the post with an effort from distance that took a slight deflection.
City were like a different team in the second half, ominously dominating possession and creating chances for Nathan Ake, who hit the post with a header, and Kevin De Bruyne, whose low effort was beaten away.
It did not look like it would be long until the deadlock was broken, and two substitutes combined to give the visitors the lead just past the hour mark when Mahrez tapped home Grealish’s inviting cross.
That proved to be enough to settle the match, much to the frustration of the home crowd as their side offered little in response to going behind and sunk to a first defeat since the World Cup.
TALKING POINT – CHELSEA’S PROBLEMS CONTINUE TO MOUNT
“It never rains, but it pours,” said Graham Potter in his pre-match interview as he addressed the fact Mason Mount was missing from Chelsea’s squad due to an injury picked up in training.
That was far from the end of the manager’s problems though, as Sterling limped off just five minutes in against City with a hamstring problem, before Pulisic also had to be withdrawn.
It adds to a lengthy list of absentees for the Blues, including the likes of Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kante and Reece James, and leaves the manager cursing his luck as he wonders just when he will be able to get his first choice XI out on the pitch.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
John Stones (Manchester City): There weren’t too many players from either side, particularly from an attacking sense, who really shone, so credit must go to the defences, and particularly John Stones. The England international made a stunning tackle in the first half to stop Christian Pulisic from pulling the trigger from close range when he looked almost certain to score.
On top of that, the City centre-half ensured the likes of Kai Havertz and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang barely saw sight of goal, marshalling his side to only their second clean sheet in their last eight Premier League outings.
CHELSEA: Kepa 6; Azpilicueta 6, Koulibaly 6, Silva 6, Cucurella 5; Pulisic 6, Kovacic 6, Zakaria 6; Sterling n/a, Havertz 5, Ziyech 6. Subs: Aubameyang 5, Chukwuemeka 7, Hutchinson 6, Gallagher 6, Hall 6
MANCHESTER CITY: Ederson 6; Walker 6, Stones 8, Ake 6, Cancelo 6; Rodri 6, De Bruyne 7, Gundogan 7; Bernardo Silva 6, Haaland 6, Foden 5. Subs: Lewis 6, Akanji 6, Grealish 7, Mahrez 7, Phillips n/a
38’ HAALAND STABS OVER The forward is finally found in a shooting position and after a good first touch, he stabs over the bar from inside the area. You expect him to score from there
44’ OFF THE POST! Chukwuemeka drops a shoulder and dips inside, only for his low shot from 20-yards to take a slight deflection and rattle the post
51’ AKE HITS THE WOODWORK Brilliant cross into the box from deep by De Bruyne, met by Ake with a towering header, which unluckily bounces back off the post
63’ GOAL! CHELSEA 0-1 MANCHESTER CITY (Mahrez) It had been coming! A glorious bit of football from the visitors, which culminates in a low cross from Grealish that is just begging to be tapped home. Mahrez duly obliges from close range. 1-0