There was a time when Manchester City contemplated breaking the bank for Benfica’s maverick defender David Luiz – thank goodness Roman Abramovich splashed out the roubles and the Abu Dhabi dollars stayed in the account.
Once described unflatteringly as a ‘Play Station footballer’ by Sky pundit Gary Neville, Luiz was a key player in denying City all three points at Stamford Bridge…but for all the wrong reasons.
Chelsea’s Brazilian, with a mop of untamed hair, got away with blue murder aided and abetted by conniving Chris Foy. Foy is a hapless but hard working apology of an official – indeed he should be available for pantomime season, if the Blind Pugh role in Treasure Island is up for grabs.
When the enigmatic Mario Balotelli was blatantly body-checked in the closing seconds of this uninspiring , but nonetheless, absorbing encounter, the feckless Foy ran to the scene of the ‘assault’.
Ignoring the South American assailant he hovered over the prone City striker to produce a yellow card for feigning his fall.
Even more so, because the petulant Fernando Torres had been going down faster than the Titanic all afternoon, with no hint of a rebuke from the errant ref.
The ‘Pain from Spain’ didn’t even get booked when kicking the ball 20 yards in a strop, after fouling the combative Kolarov.
As for Luiz, he also escaped punishment for twice attempting to rip Vincent Kompany’s shirt off his back at corner kicks, apparently unseen by Foy or his assistants.
It was the City skipper who caught the eye above all others, with a Man of the Match performance that suggests he is getting back to his best. Captain Courageous cast aside a knee condition – he was on crutches just 48 hours before the match – to help City keep their fifth clean sheet of the campaign.
Roberto Mancini once again changed City’s much scrutinized defence, going with a back three of Kompany, Nastasic and Zabaleta.
The trio blended to good effect, neutralizing any threat from Chelsea’s much vaunted Three Amigos of Oscar, Hazard and Mata.
With City starting Aguero and Dzeko and having Tevez and Balotelli in reserve, not many would have forecast a 0-0 draw, especially in torrential rain where one defensive slip could present a gift wrapped scoring opportunity.
Neither Joe Hart of Petr Cech were called upon to produce anything spectacular as the sides failed to test either keeper.
City edged the stats with 58% possession, goal attempts and shots on target – not difficult when you consider Chelsea had one effort requiring Hart’s attention.
As Mancini admitted, City delivered some smooth approach play in difficult conditions, but totally misfired from the 18 yard box and beyond. Aguero was virtually anonymous and it speaks volumes that Nastasic’s 91stminute header was probably City’s best attempt.
On reflection it was the away team’s vocal travelling support that conjured up the best showing of the day. Latching on to the anti-Benitez atmosphere with several choruses of ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning…’ – even the Chelsea fans cracked a smile.
It’s now 19 games undefeated – 13 this season – once again boasting the meanest defence in the PL. Silva is healthy and back to being the creative genius City fans adore, whereas Barry and Milner are hardened PL campaigners who always give their all.
With genuine quality and a strength of squad that far surpasses their rivals, Mancini can take heart that whereas this was two points dropped, there will be dozens gained before the season’s end.
A 17 point haul from their last seven PL matches in 2012 could see them undefeated and ushering in the New Year where they left the old one – as league leaders heading for silverware.