Deja vu hot-footed it across the Atlantic as the best defence managed to master the best ‘offence’ and Fortress Etihad lost a piece of flaking masonry.
As the Seattle Seahawks emphatically thrashed the Denver Broncos in the US Superbowl, so to Chelsea’s miserly back line shut down Manchester City’s goal crazy antics.
City’s fortifications may have been breached but there are firm foundations underfoot, so it’ll be a disappointed man who turns out to watch any further crumbling at Manual Pellegrini’s des res.
The brickwork may have taken a hit but it was the proverbial woodwork which was pummelled by a crisp Chelsea side, immaculately drilled by quartermaster – or should that be non-playing quarterback – Mourinho.
The ‘Snide One’ has a face that cries out to be acquainted with a Spear & Jackson Number 7 shovel, but nonetheless there’s no denying the Setubal Snear’s tactical nous.
His effervescent troops pressed, harried and simply shook City out of the comfort zone of their own front room, hitting the post three times and missing the chance to not only beat, but humiliate, a team being hailed as the ‘best in the world’ less than a week before.
Let’s be straight, City got what they deserved on the night – nothing. The usually razor like attack that has been carving through the opposition all season long, was blunted minus Aguero’s rapier strikes.
Perversely it was the late loss of Sergio’s South American colleague Fernandinho, just before kick-off which ‘did’ for City on the night.
The indefatigable Brazilian is the glue that holds the team together and his omission was massively deflating, more so than Aguero’s, because it was totally unexpected.
Any team would suffer from the absence of such influential players – not forgetting Nasri – and it simply caught up with Pellegrini’s depleted side.
Milner wasn’t 100%, Garcia is still out injured, Rodwell was confined to the bench and so it fell to the luckless Martin Demichelis to try and keep the fires burning in City’s engine room. Maybe Manuel felt he didn’t have an option, but on the face of it the veteran centre back was patently not the man for the job.
It wasn’t so much that City were especially poor, simply Chelsea were more purposeful, faster and generally ‘up for it’. By their own high standards, City were pedestrian but not totally devoid of creativity.
They could have been 2-0 ahead early on as first Yaya Toure failed to connect by inches with a sizzling Kolarov cross, before David Silva slid a deft shot marginally the wrong side of Cech’s post.
As we know there are lies, damned lies and statistics and the stats show that City had 25 attempts on goal as opposed to Chelsea’s 18, but they only pressed the veteran Cech into action on three occasions.
City had nearly two thirds of the possession but it counted for diddly squat.
Despite the loss and the missed opportunity to go back to the top of the Premier League, City must adjust and go back to their default setting of winning, winning and then winning some more.
Surrendering six points to Chelsea – the first team to take maximum points off City since Everton in 2010-11 – hurts. It would have cut Pellegrini to the quick, but with 42 points up for grabs this was not a fatal wound – oh no.
Doubtless the ridiculous ‘C’ word will be trotted out in the days running up to City’s trip to Norwich. Pundits will be scrutinising City see if they have any ‘character’ to bounce back and overcome adversity.
‘Character’ be damned – what a stupid over used application of the word in professional sports. No, all City have to do is go about their job in their place of work in a professional fashion.
It would doubtless help if Vinny and Nastasic stopped tackling each other, and the team, as whole, learned their defensive duties.
Edin Hazard managed to live up to his surname for the first time against City. In the past he could have been called Edin Minor Disruption, but the Belgian winger is now coming of age in the Premier League.
His co-conspirator Willian caused Kompany & Co grief unleashing lightning counter attacks, with Chelsea often outnumbering the sky blues as City scampered back to defend.
Joe Hart was City’s most effective player – talk about being damned with faint praise – keeping the score respectable with several instinctive saves, particularly a close range effort from Ramires, when City were overwhelmed four-to-one at the back.
How ironic that the 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge represented Joe’s lowest ebb in recent times, being omitted from eight of the next nine following games. The only consolation from this horrible home defeat is that Joe is back to nearing his best.
Ultimately it was Ivanovic’s sumptuous 32nd minute left foot half volley that took the laurels and with it City’s 100% home record.
The shut out at the other end brought to an ignominious conclusion, a sequence of 61 consecutive home PL fixtures where City had scored.
With City just two points behind Arsenal, and still to visit the Emirates, Pellegrini’s men remain as title favourites.
There’s every reason to believe the club can indeed win its second title in three years. If, as and when they do, it’s the pain of a home defeat to Chelsea which will make success taste that little bit sweeter.
Read But Never Red will return with reflections on City’s trek to Norwich and a preview of the Capital One Cup Final dress rehearsal against an Adam Johnson-inspired Sunderland on February 12th.
In the meantime we have TWO TICKETS to give away for City’s next Premier League home game against the Black Cats. To have a chance of winning all you have to do is tell us which ex-Sunderland player scored City’s winner the last time they won the League Cup in 1976.
Answers can be sent directly to Read But Never Red by registering on the site and leaving as a comment or by following @djwskyblu and tweeting the answer with #FLC1976.
The winner will be notified on the morning of the match and tickets collected in person at the Etihad before City make it 12 home wins out of 13!
By David Walker