By Husmukh Kerai
When the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge at the end of the largely anticlimactic goalless draw between Chelsea and Manchester City the pitch-side cameras immediately focused on the faces of Rafael Benitez, who was roundly booed by his supposed new supporters, and Fernando Torres, for once again failing to find the back of the net.
Roberto Mancini will quietly be trying to enjoy the fact that his side, for once, is not the centre of attention on Monday's backpages and will feel even better about last night once he reviews City's defensive performance at the Bridge and will acknowledge his influential captain who turned in a performance resembling his colossal best.
You can see the frustration etched across Kompany's face when he is invariably asked by reporters why City have once again failed in the Champions League. The 26-year-old offers the same polite explanation each and every time but you get the feeling that the Belgian has had enough of the critics and reckons it is about time City answered their naysayers on the pitch.
Let us be honest, Kompany will face much tougher defensive examinations in the weeks ahead than he did last night against the tortured soul that is Torres. The Belgian dealt with the albeit mooted threat of what should have been a revitalised Torres with relative ease, illustrated perfectly in the shoulder charge which brought the Spaniard to his knees in the first half, the only time he threatened to get in behind the City captain in the match.
As easy as it seemed for the 26-year-old, we should not forget he was consigned to walking on crutches only 48 hours before Sunday's game and managed to somehow walk off the pitch unscathed with Torres in his back pocket and the man-of-the-match award under his arm.
It was a major risk by Mancini to play his influential captain, one that could have backfired spectacularly, but ultimately paid off for the Italian. The defender himself was not quite sure how he got himself through the game. When asked how he felt afterwards he puffed his cheeks and replied: "To be fair, I don't know how I came through the game, I was on crutches 48 hours ago. I'm happy I could help the team but it was not the most comfortable game."
The sheer determination and willingness to succeed shown by the Belgian encapsulated the spirit which drove City to their first Premier League title last season. That spirit, though, is yet to trickle its way back into the side's other big names. Yaya Toure in particular has yet to show any signs of reaching the level of form which carried City over the line at the back end of last season. The Ivorian has often cut a laboured and somewhat disinterested figure in the champions' midfield so far this term, it may well be Kompany's job to give his team-mates a much-needed kick up the backside.
The former Hamburg defender's performance against Chelsea was in stark contrast to his poor form in the opening weeks of the campaign which itself was indicative of Manchester City's early season struggles on the whole.
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After forging a title-winning partnership with Joleon Lescott last year the City skipper suddenly found himself, more often than not, partnering 19-year-old Matija Nastasic in defence. That, coupled with Mancini's new found tendency to shift to three at the back, sometimes mid-match, meant that at times City's defence did not know whether they were coming or going.
The player who inexplicably tried to beat two men on the halfway line against West Brom and got James Milner sent off was a far cry from the man who lifted the Premier League trophy above his head last May. But City's results in recent weeks, excluding the Champions League, provide some evidence that the Manchester City of last year could be back.
The defending champions only managed a single clean sheet in their opening nine games of the season - against goal-shy Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium. Since then, however, Steven Caulker's first-half strike for Tottenham is the only league goal Joe Hart has conceded.
We are a month away from Christmas and Manchester City are still unbeaten in the league and trail their bitter city rivals by only a point. Their elimination from the Champions League and the return to form of their talismanic captain means that the champions' charge for another title begins here, with Kompany at the heart.
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