The Premier League champion was in fine form at Villa Park on Sunday and produced the first psychological blow of the new season by coming from behind to secure victory.
Roberto Mancini may believe Manchester United is the favorite to win the league this season, but his City side was in fine form at Villa Park and dominated this feisty match despite falling behind to Fernando Torres’ 40th minute strike.
Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri struck three superb goals after the break as City took advantage of space in the Chelsea defense created by the red card shown to Branislav Ivanovic in the 42nd minute for a horrible studs-up challenge on Aleksandar Kolarov.
Ryan Bertrand grabbed a late goal back for Chelsea but City held on comfortably to complete a successful day following the news that the club had agreed a fee with Everton to sign Jack Rodwell.
There was certainly nothing charitable about the traditional season curtain raiser as fierce challenges flew in with almost the same ferocity as the rain pounding down in the west Midlands.
Nigel De Jong set the tone with a lunging foul on Frank Lampard, while City defender Stefan Savic was booked as he took out his frustration on Eden Hazard’s ankle.
Thousands of supporters arrived late due to traffic on the M6, but they missed little action of note in the early stages as the champions of England and Europe cancelled each other out in a congested midfield.
In the third minute, Tevez forced the first save of note from Petr Cech with a free kick from the corner of the penalty area that curled over the wall but lacked the power to beat the Chelsea goalkeeper at his near post.
City looked rather uncomfortable defensively with the 3-5-2 formation deployed by Mancini, but they began to take control of proceedings, Nasri coming close but seeing his effort from a tight angle smothered by Cech.
Hazard, the only summer signing to start the match for either side, showed glimpses of his quality, taking the ball under pressure and using his skill to move the City defenders.
The 32 million pound Belgian is certainly confident in his own ability - but his first game on English soil is likely to be remembered for the moment in the first half when he fell flat on his face when attempting a back heel.
On 28 minutes, it was Hazard who drifted inside and fizzed a low shot towards the bottom corner of Costel Pantilmon’s goal, the first shot in anger from a Chelsea player.
Against the run of play, however, the Blues took the lead in the 40th minute, with Torres making a clear statement of his intent for the new season after winning the Golden Boot at Euro 2012.
Ramires did all of the hard work for the Spaniard, taking the ball on the edge of the penalty area and executing a neat reverse pass. Torres’ finish was masterly, a perfect first touch with his right foot and a deadly clipped finish with his left from eight yards.
Yet Chelsea’s celebrations were short-lived as Roberto Di Matteo’s side was reduced to 10 men less than two minutes later as Ivanovic was sent off. The Serbian’s studs-up lunge on Aleksandar Kolarov was dangerous, reckless and completely unnecessary and the fullback will now be suspended for three matches.
The extra man told as City dominated from the whistle after the re-start and drew level eight minutes into the second half. Yaya Toure, always the man for the occasion, collected a poor clearance from John Terry and swept the ball low into the corner from 20 yards, making the difficult look simple.
In the 58th minute, City took the lead with a goal that was as inevitable as it was brilliant. There seemed little danger when Tevez collected the ball on the left of the Chelsea box, but he cut across, past the dangling leg of David Luiz, before smashing a missile into the top corner.
Cech could only stand motionless as the striker wheeled away in celebration, the man who spent most of last season in Argentina dedicating his goal to the Fuerte Apache area where he grew up in Buenos Aires.
By now, there was no doubt of the outcome of the match, but Nasri added the finishing touch with a first-time volley on his left foot to turn in Kolarov’s cross following a sweeping move.
Chelsea substitute Ryan Bertrand grabbed a goal back for the Londoners in the 78th minute as he turned in a rebound from close range when Pantilimon made a mess of his attempt to save Daniel Sturridge’s shot.
But it was not enough and City deservedly saw the game out to land a psychological blow more telling than any of the physical combat on the pitch.
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