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March 21, 2012
• Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Referee: M. Dean
• Attendance: 46324
S. Agüero 78'
S. Nasri 86'
G. Cahill 60'
With that, I will leave you - be sure to check out our match report, player ratings and all the reaction, which will be with you shortly. It took a while, but eventually this fixture really kicked into life. A great night for Manchester City fans, who witnessed a big win for their side and perhaps the start of a successful return for one of the stars of their team. Good night.
That's all, folks - and what a significant result for Manchester City. They have overcome one of the biggest hurdles left in front of them this season by beating Chelsea thanks to Samir Nasri's late goal to stay in touch at the top of the table. They looked like they were struggling to solve Roberto Di Matteo's side for a while, but Carlos Tevez arrived off the bench to make an immediate impact on his Premier League return.
90' + 5'
FULL-TIME! Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
90' + 4'
A last chance for Chelsea breaks down and Sergio Aguero counter-attacks on the left. The Argentine, showing phenomenal energy levels, cuts inside but pulls his shot just wide.
90' + 1'
Just as I say that, the Blues break forward - Didier Drogba finds some space to the left but flashes a shot across goal. Ramires was not far away from its path at the back post.
Four minutes of added time. Chelsea are not looking like they have much to offer in response.
Samir Nasri was booked for removing his shirt when celebrating his crucial goal. The Frenchman has played well this evening. Carlos Tevez, of course, has made an immediate impact upon his return to action by very neatly creating that chance.
Yellow Card Samir Nasri
Goal Samir Nasri
GOAL! Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea - that could be a huge, huge goal. Manchester City look to have nicked three points here and they could be three vital ones in deciding the outcome of this season's title race. Samir Nasri approaches the penalty area and plays the ball into the feet of Carlos Tevez. The Argentine picks out the Frenchman's run with a quick pass and he chips his shot over Petr Cech.
Assist Carlos Tévez
Sergio Aguero breaks down the right but again, the cross is cleared.
After that quick flurry, Chelsea have regained their shape well. They're still forcing Manchester City into wide positions and these crosses just aren't coming off.
Manchester City have the wind in their sails now and Chelsea need to get over the disappointment of conceding a late goal to ensure they hang on to a point here. Samir Nasri has already tested Petr Cech from 20 yards.
Penalty Goal Sergio Agüero
GOAL! Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea - Roberto Mancini's team did not look like they knew how to find their way back into this game but with a stroke of luck, they are level. Chelsea have defended resolutely but Mike Dean has no hesitation in pointing to the spot when Michael Essien blocks a shot with his arms, which were very much raised in the air. Sergio Aguero dispatches the penalty low to Petr Cech's right.
Juan Mata breaks down the left and forces Joe Hart to palm a shot out for a corner. Edin Dzeko is on for David Silva - the Spaniard had little space to operate in through the middle and Dzeko will give Manchester City more presence in the penalty area.
Chelsea are packing the middle of the pitch with bodies and forcing Manchester City to go wide, and Roberto Mancini's side have looked out of ideas on the wings. The Blues are easily dealing with the crosses aimed at their area.
Fernando Torres is the man replaced, and he does not look very happy at all with the decision.
Didier Drogba will be coming on shortly - probably for Fernando Torres. No goals for the Spanish striker, but he has had little in the way of service and has put in a shift for Chelsea tonight.
Manchester City lacking a final ball still. Gael Clichy's cross from the left is headed behind by David Luiz, and Petr Cech is fouled as he punches away the corner. The Czech Republic goalkeeper has turned in a very strong performance, commanding his area flawlessly, and is yet to be really tested by a shot.
Carlos Tevez is involved for the first time on the right - he shows good strength to control a high ball but his pass for Samir Nasri is just behind the Frenchman. No matter, though, as Gael Clichy latches on to it, forcing Petr Cech to get his body behind a well-struck shot.
Nigel De Jong
Here is Carlos Tevez - Nigel de Jong is the man coming off. He is not afforded an entirely positive reception by the Manchester City fans, but there are more cheers than boos as his name is announced.
Carlos Tevez is getting ready to come on for Manchester City. The headlines will write themselves if the Argentine can bring the home side back into this game.
Goal Gary Cahill
GOAL! Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea - goals in consecutive games for Gary Cahill! A Chelsea corner is headed back by Yaya Toure, but Gareth Barry's attempted clearance is atrocious. It falls straight back for Cahill, who drills a shot that is deflected past Joe Hart by Yaya Toure.
Yellow Card Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard is booked for a foul 30 yards from the Chelsea goal but Yaya Toure's effort is high and wide.
A casual quick free-kick is intercepted by the alert Fernando Torres again, but - also again - Raul Meireles tries a flicked pass to no one in particular and gives it straight back to Manchester City. That will be his last involvement - the Portuguese midfielder is about to be replaced by Michael Essien.
A few Manchester City fans thought their side had the lead for a moment there. First, Samir Nasri's cross from the left is tricky for Petr Cech to deal with and the goalkeeper does well to palm it on to his crossbar. It comes out to the right for Pablo Zabaleta, who drills a cross back towards goal - David Silva meets it but it is deflected into the side netting. The resulting corner falls to Sergio Aguero, who volleys over the bar.
Nice bit of defensive play from Fernando Torres, nipping in to cut out a lazy pass from Gareth Barry, but the Spaniard can't get the ball out of his feet with teammates to his left and runs into trouble.
The pace has picked up a bit here in the second half. First, Raul Meireles tries a chipped pass into the box that Frank Lampard does well to make something of, but his hooked cross is cleared. Manchester City break up field and Yaya Toure, from the right, cuts a pass back to Samir Nasri, who blazes his shot over from 18 yards.
Nice bit of play from Sergio Aguero - he controls a long pass on his chest, flicks the ball over David Luiz and chases it but Petr Cech comes quickly off his line to deal with the danger. He concedes a corner, but it is cleared at the first attempt.
We're back underway at the Etihad Stadium, and Mario Balotelli has been replaced by Gareth Barry. It looks like Yaya Toure will push on a little more, with Sergio Aguero now leading the line.
No shots on target during the first half - Samir Nasri hitting the woodwork, of course, did not force a save and does not, therefore, count. Let's hope for an improvement in the second period.
Chelsea, you would presume, will be quite happy with a 0-0 or 1-1 tonight, so things have not gone too badly so far. They did let Manchester City in on a couple of occasions, though, and they were very sloppy in midfield. It's difficult to imagine where the creativity will come from with Juan Mata isolated on the left wing.
Greg Stobart is our man at the Etihad Stadium and his assessment of the match so far is quite similar: "Half-time at the Etihad Stadium where Manchester City and Chelsea go in with the score goalless at the break. The hosts started at blistering pace but the game has been reasonably even, to the frustration of the City fans, who were starting to moan and sigh in the final 10 minutes of the half. Chelsea have been well organised defensively but City have missed the two standout chances to take the lead. Samir Nasri saw his volley smack against the crossbar and Mario Balotelli was denied by Petr Cech when one-on-one against the Chelsea goalkeeper. Fernando Torres has looked sharp for the visitors but he is yet to have a clear sight on goal."
I thought we were in for an eventful evening after a bright start to that half - unfortunately, things quickly petered out. Samir Nasri went closest for Manchester City, hitting the crossbar, while Mario Balotelli spurned probably the best chance of the half. Chelsea are lacking creativity - Fernando Torres is battling, but not receiving much service, and they haven't really got Juan Mata into the game yet.
45' + 1'
HALF-TIME! Manchester City 0-0 Chelsea
Yellow Card Juan Mata
Manchester City get the ball into the final third thanks to a good turn and run from Mario Balotelli. But as soon as the Italian leaves the ball for a teammate, the whole move slows down, and Chelsea get more men back to defend. Eventually, Sergio Aguero tries to volley Pablo Zabaleta's cross goalwards but the ball lands behind him and he sends it well over the crossbar.
Chelsea will be happy to take a point from this match so we might have expected them to try to slow this game down, but Manchester City have lacked tempo and sharpness in the opposition half. Roberto Mancini is not happy - he's cutting a very animated figure on the sidelines as he tries to inject some life into his team.
Fernando Torres gets into a bit of space down the right-hand side but his cross is poor and blocked by the first man. David Silva tries to counter-attack but is hacked down by Jose Bosingwa, who is lucky to escape without a yellow card.
Not much to speak of in the way of chances. This match has slowed down disappointingly as we approach half-time.
Counter-attack wasted by Jose Bosingwa, who plays two of the poorest passes that you will see this season. David Luiz disposseses Mario Balotelli and breaks away, feeding Raul Meireles. The Portuguese lays the ball off to Bosingwa, who advances - his first pass into the box is easily cut out, and when it comes back to him, he gets little connection on a pathetic attempt at a cross.
Important interception from Micah Richards - the defender cuts out Raul Meireles' attempt at curling a cross into the path of Fernando Torres, who was waiting to pounce behind Richards.
Best chance of the match for Mario Balotelli - Frank Lampard plays an awful pass in midfield that the Italian intercepts. There is plenty of space for him to exploit between Gary Cahill and David Luiz, who were not expecting that, and he races through towards Petr Cech but shoots wide of the post. He doesn't miss often from that range.
Bit better from Manchester City, as they knock the ball around in midfield. From 30 or 35 yards, Samir Nasri finds a bit of space and decides there's no harm in having a go - and his driven effort does not fly too far over the crossbar.
Little bit of frustration evident in the stands at the Etihad Stadium - Manchester City's passes have stopped connecting. Mario Balotelli tries a difficult through ball that Petr Cech easily claims.
Fernando Torres manages to make something of a pass down the right touchline under pressure from Kolo Toure, passing back to Raul Meireles. His cross is cleared for a corner, which comes to nothing - but Chelsea come back through David Luiz on the right. He crosses, but Joe Hart comes out well to claim ahead of Torres. Manchester City took control in the early stages but have slowed up as this game has worn on.
Jose Bosingwa will replace the injured Branislav Ivanovic at right-back.
Branislav Ivanovic looks to be struggling a little and it's evident as he finds the space to cross from the right-hand side - his delivery is way too long and goes out for a goal-kick. Yaya Toure dribbles into the Chelsea area and goes down, but Mike Dean isn't interested. Rightly so - Frank Lampard only very lightly leaned into him.
Chelsea's midfield is very static - Frank Lampard is strolling around and Raul Meireles has not been much better - which maybe was to be expected given that Juan Mata is the only real creative force in there. They're not getting nearly as much from their full-backs, either - Pablo Zabaleta has been adventurous so far for Manchester City.
Manchester City on top here. Chelsea have been sloppy on the ball, with Fernando Torres the only player really looking sharp. Ramires has given it away a couple of times and on the second occasion he allows Yaya Toure to burst forward. He slips a pass into David Silva but David Luiz blocks his shot in the six-yard box for a corner, which comes to nothing.
Another player making a bright start is Samir Nasri, who has just sent the first warning Chelsea's way by hitting the crossbar. Yaya Toure's long pass finds Nasri running through on goal - the midfielder chests the ball down well and beats Petr Cech with his volley, but it rebounds off of the crossbar. Eventful start.
Excellent start from Fernando Torres, who gets on the ball for the first time in a dangerous area - he turns and jinks past Pablo Zabaleta, before shifting the ball across the box to evade Micah Richards. Juan Mata latches on to his rolled pass but skews his shot high and wide. That was a good chance.
Pablo Zabaleta makes something of a bouncing ball to the back post, climbing above Ashley Cole in the Chelsea penalty area. The Argentine manages to lay it back to David Silva on the edge of the box, but from a good position he shoots over the crossbar.
That second Manchester City corner came to nothing. The home side have had most of the ball but no chances to speak of so far. Micah Richards won his first battle up against Fernando Torres.
Looks like a 4-4-1-1 for Chelsea - Raul Meireles is playing just ahead of Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel in midfield. Early corner for Manchester City is headed clearly only to Pablo Zabaleta, but his shot is deflected wide.
We're underway at the Etihad Stadium.
Applause for Fabrice Muamba before kick-off from all sides of the stadium. It's been a relief to see the improvement in his condition over the last couple of days.
There could be, of course, some variation in how the two sides set up. It will be interesting to see how Chelsea arrange their midfield - I'm betting on a 4-3-3 with Ramires and Juan Mata out wide. For Manchester City, it looks like Mario Balotelli will start in attack with Sergio Aguero in support but both can play all the way across the front line.
The players have emerged from the tunnel at the Etihad Stadium. We're close to kick-off now.
More from Greg Stobart on the match ahead: "Roberto Mancini in tonight’s programme: 'Tonight we continue our battle to be Barclays Premier League champions. There are 10 games to go and if we win them all then we will finish as number one. That is, of course, easier to say than it is to achieve but when people ask me if we can do it I say, ‘Why not?’ What we cannot do is keep looking at what United are doing or who they are playing. We are in second position, four points behind, but I am very confident for the Premier League. I think it will be a good battle.'"
Goal.com correspondent Greg Stobart is on the scene in Manchester: "Welcome to the Etihad Stadium on a crucial night for Manchester City as they look to narrow the four point gap to bitter rivals United at the top of the Premier League. The big team news is Carlos Tevez’s inclusion on the City bench, and you would expect Roberto Mancini to bring the Argentine on at some point in the second-half. Micah Richards starts at centre-back in the absence of both Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott while Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli both start in attack. For Chelsea, Fernando Torres retains his place in the side after his two goals at the weekend, meaning Didier Drogba has to settle for a place on the bench. The Blues have named a narrow midfield with Florent Malouda, Saloman Kalou and Daniel Sturridge all named as substitutes."
Roberto Di Matteo has opted for Fernando Torres ahead of Didier Drogba following the Spaniard's two-goal haul against Leicester City in the FA Cup. The Blues do have a busy schedule coming up and while they will be desperate to secure a top four finish, they will also have their eyes on their Champions League tie with Benfica. Michael Essien and Daniel Sturridge are also rested so it looks like a 4-3-3 with Juan Mata and Ramires out wide.
Much debate to be had around those team selections. For Manchester City, Micah Richards is preferred at centre-back in the absence of Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany – Stefan Savic is on the bench. Mario Balotelli starts ahead of Edin Dzeko in attack and, of course, Carlos Tevez returns to the bench.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Lampard, Mikel, Meireles; Ramires, Torres, Mata. Subs: Turnbull, Essien, Drogba, Malouda, Bosingwa, Kalou, Sturridge.
Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Richards, Toure, Clichy; Yaya Toure, De Jong; Silva, Aguero, Nasri; Balotelli. Subs: Pantilimon, Savic, Kolarov, Milner, Barry, Dzeko, Tevez.
Good evening – it's a big one tonight at the Etihad Stadium. Title-chasing Manchester City, perfect at home in the Premier League this season, take on an in-form Chelsea side still on cloud nine following their dramatic defeat of Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League. For all the action, play-by-play, stay right here.
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