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De Bruyne's moment of magic against Chelsea a worthy Premier League title winner for Man City

18:08 EAT 15/01/2022
Raheem Sterling Kevin De Bruyne Man City 2021-22
The brilliant Belgian decided a top-of-the-table clash at the Etihad with a stunning strike that moved the champions 13 points clear

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Match Statistics

Sometimes, for all the tactical genius on the sidelines, it takes just one moment of individual brilliance on the pitch to make the difference.

Kevin De Bruyne's decisive strike in Manchester City's Premier League showdown with Chelsea certainly wasn't a goal crafted on the training pitches of the Etihad Campus.

It was, instead, a glorious expression of natural talent and instinct that very few players in the world can produce.

City won the ball back with their pressing and team ethic – both of which, of course can be put down to Pep Guardiola's well-honed tactical plan – but, from then on, it was all about the brilliant Belgian.

Picking up the ball 40 yards from goal, De Bruyne rode a strong challenge from N’golo Kane – an impressive feat in itself – before curling a stunning shot beyond the despairing Kepa Arrizabalaga.

It was a goal worthy of winning the title – and that's exactly what it's done.

There were those that felt the race was already over, even before the top-of-the-table clash at the Etihad, but what's clear now is that the trophy is now City's to lose.

With a dominant victory over second-placed Chelsea, the reigning champions have gone 13 points clear of their nearest rivals. Liverpool still have two games in hand but are a point further back in third.

Victory also caps an impressive turnaround for Guardiola and his players, who lost three consecutive matches with Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea last season, as their hopes of an unprecedented quadruple and first Champions League success both went up in smoke.

In Lisbon last May, a teary-eyed De Bruyne left the pitch with a broken cheekbone as well as a broken heart, but he will never stop fighting for more success.

For many, the superiority that City displayed on Saturday came as little surprise. After all, they had won by the same scoreline at Stamford Bridge back in September in equally impressive fashion, when a buzzing front five pinned Chelsea back into their own half for nearly the entire game.

The Blues arguably carried even less threat in the return fixture.

Guardiola's latest tactical masterclass – which he had more than a week to work on from his city centre apartment after a COVID-19 isolation period – resulted in Chelsea failing to have a single shot on target in the first half.

Romulu Lukaku broke through at the start of the second half and forced a good save from Ederson but City were still bossing the game at that point.

Once again operating without an orthodox striker, City’s wingers carried an incessant attacking threat, as well as stifling the visitors’ rare raids forward.

Raheem Sterling played high and wide, constantly turning Marcos Alonso inside and out, drawing the Spaniard into an early yellow card before later attracting a foul that would have been a penalty but for an offside in the build-up.

On the other side, Jack Grealish played more as a typical winger, making runs behind Cesar Azpilicueta that seemed to cause Tuchel’s side problems they weren’t expecting.

Grealish blew the best chance of the first half when a heavy touch with just Kepa to beat gave the Chelsea goalkeeper the chance to close him down, spread his body and get a crucial touch to divert the Englishman's shot wide.

A goal could have been transformative for his confidence and looked like it could have been costly in such a technical game of few clear-cut opportunities.

But with a magician like De Bruyne within their ranks, Man City are always capable of producing something special out of nothing, which is precisely why they are once again set to end the season as champions.