City ended Chelsea’s perfect Premier League record on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the Etihad. It was a tough end to a rock solid week of fixtures for City and the team should be pleased with a point which looked out of reach towards the end.
As is tradition on a Monday morning, lets start with the positives.
Eliaquim Mangala was superb. Being honest, I’d not watched a minute of him before yesterday’s game and had no idea what to expect. There had been myriad reports from people who pretend to watch Portuguese football, the YouTube warriors, than he was fast, strong and good in the air, but impetuous and rash as befits his youth. In incredible style, the first part was proved correct, the second proved to be a laughable fallacy. Make no mistake about it, that was the best City debut since Aguero came on and electrified us against Swansea back in the mists of time.
Mangala looks to be the real deal. The Frenchman and Vincent Kompany were on the same wavelength from the off, executing perfect offside traps and bullying Diego Costa around the pitch like he was a tiny child. Much had been made about Chelsea’s new striker but based on yesterday’s evidence he doesn’t like it when people play him at his own game. After just 90 minutes it is difficult to see how Martin Demichelis will win his place back. Mangala was that good.
In addition to central defence, the central midfielders had an excellent game as well. Following an underwhelming start to the season Fernandinho were back to their vintage best (can last season be classed as ‘vintage’ yet?). The pair drove the team forwards right from the start, making life particularly uncomfortable for the smaller more inhibited Chelsea midfielders. Toure in particular answered his recent over-the-top critics in style, intercepting, dispossessing and often merciless towards any small slips from the visitors. He needed a game like this. We needed him to have a game like this. Let’s all leave Toure alone for a bit now, shall we?
There’s nothing more to say about James Milner which hasn’t been said in every single newspaper but, just to reiterate, he was brilliant. The Yorkshireman is a litmus test, like Gareth Barry before him, of who’s football opinions are worth listening to and who is an idiot. People who don’t rate him rarely have anything worthwhile to say. He played in four positions yesterday and excelled in each and every one of them. He defended like the champion he is and repeatedly got the better of both of Chelsea’s full backs with his wildly underrated close control and skill. And last but not least, he lost Schurrle and put in the perfect cross for Lampard’s equaliser. James Milner, you are fantastic, please sign a new contract!
And yes, City Legend Frank Lampard’s goal. Great finish from a classic Lampard run into the box. If he never plays another minute for City again we’ll always have this. What a beautiful moment that was.
For large periods of the game City looked excellent. From the start it was clear that there was a desire to win as the players were first to every ball and got right up in the faces of the Chelsea team when out of possession. The opening 20 minutes were played at a furious pace and the visitors appeared to be slightly taken aback by City’s initiative.
However despite this, Chelsea never really looked in serious danger. In a game with few chances on goal the Londoners had the better ones, almost opening City up on several occasions. Their defence dealt well with the City aerial bombardment and set the stage for Andre Schurrle’s goal which looked to be the winner. Frank Lampard’s late equaliser came from a lapse in concentration you normally cannot associate with a Mourinho side.
And this is where a problem is for City. We still don’t seem to have a way of regularly killing off games like this against the top teams. You know, the games against the very best teams which resemble chess matches. It’s all very well having the better for long portions of the match, or complaining about the Mike Dean Show, but at the end of the day we were on top for an awfully long time and have to find a way to convert that dominance into goals and, crucially, three points.
It has been a long, difficult week for City, playing three of the best sides in the world, and to come out with two points is not a disaster. On the other hand, it is certainly not ideal. The club is at a crossroads in the next few years. We have the players, we have the infrastructure, we have the first trophies. The challenge now is to build something larger and longer lasting, but at the moment I don’t get the sense that are truly ready to consistently expect to win these most vital games. Time will tell.
Games against Sheffield Wednesday, Hull and Roma in succession should result in three wins. Anything less at this stage is unacceptable.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter