On 27th February 2010, Manchester City travelled to Stamford Bridge to take on a Chelsea side that had yet to lose at home all season. Under Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea had established themselves as the best team in the league and were heading towards the title.
City had designs on a first Champions League position and were just two months into Roberto Mancini’s reign. Prior to this fixture, the Blues had failed to register a goal at Chelsea’s home for seven years.
The game was also played against a backdrop of a personal grudge between two defenders. Allegations had been made that Chelsea defender John Terry had been involved with the ex-girlfriend of Wayne Bridge, who was a City player at the time. The two had been known to be close friends, so naturally the media played up their new rivalry.
Bridge famously snubbed Terry in the compulsory pre-match handshake, adding an element of pantomime to proceedings. It’s still funny to look back on now.
On the day, City put in an excellent performance to turn a one-goal deficit into a 4-1 lead, before giving away a consolation at the end. Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy split City’s goal between them with a brace each, whilst future City hall-of-famer Frank Lampard bagged twice for Chelsea. Michael Ballack and Juliano Belletti both saw red for the home side.
Typical City’s own Rob Pollard, Ciaran Murray and Alex Timperley spoke to Richard Burns about their memories of a great day for Manchester City – including an admission of a faux pas from one hungover fan.
City hadn’t scored at Stamford Bridge for seven years prior to this game. At 1-0 down just before half-time, I think everybody probably feared the worst. Can you remember how you felt as City turned this into something of a romp?
POLLARD: It was surreal. We’d obviously spent a fair bit of money by that stage, but we’d rarely, if ever, looked capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Chelsea under Mark Hughes – the man was absolutely useless, let’s face it. Mancini had really started to make us look a better side. We were much more well-prepared and difficult to beat, that’s for sure. This was arguably the first big result City had achieved under him. To score four at Stamford Bridge was remarkable and it was one of the most exhilarating 45 minutes I’ve enjoyed as a City fan.
TIMPERLEY: Oddly enough, I wasn’t too worried. I was in the pub with some Chelsea fans and they were nervous as you like for reasons which escape me now. Their nervousness gave me strength. I had a feeling City were going to win big from the start and, lo and behold, it came to pass.
MURRAY: We sort of know, nowadays, the grounds that City tend to struggle at. Leaving the likes of Goodison, The Emirates or The Stadium of Light with anything better than a defeat is usually a decent result. Stamford Bridge is in that category, too. I never ever feel confident when City play Chelsea away. Not scoring on the ground for seven years is a fairly damning statistic so when we went 1-0 down through Frank Lampard, I remember thinking it was a mountain to climb for City. Props to Tevez for digging us out and getting it back to all square. He loved a goal against Chelsea, he did.
Chelsea were unbeaten at home that season until City turned up and, obviously, were/are one of the countries elite teams. City were still trying to establish themselves as challengers for a top four position. Is it overstating things to suggest this is one of the results that helped City shift their mentality to that of winners?
POLLARD: No. It’s results like that one that are the most significant. Mancini spent the six or seven months after taking over from Hughes trying to improve us incrementally and I think that period was the platform for what was to come over the next few seasons, which were hugely successful ones. You need big wins against the best to bring belief – this was the first real big one.
TIMPERLEY: I think it might well be overstating it slightly, though it certainly was one of the first game of this kind that I felt City approached as equals. Looking back at the early years of the Sheikh’s reign I can’t really see past the FA Cup Semi-Final win against United as the real turning point, but that might just be because of the time which as passed. On that subject, doesn’t that season seem so long ago…
MURRAY: I think it is overstating it slightly as Chelsea finished a full 19 points ahead of City as champions that season. City were definitely in the ascendancy and this was the beginning, for me, of a time when we warmed to Mancini. We started to believe that under him these kinds of results were possible. We even left the Stadium of Light with a point in the next game, which is more than we’ve mustered in the past 4 years! I wasn’t convinced, though, that these big results would turn into a constant and that we’d ever mount any serious challenge for silverware. Check out how wrong I was.
Personally, this is one of my favourite ever City games. The buzz in the away end at Stamford Bridge was incredible. I vividly remember nearly missing the coach to the game as my friend woke up about an hour late, delaying around a hundred people. I’m not sure I’d ever have forgiven him had we missed this one. Do you have any personal memories of the day?
POLLARD: I just remember being incredibly positive afterwards. Because of the money we’d spent, the need to justify that with results was intense, and we simply hadn’t done it. There were fleeting moments under Hughes, but overall we were poor and our form stuttered throughout his time at the club. This result felt seismic. It was beautiful.
TIMPERLEY: Happiness that City had won, obviously. I also remember finding the whole John Terry handshake thing to be deeply funny. When Wayne Bridge dodged him I laughed a lot. And of course, as mentioned above, one of my main memories is of that feeling that City deserved to be playing games like this as equals.
MURRAY: Yeah. I was out the night before and woke up absolutely dying on the afternoon of this game. I was out with a couple of mates who are Reds and we’d arranged to meet in the pub at 12 but I couldn’t move when my alarm went off. It was one of them where I almost sacked it off but they rang and I dragged myself up and just about got there for kick off. I was so glad I did in the end. I liked watching it with United fans used to deriding me but now sitting up and taking notice of their neighbours. I also remember wearing an awful, awful purple hoodie. Like just a plain purple pullover style one with a pocket at the front. God it was horrendous.
This game filled plenty of column inches in the days following it. There were six goals, two red cards and that non-handshake. What stands out as your personal highlight?
POLLARD: Craig Bellamy’s after-match interview. Loved that guy and that was a real highlight.
TIMPERLEY: My highlight was Craig Bellamy’s first goal. Perfectly timed and a textbook Bellamy effort. There was something great about watching him tear into teams down that flank. He could be irrepressible on his best days and I still miss him a bit.
MURRAY: I’ve a few. Having a reason to get behind Wayne Bridge, who was absolutely rubbish at City from day dot; Tevez’s first goal that was so typically him in the build-up but so untypically him with the rubbish trickled in finish; witnessing a big win in that beautiful third kit with the sash across it; Craig Bellamy getting a brace and the snarl he had on his face while saying, “Everyone knows what JT’s like – I’m not gonna comment on that guy” and the fact that I felt worried at 4-2 in the 91st minute that Chelsea were going to mount a comeback. That kind of nostalgic ‘Typical City’ pessimism makes me laugh these days. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: As IF Frank Lampard plays for City now.