Former Chelsea man Kevin de Bruyne’s 67th-minute thunderbolt proved decisive as Antonio Conte’s men dropped points at Stamford Bridge for the third time already this season.
With David Luiz serving a domestic suspension, Antonio Conte made two changes to his backline, with Victor Moses only being given a place on the bench and Cesar Azpilicueta being asked to fill the right wing-back role in order to nullify the threat of City speedster, Leroy Sane. Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger slotted alongside captain Gary Cahill at centre-half, whilst Marcos Alonso kept his place at left wing-back. The front five of Fabregas, Kante, Bakayoko, Hazard and Morata kept their places in the XI following Wednesday’s famous win in Madrid.
City dominate tense early exchanges
The Blues created their first chance inside three minutes as Hazard crossed for Morata at the near post, who got too much on his header as it looped over Ederson’s bar. Thibaut Courtois kept out an ambitious De Bruyne free kick with ease at the other end as both teams were feeling each other out in the early stages of a crucial encounter.
Sergio Aguero’s absence for Manchester City provided most of the pre-match hype, but it was Chelsea who began to feel the weight of expectation and Alvaro Morata compounded their problems as the Spaniard was forced off with a hamstring injury in the 34th minute. Willian replaced the £60 million man but City dominated most of the exchanges up until the break.
Raheem Sterling showed great pace to streak away from the Blues’ defence before overhitting his square ball to the influential David Silva before a Fernandinho header brought an incredible reflex save from Courtois to keep the score at 0-0 at half-time.
Hazard denied before De Bruyne hits winner
The second half started in much the same vein as Sane, then Sterling, went close to breaking the deadlock before Eden Hazard was presented with Chelsea’s best chance to score. City switched off from a free kick and the Belgian was found by Cesc Fabregas – he showed great trickery to get away from the City defence before unleashing a low shot that brought out the best from Ederson in the Coty goal.
The games’ decisive moment came on 67 minutes as De Bruyne picked the ball up in midfield, drove at the Chelsea defence, played a one-two with the lively Gabriel Jesus and drilled a left-footed strike beyond his Belgian teammate to send the visiting support barmy. It was a goal of real quality that displayed De Bruyne’s importance to his swashbuckling Manchester City side.
Conte then looked to Pedro and Wednesday’s hero Michy Batshuayi for inspiration but Chelsea struggled to keep the ball for long enough to hurt City and ended the match with 38% of the possession. The best chance in the closing stages fell to Jesus who was intelligently picked out by Sterling on the volley, but he was denied a certain goal by Antonio Rudiger’s superb goal-line clearance.
City held on and the celebrations from their players and fans demonstrated the importance Pep Guardiola had placed on the game and gives Antonio Conte plenty to ponder over the international break as his side have now picked up four points – from a possible 12 – at Stamford Bridge this term.
International football is on the agenda for the next fortnight before City face Stoke at the Etihad on Saturday, October 14 whilst Chelsea – who will be desperate to keep pace with City and their Manchester rivals, United – travel to troubled Crystal Palace.