Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0: David Luiz proves no substitute for John Terry as Chelsea foundations crumble

Brazilian failed to replicate the defensive sturdiness that the Blues captain has provided this season

Etihad Stadium

With one hasty wave of the arm, the key difference between Chelsea’s victory at the Etihad 13 days ago and their FA Cup struggles last night was grasped.

As David Silva and Samir Nasri wonderfully worked their way into the box after 68 minutes, it looked like the French attacker might have been a fraction offside. Rather than keeping focus on his man, however, David Luiz committed the cardinal error of looking to the linesman. In that split-second, the game was settled.

It is, of course, one of the most elementary instructions at every level of football. It was similarly the simple difference here.

Chelsea were less durable in defence, Manchester City were allowed to be more dynamic in attack. It was also the ironic twist to this tie.

 

Although Chelsea could afford to play their best team due to the fact they now have a week off – in stark contrast to a City side preparing for Barcelona – the League leaders endured a forced weakness in their strongest area.

John Terry remained out, Luiz again started, Gary Cahill hobbled back in beside him. Jose Mourinho had ‘confirmed’ on Friday – amid his series of barbs at Arsène Wenger – that Cahill would miss this game after suffering a calf injury in the midweek 1-1 draw at West Bromwich.

That possible attempted misdirection perhaps reflected an element of apprehension about his restructured defence. The root of Chelsea’s run to the top of the League has been their brilliant backline, and they have amassed by far the best defensive record in the division. Mourinho’s side have conceded just 21 times in 26 matches, which makes them the only team to have let in less than a goal a game.

It does not seem a coincidence that the only goal they saw go past Petr Cech in the previous five games, then, was at the Hawthorns in the period after Cahill took a knock.

That defence was similarly affected here, against a much better attack, and it told. This time, there was no keeping Manchester City at bay, or even barring their way to goal.

One of the most conspicuous qualities of Chelsea’s backline over the past few weeks has been their sure-footedness and ability to stand tall. That is the kind of resolve Cahill and Terry together give you.

It was particular notable in the League victory at this stadium just 13 days ago, especially after an initially chaotic opening period.

Here, it was almost the reverse. From about 10 minutes in, a reshaped City attack seemed to realise that they could pull the Chelsea defensive players about much more readily.

Although the considerable presence of Nemanja Matic was often placed right in centre and obstructing the route, Manuel Pellegrini’s forwards just started working around him.

This was City at least some of the way back to their best, after the frustrations of the past few games, and Chelsea a certain extent off it.

It is difficult not to pin a lot of this on Luiz, and the absence of Terry. For all the Brazilian’s obvious qualities, especially in central midfield, the defence just isn’t tied together quite as well. Chelsea’s greater waywardness reflected the occasional haphazardness that slips into his abrasive game. It was summed up in the 29th minute when he effectively challenged his own goalkeeper in air.

By then, though, Chelsea had already been rocked. There was ample warning in the 16th minute. Yaya Touré thundered through with a strike, Cech parried, Cahill was slow to react, and Luiz was caught somewhere in between. Fortunately for Chelsea at that point, Stevan Jovetic couldn’t strike the target.

The Montenegrin’s luck changed a minute later. In a lusciously slick attack, Jovetic was put through on the right, before slipping the ball past both Cesar Azpilicueta and Cech into the bottom corner.

Chelsea now had to build again, but from a less durable base. As a consequence, it always seemed they were on the edge of a precipice in the way they weren’t when Terry was in the team against the same opposition.

And so, after 68 minutes, came the moment that both summed up the issue and decided the game. Chelsea were simply waved away.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices