Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0 match report: Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri grab the reins to lead City gallop
Pellegrini’s men make smart response to rival’s jibes as they leave Mourinho with a long face
Saturday 15 February 2014
The debate, initiated by Jose Mourinho last week, was all about what kind of horses the clubs jostling for the championship were. Manchester City were “the rich horse”, Chelsea were, in the improbable words of their manager, “the little white horse”. Brendan Rodgers retorted that his Liverpool side were “the foal”.
In terms of the FA Cup, Chelsea are the Galloway pony that used to roam southern Scotland. They are extinct.
Manuel Pellegrini has grown weary of Mourinho's jibes, arguing that he would prefer his team to talk for him. This performance was more eloquent than Manchester City's manager could ever be. Their goals, from Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri, were superbly crafted; a vulnerable defence was never seriously threatened.
The teams were as strong as expected. Barcelona may be coming to Manchester, but there were few concessions to future contests.
As his team waited for the 1974 FA Cup final to kick off, Bill Shankly pinned up an article by Malcolm Macdonald boasting how the Newcastle striker would tear Liverpool apart. "There is no need to say anything, lads," said Shankly. "It's all been said." Here, too, much had been said, mostly by Mourinho.
Afterwards, the Chelsea manager was unusually downbeat, afflicted by a rare dose of humility: "City played much better than us and deserved to win," he reflected. "When the best team wins, I think football is at peace."
This was the reverse of the League game in that Pellegrini's hunches worked and Mourinho's did not. James Milner was stationed on the right flank with possibly the most difficult brief on the pitch: to keep Eden Hazard in check.
A lot of what the Chelsea manager says is like the ticker tape that floated in the wind during the tribute to Sir Tom Finney – insubstantial and designed just to catch the eye. But his assertion that Hazard was the "best young player in the world" looks as if it might have substance. The moments when he ran at the City defence were the only ones in which there was a sense of electricity about Chelsea's play.
During the interval Mourinho decided to bring off Samuel Eto'o for his newest acquisition, Mohamed Salah. It was an admission that his tactics had been toothless, although afterwards he refused to explain the reasoning behind it.
City's 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in the League had exposed Pellegrini's experiment of employing Martin Demichelis as a makeshift midfielder for the flimsy idea it was. With Fernandinho still unfit, Pellegrini deployed Yaya Touré alongside Javi Garcia to screen the back four.
The big Ivorian is, however, happiest marauding forward, preferably in a big game. It was Touré's opening shot that suggested how this tie might pan out. He chested the ball down before muscling his way past Nemanja Matic, and when his drive spilled out of Petr Cech's gloves Jov-etic reacted faster than Gary Cahill. But his flick struck the intersection of bar and post, and the striker flung his hands to his mouth in shock.
Moments later, his fingers were pressed to his lips to silence the raucous contingent who had travelled up from London. It was a beautifully worked goal, featuring interplay from David Silva and Edin Dzeko. Too late, Cesar Azpilicueta moved across to block Jovetic's shot.
After the goalless draw at Norwich that had taken City's total of dropped points to five in a week, Pellegrini had surveyed his list of injured and not fully-fit forwards and remarked: "It is time for Stevan Jovetic". That time was about 5.32pm on a windswept Saturday evening.
A little over an hour later and Chelsea's time was up. As it had been for the opening goal, the passing was too good. Here it was between Silva and Nasri and it opened up an inadequate back four. Silva's pass cut through the screening defenders and the boy from Marseilles severed Chelsea's connection to this season's FA Cup.
As the game died, the stadium began filling with abuse for Mourinho. It will not, however, be the last word between these clubs.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Touré, Garcia; Milner, Jovetic (Nasri, 61), Silva (Navas, 69); Dzeko (Negredo, 81).
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Mikel, Matic; Ramires (Torres, 61), Willian (Oscar, 71), Hazard; Eto’o (Salah, h-t).
Referee: Phil Dowd.
Man of the match: Touré (Manchester City)
Match rating: 7/10
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