Chelsea 2 Manchester City 0: Drogba sleight of hand helps Chelsea's credit to take another dive

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The Independent Online

Another Chelsea match and another for the Londoners - the third in a row - where gamesmanship rather than anything more positive involving the champions-elect came to prominence. Last Wednesday it was Shaun Wright-Phillips' dive that got Newcastle's Robbie Elliott sent off in the FA Cup and for the second consecutive weekend it was Didier Drogba who was in the thick of things, mostly for the wrong reasons.

Last Sunday, against Fulham, his handball was belatedly recognised and the related "goal" was chalked off. This time around, with a different referee and home advantage, he perpetrated the same foul but the Manchester City players' protests went unheeded and Chelsea duly had the advantage.

Drogba's handball, preceded three minutes earlier by a legitimate and well-taken effort, had the added effect of contributing to Sylvain Distin's dismissal. The City captain was booked for his reaction to the offence. When discussing the issue further, ball in hand, with the referee after half-time had been signalled, he did not give the ball back to the official when asked to and was booked again.

Perversely, City presented a greater threat - not saying much after their first-half performance - after Distin's red card but Chelsea are now just 13 points away from retaining their Premiership crown. Any slip-ups by Manchester United and they could claim it even earlier than late April.

After Chelsea's win against Newcastle, Alan Shearer complained about diving being more prevalent in the game and called on referees to be more vigilant. The same, surely, applies to handball, especially in and around the penalty area. For good measure, or should that be bad, Drogba also dived in this game and there were some boos mixed in with the cheers when the Ivory Coast captain was announced as the sponsor's man of the match.

No one from Chelsea, apart from Drogba, would talk after the game. At least the former Marseilles striker was happy to comment about what went on, even if he did contradict himself on the subject of diving. Speaking to the television cameras, he said: "With the [second] goal, the ball comes to me and I can't do anything else. If people say it's cheating then they have to take off the goal that I scored."

He added: "Sometimes I dive, this is the game but I don't care about this. In football you can't stay up all the time." Drogba then changed his tune slightly in another interview, saying: "I don't dive - I play my game."

None of this is doing Chelsea's rapidly deteriorating reputation any good and Drogba, who scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season, commented on that, too. "When you're one of the best teams you can't be loved by everybody. It was handball but that's part of the game. If Man City score like this nobody would speak. Everybody wants to make a big mess about Chelsea. I understand we get criticism and I think that means we are the best."

Stuart Pearce, the City manager, did not want to get too drawn on Drogba's shenanigans, save for a quip or two about the length of his studs. His formation was no laughing matter, set up purely for damage limitation. Despite trying to pack the midfield and defence, City were undone with relative simplicity by the slippery Eidur Gudjohnsen, when he passed to Drogba. He had found two yards of space in front of David Sommeil and turned him this way and that before finishing with his left foot.

For the second goal, the ball pinged about after a fine David James save from John Terry and eventually it flew across to Drogba, whose back, crucially, was to the linesman when he stuck out his arm and then he shot into the far corner. There was no way back for City and although Drogba had a couple of chances for his hat-trick by then it scarcely mattered.

Goals: Drogba (30) 1-0; Drogba (33) 2-0.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Del Horno; Makelele; J Cole (S Wright-Phillips, 72), Lampard, Gudjohnsen (Crespo, 57), Duff (Essien, 53); Drogba. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Huth.

Manchester City (5-3-1-1): James; D Mills (M Mills, 84), Sommeil (Riera, h-t), Dunne, Distin, Thatcher; Flood, Richards, Musampa; Ireland (Croft, 73); Vassell. Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), B Wright-Phillips.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Chelsea J Cole; Manchester City Musampa, Distin, D Mills. Sent off: Manchester City: Distin (45).

Man of the match: Gudjohnsen.

Attendance: 42,321.