Chelsea 2 Manchester City 0: Drogba's double a handful for City

Dubious goal and Distin red card pile on misery as Pearce's men lose third successive game
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The Independent Football

Maybe, just maybe, when Jose Mourinho reviews the videotape of this match and Didier Drogba's second goal in particular he will admit to himself that there just might not be that conspiracy against Chelsea after all. The striker's blatant handball - unlike last weekend against Fulham - was not detected and such was City's anger that their captain, Sylvain Distin, received two yellow cards for protesting and was dismissed at half-time. The second caution came because he did not hand the ball back to the referee, Rob Styles.

Not that Mourinho was asked whether he agreed that those slings and arrows do not always just rain down on his head. The manager's omerta continued and he, once more, would not speak to the media. But, hey, according to the chief executive, Peter Kenyon, this is not a club with an image problem.

Instead there were Mourinho's programme notes and the accusation that some people are guilty of "not wanting to see this club grow up". Really? The siege mentality is truly a mindset and maybe maturity is something that is missing not just from Chelsea's critics.

Instead, it was down to City's Stuart Pearce to speak. Yes, he had talked to Distin and said the defender had indeed been told by Styles to "give me the ball back". Distin protested that: "I'm coming to you as the captain of the football club".

"I don't think he used foul or abusive language," said Pearce, who has captained many a team. "If it had been me there would have been the additional f-word coming out." The manager added that he abided by Styles' decisions, even if he agreed Drogba had handled. "When I first saw it I thought it was," he said. Replays only confirmed that.

It was cruel on City. Chelsea's victory was routine enough even if they did not play well - leaving them to garner just four more, according to their manager, to achieve back-to-back Premiership titles - but it was made all the more comfortable by the appalling misfortune that befell the visitors with their list of absentee players.

It meant their young team was even younger with 17-year-old Micah Richards starting in midfield, flanked by 20-year-old Willo Flood and Stephen Ireland, 17. They lacked experience, bite and numbers but no one could accuse them of lacking heart although Pearce felt some of his older players could have stood up more.

But there was no capitulation, no goal rush. Indeed of the two teams City came closer to scoring in the second-half when Danny Mills' curling free-kick struck the outside of the post. Still City began with a fragility that made the result somewhat predictable as if they believed too readily Pearce's claim that Chelsea are "one of the best [teams] in the world".

Drogba terrorised their three central defenders, with David James saving smartly from his low shot, tipping over Ricardo Carvalho's drive and watching as Eidur Gudjohnsen, also playing as a striker, dragged his effort wide. Finally Gudjohnsen slipped the ball to Drogba, afforded space by David Sommeil on the area's edge, and he checked back outside the defender to drive a left-foot shot over James.

If that goal was laudable in its execution, Drogba's second was not. James saved brilliantly from John Terry's header - after the Chelsea captain had again met a corner - and following Joe Cole's mishit shot Asier del Horno headed across the six-yard area to Drogba. The Ivorian clearly handled before the ball dropped and he slammed beyond James and into the net. The handball was so obvious that City appeared stunned. Drogba was unrepentant. "Yes, it was handball," he said. "But, you know, sometimes this is the game. I don't know how to explain. The ball comes to me and I cannot do anything about this."

Into the second-half and Gudjohnsen was released but Richards, now in defence, recovered with a wonderful tackle before Drogba got his angles wrong with an unmarked header, while James held on to Cole's side-footed effort.

Chelsea made a flurry of changes. Among them was Shaun Wright-Phillips, formerly of City, and he beat Richards to square just in front of Drogba. James once more denied the striker before Drogba found Hernan Crespo who stooped but headed wide with the goalkeeper stranded.

But City did not lie down. They pushed on themselves, continued to probe, but could not fashion a recovery or even a consolation, with Petr Cech holding on to Darius Vassell's low shot. A goal would have been deserved. But then, as Mourinho readily claims, there isn't always justice in football.