Match Report: Rafa Benitez looks spent after Yaya Touré and Carlos Tevez settle ‘El Cashico’

Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0

Rafael Benitez, who looked tired, was asked if he was tired.

“I was not running today so I am fine,” he replied, though his body language said more than words possibly could. Liverpool remembers him for the elaborate hand gestures, redolent at times of someone working an airport runway, shaping the patterns which he had always planned down to the last detail.

But that was a club where Benitez knew he belonged. In the game which keeps Manchester City in the title race and allows their fans a few more renditions of “stand up for the champions” – sung with real vigour yesterday – the Spaniard’s side looked as interim as he does, lacking in the defensive  rigour he will have drummed into them, slow to track back, overwhelmed in midfield, bankrupt of ideas.

Benitez had said in his blog ahead of the match that “at the end of the season we will all be fighting each other” but it does not look like opposition clubs will be part of that warfare, on the basis of this.

Eden Hazard and Frank Lampard didn’t afford the manager so much as a cursory glance when, justifiably on the basis of their contributions, he substituted them. None of his players, in fact, displayed stomach for a fixture bereft of the edge it has carried in recent seasons, when the nation’s two most moneyed clubs have collided with impact.

That’s what comes to the club that invests no more than temporary status in a manager who, as things have turned out, is delivering a lower ratio of points for Chelsea than Roberto Di Matteo: 25 from 15 games, compared with the Italian’s 24 from 12.

The fixture list adds to the burden of Chelsea, for whom fourth place is not guaranteed with fifth-placed Arsenal a mere two points behind. The log jam informed Benitez’s decision to leave John Terry out and pulling David Luiz back from midfield, where he has impressed, to central defence, where yesterday he did not.

The only sense of animation from Chelsea’s dugout came from assistant coach Steve Holland, up on his feet waving an imaginary red card when Joe Hart had clattered Demba Ba to the ground for the penalty kick which was Chelsea’s second shot on goal.

Mancini, who has been slaughtered for the same gesture, might not have allowed it to pass had Lampard’s kick not been saved. Instead the City manager was relaxed enough to preface his press conference with a short tribute to Pope Benedict, on his last Sunday in his job, and “say thank you to this Pope for what he did in eight years ago. Thank you very much.”

This was a day when Mancini’s players revealed why the manager still has a faint prayer when he talks about the title, for all of Chelsea’s anaemia. Yaya Touré, David Silva, James Milner and Sergio Aguero were all excellent and Carlos Tevez powerful from the bench. If that group had only found the same gear through the dark months of the season City would have less of a mountain to climb, though we should not forget Manchester United’s points  accumulation in considering the shape of the title race. Only three sides have garnered more points than United after 27 games of a First Division or Premier League season.

Jack Rodwell, starting his first game in almost six months, was another source of City optimism, excellent with his threatening first-half presence in the box and a shot which Petr Cech touched over. Without the goalkeeper and Gary Cahill, who made three crucial early blocks, the game could have been over by the break.

Benitez said the penalty miss – awarded after an impetuous Hart clattered Ba as he made to receive Branislav Ivanovic’s lofted ball from the right – was a turning point and justifiably felt there should have been a yellow card at least. Mancini insisted that both Hart and Kolo Touré were at fault for failing to deal with the long ball which caused the trouble in the first place.

 Almost immediately after the save, Yaya Touré flashed a glimpse of the  exquisite movement which defies his size, ghosting past John Obi Mikel in the Chelsea area and curling a right-footed shot before Cahill could block, when Silva’s neat footwork had worked some space to lay the pass.

Tevez, on for Rodwell before the hour, wrapped up the inevitable with a fine finish after Ageuro and Silva linked to lay on the chance. “I’m not the chairman of Chelsea, I like Benitez because he is a good man and has showed he is also a good manager,” Mancini, offering no public sympathy for the plight of a stand-in.

The Spaniard will need that quality if he is to deliver any consolations from a difficult, sometimes desperate campaign.

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
Jennifer Lawrence at the Vanity Fair Academy Awards party in February 2014
people12 undisclosed female victims are seeking $100m in damages
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
News
Bear and hare woodland scene from John Lewis Christmas advert
newsRetailer breaks with tradition, selling real festive fir trees online for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
people
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Extras
indybest
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

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?