Defensive catastrophe ruins hard working away performance
By Jack Mumford
An injury time mix up between Joe Hart and Matija Nastasić sent City to their third defeat in four away games against title rivals Chelsea on Sunday afternoon. Chelsea had taken the lead but City replied strongly and as the match entered injury time it appeared both teams may have to settle for a point. This all changed a minute after the board went up as a simple ball over the defence created havoc and left Fernando Torres with a tap in to win the match 2-1.
This disappointment came after a busy 8 days in which City won away at West Ham and spent the majority of the week thousands of miles away in Moscow recording a 2-1 victory over CSKA in the process.
Perhaps due to the hectic schedule but also due to the threat Chelsea pose, Pellegrini made three changes to the personnel in his starting line-up but the team was set up far differently. Firstly, Gael Clichy came in for Aleksandar Kolarov in a straight swap at left back. Another almost like for like change was Samir Nasri regaining his place in the side from Jesús Navas.
The real difference in the team however came as experienced centre back Martin Demichelis made his City debut in place of Álvaro Negredo, who has had a lot of minutes on the pitch recently. This change forced Javi Garcia into midfield, giving Yaya Touré more freedom for his trademark marauding runs but also meant Sergio Agüero - who had already scored 9 competitive goals this season before this match kicked off - played the lone striker role. This meant City’s formation now matched that of Chelsea.
After a couple of early waves of enthusiasm from Chelsea including Gary Cahill clearing the crossbar with a volley from 12 yards, City settled into the possession style that is becoming more and more evident under Manuel Pellegrini. Despite a lot of possession and Silva and Agüero looking especially lively, Petr Cech was never overly tested in the Chelsea goal in the first 20 minutes.
Chelsea gradually fought their way back into the game and with Pablo Zabaleta and Nastasić now both on yellow cards for needless fouls, it seemed as if Chelsea now had the upper hand. Centre backs Nastasić and Demichelis played a high offside line and several times it worked. However, on the 30 minute mark Demichelis played Torres onside and the Spaniard brought the ball down and somehow blazed the ball over the bar when it seemed easier to score.
City weren’t off the hook for long though as a now inspired Torres went round Clichy with unbelievable ease on the right wing and picked out André Schürrle who tapped in from a few yards. It could have been worse for City as minutes later Torres took the ball down on the edge of the 18 yard box and turned and curled a shot brilliantly with only the crossbar denying him.
A previously tight first half had singlehandedly been changed by the Spaniard who must have thought it was 2008 all over again.
Torres certainly wasn’t the only threatening striker on the pitch though as Agüero proved at the start of the second half. He was played through on goal and from a tight angle left Cech motionless as he rifled a shot into the roof of the net. The in-form Argentinian had Terry and Cahill worried all game and carried on his marvellous goal scoring form with this goal. Agüero is showing this season that he has the right to be classed in the same bracket as all the best players in the world.
From this goal City took control of the game and for the next 20 minutes if any team were going to score it would have been City. As the end of the game approached, it seemed as if a draw was the most likely result which would have been a fair ending and a very good one for City considering the busy week they have had.
One minute into injury time was when all City’s good work was undone by what can only be classed as a disaster. Chelsea substitute Willian cleared the ball from deep in his own half and Serbian Nastasić reached the bouncing ball just outside his own 18 yard box. Under pressure from Torres, Nastasić headed the ball towards the goal to where he must have assumed his goalkeeper was waiting. Hart had instead rushed off his line and could only watch as the young defender’s header passed over his head and was tapped in by Torres. Hart and Nastasić looked at each other in disbelief as every City fan looked on with the same feeling.
As demoralising as the end of this match was there were still positives and City must get back on track in the Premier League against Norwich at home next Saturday.
Below are highlights from the 2-1 defeat.
54% Possession 46%
15 (6) Shots (on target) 12 (4)
6 Corners 3
15 Fouls 11
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(c) The Sky Blue View 2013