MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 2 MANCHESTER CITY 1
A 90th-minute Fernando Torres goal secured a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in what was an entertaining afternoon in west London.
The game appeared to be heading for a draw after Andre Schurrle's first-half opener had been cancelled out by Sergio Aguero three minutes into the second half, but Torres, a constant thorn in the side of the City defence, pounced on a mix-up between Matija Nastasic and Joe Hart right at the death to seal a fifth successive victory for Jose Mourinho's side.
It's now eight games unbeaten for the Blues as we go from strength to strength. A first victory of the season over a direct rival will aid the confidence in the group no end and we can now look forward to two away games on the horizon, starting with a trip to Arsenal on Tuesday in the Capital One Cup, which is followed by a Premier League game at Newcastle United next Saturday lunchtime.
Jose Mourinho made one change to the side which beat Schalke 3-0 in midweek, with the returning Ashley Cole replacing Cesar Azpilicueta at left-back. Gary Cahill retained his place in the centre of defence alongside John Terry, ensuring he made his first Premier League start since the 2-0 win over Fulham last month. Fresh from his brace in Gelsenkirchen, Torres was once again chosen to lead the line. A strong Chelsea bench included David Luiz, Juan Mata and Samuel Eto'o.
For the visitors, Pablo Zabaleta came in for Micah Richards at right-back, while in the absence of skipper Vincent Kompany, Martin Demechelis partnered Nastasic, with Javier Garcia playing in a deep midfield role. The in-form Aguero started as the lone striker for Manuel Pellegrini's side.
Both teams went into the game in a rich vein of form and coming off the back of away wins in the Champions League, but it was the Blues who threatened first.
City failed to clear their lines following a Frank Lampard corner and as the ball ran out to Oscar just outside the penalty area, the Brazilian swung a teasing cross to the far post where Cahill arrived. The defender connected well on the volley but he was unable to keep it down. As chances go, it was a decent one, particularly so early in the game.
City, after a slow start, began to get a foothold in the match, and they were seeing plenty of the ball. With Fernandinho and Garcia holding, Yaya Toure, wearing the captain's armband, was deployed in a slightly more advanced role, and they looked to utilise his threat as often as possible.
Both defences, however, were standing firm and goalscoring opportunities at either end were proving hard to come by, but as the half-hour mark approached the pace of the game went up a notch.
Twice in quick succession Torres went close, first from a delightful Ramires cross and soon after when he fired over the bar from close range, the best chance of the game up until that point.
The Spaniard was growing in stature, and in the 32nd minute he lit up Stamford Bridge with a wonderful run, accelerating away from Gael Clichy on the right-hand side, his delivery across goal was inch-perfect and Schurrle arrived to stab home from close range and give us the lead.
It was the German international's first goal for the club, and he knew exactly who to thank, pointing towards Torres as he wheeled away in celebration.
Moments later our lead was almost doubled, and in some style, as Torres, racing away from the chasing City defenders, held the ball up, came inside, and fired a dipping strike beyond the despairing dive of Hart, only to see it come back off the joint and roll away to safety.
It was Mourinho's men with their tails up, but with so many talented players at their disposal City's threat remained, particularly on the break, and four minutes before the break it required a brilliant stop by Petr Cech at his near post to deny Aguero.
Looking to restore parity before half-time, City poured forward in the closing minutes. Toure tried his luck from distance but his strike was always rising and flew into the upper tier of the Shed End.
It was City who began the second half on the front foot, and three minutes after the restart they were back on level terms.
Silva fed Samir Nasri deep inside our half; the Frenchman looked up and slipped it into the path of Aguero, but while there appeared no imminent danger, the striker crashed an unstoppable effort past Cech and into the roof of the net.
It was Aguero's fifth goal in four games and one that sparked Pellegrini's side into life.
Minutes later Silva was presented with a glorious opportunity to put them in front but, rather than taking the shot on, opted to pass, allowing the Blues to clear the danger, while Garcia was then afforded a free header from a Silva free-kick but could only guide it down and into the arms of Cech.
Our response, however, was a positive one, and after Hazard saw his appeals for a penalty waved away following a challenge by Zabaleta inside the box, Torres went close, seeing his header from Lampard's free-kick saved by Hart.
Now it was the Blues with the momentum, and from another of our quick breaks Garcia was fortunate not to be dismissed for an off-the-ball body-check which took Torres out of the action. City breathed a collective sigh of relief when only a yellow card was produced, and from the resulting free-kick Terry, who deserved credit for reaching Lampard's delivery, could only steer his effort over the bar. At the other end, meanwhile, Cech did brilliantly to thwart Silva with his feet.
Mourinho made a double substitution in the 65th minute, introducing John Mikel Obi and Willian to the action, with Lampard and the goalscorer Schurrle making way, and soon after it was City's turn to change things up as Jesus Navas replaced Nasri.
As the contest entered its final 15 minutes it was flowing from end to end, and as City pressed forward it required a superb tackle from Branislav Ivanovic, who had been outstanding for much of the game, to dispossess Aguero on the edge of our box.
Neither side appeared content to settle for a point, and as we went in search of a potentially decisive strike Ramires fizzed one just over Hart's bar from 25 yards.
Mourinho's intent was underlined seven minutes from time when he made his final switch, bringing Eto'o on at the expense of Hazard.
Four minutes from time we almost won it with a Willian free-kick. The Brazilian bent his strike towards goal, all it needed was a touch but the ball evaded everybody and flew inches past Hart's left-hand post.
There was still time for more drama, though, and in the 90th minute we scored a priceless winner.
A speculative Willian header was aimed at nobody in particular but, under no pressure, Nastasic headed the ball beyond the advancing Hart who had rushed off his line to clear. Torres reacted quickest and raced on to the loose ball, getting there just ahead Demechelis and firing into the empty net to send the home supporters, not to mention the entire Chelsea bench, into a frenzy.
Mourinho celebrated with the fans, the players raced into the far corner and jumped all over the goalscorer. Seldom has a goal been celebrated in such a manner, and it wasn't surprising given the importance of the strike.
City pumped the ball forward in added time in search of a leveller but we defended with bodies on the line and held on for a priceless victory.
'One Step Beyond' by Madness was pumped around the Bridge at the final whistle as players, supporters and management alike celebrated wildly. It was a big win, and one that preserves our 100 per cent home record in the Premier League.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Lampard (Mikel 65); Hazard (Eto'o 83), Oscar, Schurrle (Willian 65); Torres.
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Mata.
Scorers Schurrle 32, Torres 90
Booked Lampard 21, Ramires 51
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Nastasic, Clichy; Garcia (Kolarov 79), Fernandinho; Nasri (Navas 69), Y Toure (c), Silva; Aguero (Negredo 86).
Unused substitutes:Pantilimon, Richards, Milner, Dzeko.
Scorer Aguero 48
Booked Zabaleta 26, Nastasic 31, Garcia 59.
Referee Howard Webb