Chelsea bounced back from the Palace home defeat as we hoped we would, with a confidence-boosting win over title rivals thanks to two Eden Hazard goals.
The scoring in this first- versus fourth-place clash all occurred in the first half, as it had at the weekend, and once again the Blues let an early lead slip, when Sergio Aguero scored after a Thibaut Courtois mistake, but Hazard was able to follow up his 12th goal of the season with his 13th – successfully finding the net after his penalty had been saved.
Hazard missed the chance to make it a hat-trick in the second half but the later stages of this game were more about Chelsea resilience than anything else. With Tottenham winning late on at Swansea, this feels a very important victory.
Victor Moses did not pass the late fitness test on the injury that had kept the Nigerian out of the weekend game so Antonio Conte brought Kurt Zouma in for his first start since mid-February, and moved Cesar Azpilicueta out to wing-back. That freed Pedro to re-join the front three having played in the Moses role on Saturday. Azpilicueta was involved in the first Chelsea attack and our first goal.
Marcos Alonso, found superbly by Cesc Fabregas despite the midfielder slipping as he played the pass, powered over a cross that cleared everyone until it reached Azpilicueta, whose drive at goal was blocked and cleared.
Diego Costa had an early half-chance too and the Blues were already looking capable of finding space and forcing mistakes from Pep Guardiola’s team.
We made the breakthrough early on, with just nine minutes on the clock. Pedro on the right supplied the overlapping Azpilicueta who squared the ball low across the turf. Hazard caught his shot sweetly enough that Vincent Kompany’s stooping header and a deflection off keeper Willy Caballero’s leg could not stop it hitting the Shed End net.
Kompany was back for City in place of Nicolas Otamendi with Guardiola making one other change from his team’s draw at Arsenal – Fabian Delph brought into midfield alongside Fernandinho with Raheem Sterling moved to the bench.
Thibaut Courtois, making his 100th Chelsea appearance, had to field a 19th-minute shot from Fernandinho, and another from Aguero not long after when David Luiz over-ran an attempted interception.
Chelsea responded by skimming the bar. Fabregas, preferred to Nemanja Matic in midfield tonight, was the player whose shot looped off a defender and onto the woodwork. Hazard, enjoying plenty of space, had played the pass.
The City leveller came just beyond the halfway point in the first period and was an unfortunate moment for Courtois. His pass out went straight to David Silva and although he saved the initial shot, Aguero had an easy task to convert the rebound.
As against Palace at the weekend, the Blues could have quickly gone behind but Courtois got just enough on Leroy Sane’s chip over him to prevent a goal after the German had run behind Zouma.
The visitors were briefly on top but then on 33 minutes, Pedro was too sharp for Fernandinho who felled him in the penalty area. Referee Mike Dean had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Hazard’s strike was not good – and Caballero was able to save – but things were going the Belgian’s way tonight. The keeper failed to hold the ball and as Aguero had done at the other end, he gratefully scored from the rebound.
David Luiz atoned for his earlier error with some robust defending on Aguero when City broke forward quickly with half-time approaching. Zouma dispossessed the same player impressively not long after. The Blues had a 2-1 lead to take into the second half.
Conte made a change at half-time, bringing on Matic for Zouma with Azpilicueta reverting to the defence and Pedro out to right wing-back again. Soon after the restart City bounced a header from a free-kick on to the top of the Chelsea crossbar, although with plenty of our men under it, it never looked likely to go in.
They then had a golden chance to equalise when Fernandinho beat the offside but hooked a volley well, well wide. Conte was not pleased with the defending. Chelsea needed to sharpen up in these important opening stages of the second period.
Gael Clichy was the first booked player on the night for a late tackle on Pedro, one of a succession of fouls in what was the scrappiest period of this well-balanced game. John Stones headed straight at Courtois just past the hour to the disappointment of the City fans behind that goal.
Kevin De Bruyne nearly opened the Blues up but Gary Cahill, a pillar of strength and determination at the back, dealt with the danger. His opposite number, City captain Kompany, should have been booked insisted the Stamford Bridge crowd for a body-check on Diego Costa. David Luiz hit the wall with the free-kick. Kompany was later carded for a foul on Hazard who had beaten his compatriot for pace.
City had been probing away in our half for periods of time but Hazard had the chance for a hat-trick from a move he began by winning the ball deep in our half, but he lifted the ball well clear of the bar.
The end was drawing near and by now Spurs had won in South Wales. These were big minutes but Courtois made a brave save from Aguero and Stones sent a chance over our goal and the three points were ours.
Chelsea become the first team to do a league double in one season over a Guardiola-managed side.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Zouma (Matic h-t) David Luiz, Cahill (c); Azpilicueta, Kante, Fabregas (Willian 81), Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard (Loftus-Cheek 90).
Unused subs Begovic, Terry, Ake, Batshuayi.
Scorer Hazard 10, 35
Booked Kante 90+3
Man City (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Navas, Stones, Kompany (c), Clichy; Fernandinho, Delph; De Bruyne (Sterling 79), Silva (c), Sane (Nolito 85); Aguero.
Unused subs Bravo, Zabaleta, Fernando, Kolarov, Toure.
Scorer Aguero 26
Booked Clichy 52, Delph 77, Kompany 83
Referee Mike Dean