The Blues slipped to a second defeat of the season with a disjointed display in the Saturday tea-time match, the disappointment compounded by the loss of in-form Alvaro Morata to injury.
It was a goal midway through the second period from Kevin De Bruyne that decided this meeting between the sides that began the day top and in third place, and a strike from the table-topping visitors, who played well, had been on the cards in a half in which the Blues were pushed back for much of the time.
It had been a more even game at the start, with Morata sending the best chance over, but Man City steadily gained a grip on the game with the home side forced into a reorganisation when Morata was lost before half-time.
After going behind in the second half, Chelsea upped our game but it still needed a goal-line clearance to avoid going further behind, and after playing so well at Stoke and in Spain, there can be no real complaints about the result, even if there can about the scheduling.
There was little time to recover and prepare for this game after the big performance in the Champions League, with Man City having one day more and less travel. Antonio Conte decided to make one change to the side that was not forced upon him, hardly surprising given the quality of the display against Atletico, a level of play that was not able to be repeated today.
With Cesar Azpilicueta moved to right wing-back and Victor Moses on the bench, Toni Rudiger was drafted into the back three. Andreas Christensen played in the centre of that defence in place of David Luiz who was serving the final match of his suspension.
Few would have anticipated anything but a testing encounter and the pressure was high on both sides going into this match, but City were caught napping at the back inside two minutes when Cesc Fabregas almost set up Morata with a quickly taken free-kick. Only a few more seconds had passed when N’Golo Kante floated the ball onto our centre-forward’s header but his flicked header cleared the crossbar.
De Bruyne struck an early free-kick straight at Thibaut Courtois and David Silva dragged a shot tamely wide in a pretty even first quarter of an hour, although like John Stones and co. earlier on, Courtois was able to breathe a sigh of relief when some slackness went unpunished. His clearance hit the closing Gabriel Jesus but rebounded behind for a corner. Jesus was the natural replacement at the front of the City attack for Sergio Aguero, injured in a car prang two days ago.
Fabregas looked to have sprung a counter-attack with a long, low pass forward that evaded the sliding Kyle Walker but its target, Morata, had started his run a fraction too early and could not avoid an offside flag.
Up the other end of the pitch, the visitors’ pressing was causing Chelsea more problems in possession at the back than in most games played here at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues had not threatened the goal since that early Morata header but on 25 minutes, there was a flurry of activity up the City end including a testing cross by Rudiger, cut out by Nicolas Otamendi, and shot from Azpilicueta that forced Ederson to push the ball back into play. David Silva, with City’s best shot so far, forced Courtois to do similar.
Then on 34 minutes came the blow of Morata’s withdrawal, seemingly for a muscular concern although he was able to walk from the pitch. Willian was the player chosen from the bench to come on.
The offside calls continued to frustrate Chelsea as half-time neared. With a minute to go to that interval, Stamford Bridge witnessed the best of Courtois, who got both hands to a bullet header by Fernandinho from a De Bruyne corner.
Rain accompanied the start of the second half, and a lengthy period of Chelsea being asked to defend with young Christensen acquitting himself well when asked questions. Raheem Sterling flashed a shot well over when a corner cleared the clutch of players waiting for it in the centre.
Chelsea were in need of a spark and the most likely source of ignition was surely Hazard. With almost an hour played, he was fouled deep in the City half with the perpetrator Fernandinho booked. The free-kick was rolled out wide to Hazard who drew save with a firm shot. That was Chelsea’s best moment of the second half and we would soon go behind.
It looked to be opening up for a City goal when David Silva took possession in space inside our area until Marcos Alonso excelled with an acrobatic block, but the visitors scored with their next attack. The move was through the centre and De Bruyne dispatched the shot powerfully past Courtois from the edge of the area.
Pedro came on for Hazard and Michy Batshuayi for Bakayoko with just under 20 minutes left on the clock. The pace of our play stepped up but moves were not quite coming off. When City failed to cut out a Cahill cross, Azpilicueta returned the ball goalwards but Ederson was able to claim it.
Gaps were always likely to appear at the other end as an equaliser was sought, especially against a side swift on the break like City, but Rudiger was quickly back to head off the line when Jesus was left unmarked to shoot.
Otamendi picked up a late booking for going through the back of Willian and Fabregas delivered the free-kick, but Christensen rising high and at full stretch, headed over and the last chance had gone.
We go into the break for internationals in fourth place in the table, now six points behind the leaders.
Chelsea (3-5-2): Courtois; Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill (c); Azpilicueta, Kante, Fabregas, Bakayoko (Batshuayi 73), Alonso; Hazard (Pedro 73), Morata (Willian 34).
Unused subs Caballero, Moses, Zappacosta, Kenedy.
Man City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; De Bruyne (Danilo 90+3), Fernandinho, D Silva (c) (B Silva 75); Sterling, Jesus, Sane (Gundogan 83).
Unused subs Bravo, Mangala, Toure, Zinchenko.
Scorer De Bruyne 67
Booked Fernandinho 60, Otamendi 90.
Referee Martin Atkinson