Chelsea emerged victorious in an exciting encounter against Manchester City by 2 goals to 1 at Stamford Bridge to maintain their lead atop the Premier League.
Chelsea and Manchester City both came into the match with a lot riding on the Wednesday fixture. A loss for Chelsea would have seen their lead shrink and probably blow the title race wide open while anything but a win for Manchester City was to prove detrimental to their top-four chances.
However, it was the home side who came out victorious on the night, with Eden Hazard scoring on either side of Sergio Aguero’s goal.
The result sees Chelsea maintain their lead of 8 points over Tottenham while City are now precariously close to the fifth and sixth placed Arsenal and Manchester United, both of whom have a game in hand over the Citizens.
We take a closer look at some of the significant talking points to emerge from the result.
The Eden Hazard show
Eden Hazard was a distant shadow of himself last season. However, Conte’s arrival and the shift to a 3-man defence with 2 wingbacks has provided the Belgian with some freedom in the final third of the pitch. And the results are there for all to see.
13 goals and 5 assists in the Premier League – an imperious return that Hazard boasts of this season. On Wednesday, it was Manchester City who were the better and the more attacking side among the two. But Eden Hazard stepped up again to pull Chelsea towards a precious win.
Eden Hazard’s game by numbers vs. Man City:
3 chances created
Match winner. pic.twitter.com/jcWz69jnFv
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 5, 2017
The first goal was decent and while it was more a goalkeeping mistake and a deflection, Hazard did well to carve out enough space for himself in the box. The Belgian, however, did miss from the penalty spot but made amends after latching on to the rebound from the saved spot-kick to hand the Blues the lead again.
His form against top sides this season has been telling and it seems the Belgian is ready to kick on to become an even better version of the talented global superstar he currently is.
The Citizens’ need for a better keeper
Pep Guardiola’s decision of letting Joe Hart go on loan is seeming more wrong as each fixture passes on. Guardiola signed Claudio Bravo as Hart’s replacement, with Bravo reportedly more in line with his philosophical approach to the game.
However, the former Barcelona stopper has failed to do the most basic of tasks for a goalkeeper – stop shots from hitting the back of the net, something which has seen the manager get Willy Caballero in goal for City.
Joe Hart watching Willy Caballero pic.twitter.com/t0JQiyr92q
— jess k (@jesskenny20001) April 5, 2017
Caballero hasn’t been much better, either. On Wednesday, Chelsea’s first goal, in all fairness, was a shot that was a routine save and despite a slight deflection, it did not do much in changing the path or direction of the ball.
Even the penalty, which was a poor effort from Eden Hazard, should have been saved in a better way. But, Caballero could only parry the ball back towards Hazard’s feet, who obliged with putting it into the back of the net.
City have lost some important points this season due to the absence of a natural shot-stopper and it remains to be seen who Guardiola decides to bring in, in an attempt to remedy the situation. However, at this time, it seems more a matter of who in the summer than when.
Guardiola feeling the English cold
Pep Guardiola knew what he was getting himself into when he agreed for the Etihad job. But, even the starkest of Guardiola critic could not have foreseen such a tumultuous time for the manager.
Guardiola has suffered 6 league defeats in a single season for the first time in his career and it is not even the end of the season, with City yet to face a few rivals. If that was not it, Antonio Conte just performed the league double over Guardiola – a first.
6 – Pep Guardiola has suffered 6 league defeats as Man City boss this season, his highest tally in a single league season as a manager. Loss pic.twitter.com/WQjybyAu3y
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 5, 2017
This is the first time Guardiola’s lost twice to one manager in a league season. pic.twitter.com/MrBvSiKB28
— Conteholic (@Conteholic) April 5, 2017
While Conte has been amazing, it could be chalked down more to the failure to adapt in a better way to the demand of English football. Pep Guardiola would surely himself be disappointed with how this season has panned out so far.
The former Barcelona man, though, will have the summer to sort things out at Etihad, for the next campaign cannot see a similar storyline without affecting his job safety.
Guardiola’s Chelsea Blues continue
Pep Guardiola’s Chelsea blues seem to have no end in sight. The manager has failed to beat Chelsea now, in 7 attempts in all competitions with a 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Guardiola v Chelsea:
BAR 0-0 CHE
CHE 1-1 BAR
CHE 1-0 BAR
BAR 2-2 CHE
BAY 2-2 CHE (aet)
MC 1-3 CHE
CHE 2-1 MC
He really doesn’t like us.
— Zak (@LoveCescMagic) April 5, 2017
Guardiola, in fact, has managed just two wins so far against the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool combined, with a game each against Arsenal and Manchester United still left to be played.
Pep will have to improve upon his record with other top teams next campaign if the Citizens are to come close to winning the Premier League again.
Delph gives a good account of himself on a rare league start
Fabian Delph was handed his first league start of the season and his first in the league under Pep Guardiola. The Englishman gave a good account for himself and dominated the midfield, finding his teammates with aplomb and ease while looking assured on the ball.
Fabian Delph was our man of the match. One of his best performances in City’s shirt. Better than Fernandinho.
— BlueCityZen (@BlueCitizen007) April 6, 2017
Most passes completed in the Premier League this week:
Granit Xhaka (107)
Fabian Delph (96)
Mousa Dembele (83)
Mesut Ozil (80)
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 6, 2017
The player seemed to have been frozen out at Etihad but it seems his attitude on the training pitch may have had an influence on Guardiola. His performance can go a long way towards getting back in contention for minutes under Guardiola.
Pep: “Congrats to Fabian Delph. He showed me how wrong I was not to put him on the field. He never complains.” pic.twitter.com/BoIRhFnjDf
— City Watch (@City_Watch) April 5, 2017
The manager himself praised Delph’s performance, lauding his attitude while even admitting his mistake of not picking him before. Surely, the words of praise combined with the positive performance is likely to aid Delph’s cause in playing a more prominent role on the pitch for the Citizens.