Chelsea produced a colossal performance to hand Manchester City their first loss of the season, beating the reigning champions 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The visitors dominated the proceedings, pretty much from the get-go, conjuring up all of the meaningful chances, with Chelsea being pegged back in a style that hasn’t been familiar under Maurizio Sarri. But, the game plan seemed to be working for the most part, with Manchester City being restricted to just two big chances.
Chelsea though, went on to strike the first blow, scoring the opening goal against the run of play. David Luiz began the counter-attacking move with a fine long ball to Pedro, who then passed it on to Willian. The Brazilian then found Eden Hazard, who squared the ball to Kante, with Ederson having no reply for the Frenchman’s thumping shot.
The second half continued in similar fashion, with the Blues trying to block the passing lanes for Manchester City, who struggled to conjured up goalscoring opportunities. And, with a little over 10 minutes to go, the win was rounded off after Chelsea won a corner at the end of another counter.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 8, 2018
David Luiz headed it into the goal from the said corner, looping his header over Ederson and into the net, as the West Londoners were sent into frenzied celebrations. The result meant Manchester City have now dropped to second on the Premier League table, while Chelsea retained their place in the top four.
The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Maurizio Sarri’s men, who produced their best collective performance of the season.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 7/10
Despite Manchester City’s domination in the first half, Kepa did not really have a great deal to do on Saturday. His block on Leroy Sane’s attempted square pass was crucial, and so was the parry from a Gabriel Jesus shot in the second half, although he had played a role in setting up the chance for the Brazilian. Distribution is an aspect that he needs to address.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 9/10
César Azpilicueta’s game by numbers vs. Man City:
100% aerial duels won
93% pass accuracy
13 tackles made
He just ate the Shark Team alive. 🦈 pic.twitter.com/GNYxYR1Ez5
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 8, 2018
Azpilicueta had a tough start to the game, with Leroy Sane’s trickery even leaving him on his backside on one occasion. But, once he found his footing, there was no way past the Chelsea skipper, who was nothing short of a colossal presence at the back for the Blues. And, his numbers make a staggering read.
Azpilicueta completed 13 tackles on Saturday, won every single aerial duel that he was involved in, made 5 interceptions and as many recoveries in addition to 2 blocks. With the Spaniard in his elements, there was only going to be one outcome, be it against Sane in the first half, or Raheem Sterling in the second half.
Antonio Rudiger: 8/10
Rudiger was another defender who gave no inch at the heart of the Chelsea defence on Saturday. His dogged defending forced Raheem Sterling to drift wide in the first half, even though the Englishman was playing in a central role. In the second half, Gabriel Jesus did not find much joy against him. Has come of age this season.
David Luiz: 9/10
Luiz has come under a lot of criticism from Chelsea fans this season. But, Saturday was redemption day for the Brazilian, who, after a nervy start to the game, combined admirably with Rudiger to kill off the space that Manchester City needed to make their moves in central spaces.
On the ball, Luiz helped launch counter-attacking moves, including one that ended with Chelsea’s first goal. But, the best was yet to come in the second half, as the 31-year-old rose the highest before looping his header into the net to complete a memorable Chelsea performance.
Marcos Alonso: 6/10
Alonso is usually involved quite heavily whenever Chelsea are on target. But, the change in system did not exactly favour the Spaniard, who struggled to drive his side forward from the left flank. At the back, Alonso had a battle on his hands against Riyad Mahrez, with the Algerian coming off the better in the duel.
N’Golo Kante: 8.5/10
2018-19 had not been Kante’s season before Saturday. But, his performance against Manchester City might just spark a turnaround. In the first half, the Frenchman struggled against the high press of the visitors, at times. But, after breaking the deadlock, there was a visible surge in his confidence.
The 27-year-old marshalled the midfield unit expertly, killing off the half spaces in the middle of the park that stopped David Silva from controlling the game. Has Kante finally acclimatised to his new role in the Chelsea midfield? Only time will tell. But, Saturday’s performance was a step in the right direction.
Another big game wherein Jorginho was far from his best. With the visitors pressing aggressively in the middle of the park, the Italian international struggled to set the tempo of the game and had to often rush into his passes in the first half. Much improved in the second half though, as Chelsea took more control of the game. Lessons learnt over the course of the game.
Mateo Kovacic: 8/10
When Kante and Jorginho were struggling early on, Kovacic helped ease off some of the pressure on the duo. The Croat added to the numbers in Chelsea’s defensive block in the first half while contributing in the final third whenever the hosts countered. Crisp and neat on the ball, this was a telling performance, although the evening ended on a sour note as he picked up an injury.
Pedro was admirable in his performance on Saturday, especially because he did not see as much of the ball as he usually does. The Spaniard was willing to sit back and help his side out defensively before driving forward at pace. Played a key role in Chelsea’s first goal, playing the cross-field pass that opened up the City defence to begin with.
Eden Hazard: 8/10
Starting in a role that he admittedly does not prefer, Hazard provided something to ponder upon. While he did struggle initially, the Belgian produced the two telling moments in the game, supplying the assists for both the goals.
8 – Eden Hazard has now assisted a league-high eight goals in the Premier League this season, which is double the tally he assisted in 34 apps last season (4). Wizard. #CHEMCI pic.twitter.com/RAsXrO31n9
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 8, 2018
His final ball for the first goal, in particular, saw Hazard show brilliant awareness to pick Kante. Even showcased some impressive hold-up play abilities, which could play a factor in Sarri playing him in the role in a few more games over the course of the season.
Like Pedro, Willian was willing to put in a shift defensively, which helped the struggling Alonso considerably. His mazy runs helped Chelsea put the pressure on the visitors on their counters, although the Brazilian wasn’t as effective as Pedro on his forward forays. Nevertheless a largely solid outing.
Ross Barkley: 7/10
On for the injured Kovacic, Barkley continued from where the Croat had left off. A bundle of energy, the Englishman was a factor on both ends of the pitch and won the corner that led to Chelsea’s second goal.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: N/A
Introduced for the final 15 minutes, Loftus-Cheek added to the numbers in midfield and helped see the game off.
Olivier Giroud: N/A
On for the final few minutes, Giroud barely had any time to make an impact.