|Frank Lampard’s patience paid off as he came off the bench to score the winner for his beloved club [GALLO/GETTY]|
In a fast tempo and exciting match-up between the two richest clubs in the English Premier League, Chelsea claimed an important 2-1 win over table toppers Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
It was the first time Roberto Mancini’s side had been beaten in the league this season and left rivals Manchester United just two points behind.
Starting on the bench for the past two games, Frank Lampard came on to thump home the decisive penalty which moved Chelsea to within seven points of the league leaders.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas would have been delighted to see his team follow up Champions League qualification with such a big victory, and one that saw his side come from behind after conceding a goal in the second minute.
Man City boss Mancini, on the other hand, will be left ruing the loss of his unbeaten run and recent exit from Europe’s top competition.
City’s slick opening
City wasted no time getting off the mark when Mario Balotelli netted in the second after a delightful through-ball from Sergio Aguero.
Chelsea then weathered a literal and metaphorical storm as City dominated the opening period at a rainy Stamford Bridge and were lucky not to concede a penalty before levelling through a Raul Meireles volley in the 34th minute.
That goal and the 58th-minute sending off of City left back Gael Clichy raised the home side’s spirits and when Joleon
Lescott handled Daniel Sturridge’s shot, substitute Lampard fired home from the penalty spot on 83 minutes.
|The momentum of the game changed after Clichy (2nd L) was shown red [GALLO/GETTY]|
City’s first defeat in 15 matches opened up the title race. They have 38 points, two ahead of champions Manchester United and seven clear of third-placed Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
“We needed to win really to stay in the race,” Lampard told Sky Sports.
“I was very relieved when it (the penalty) hit the back of the net.”
City had sought to give a quick answer to questions over what effect last week’s Champions League exit might have on their domestic campaign as they raced into an early lead. Aguero saw the space in the Chelsea defence to send a pin-point pass from the outside of his right foot to Balotelli, who rounded keeper Petr Cech and calmly slotted the ball in.
The Italian striker greeted his goal with something much closer to a celebration than his usual nonchalance, half raising his arms as a flicker of a smile crossed his lips.
The visitors proceeded to dominate with Aguero shooting just wide before City had a good shout for a penalty when David Silva was caught on the knee by Jose Bosingwa’s shin in the area in an action-packed opening spell.
Chelsea could only watch on as City patiently put together a series of fluid passing moves but somehow managed to contain their visitors and stay in the game.
They had to wait until midway through the first half for their first chance which came when Didier Drogba forced City
keeper Joe Hart to make a low save. The Londoners drew level when former City forward Daniel Sturridge cut the ball back from a tight angle for a charging Meireles to smash home.
Chelsea looked sharper after the break with Juan Mata making some dangerous moves and were further boosted with their man advantage.
Clichy, shown his first yellow card just after the break for a challenge on Sturridge, was given his marching orders after a badly timed lunge on Ramires.
That forced City into sacrificing one of their main attacking options by taking off Aguero to bring on defender Kolo
Toure and Chelsea capitalised.
Lampard had been patiently watching from the bench before manager Andre Villas-Boas sent him on in the 73rd minute.
Ten minutes later the 33-year-old midfielder was celebrating after stepping up to smash home from the penalty spot and his team mates mobbed him at the final whistle with Chelsea firmly back in the title race.
And over in Italy…
In Serie A, Juventus recovered from going a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw at Roma on Monday, preserving their unbeaten record this season and moving joint top of the standings.
Daniele De Rossi got Roma off to the perfect start when he scored in the fifth minute, although Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal should have prevented the ball from going in.
In an end-to-end game, Juventus finally equalised just after the hour mark thanks to Giorgio Chiellini.
Roma could have restored their lead immediately when they were awarded a penalty. Two club stalwarts faced up to each other, but in the end it was Gianluigi Buffon who won as he saved Francesco Totti’s spot kick.
Juventus move level on points with Udinese at the top and Roma move into ninth position.