Manchester City were supposed to be unbeatable at the Etihad Stadium. Apparently, no one told Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho's side went to the Etihad on Monday and came away with a 1-0 win, a fair result after a tremendous performance by the Blues. City were without the injured Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Fernandinho, but Chelsea's three points count just the same and have them level in the table with the Citizens, just two points back of Arsenal for first place.
Manchester City had the better of possession in the first half and, at least for the first few minutes, had chances too. A wonderful cross by Aleksandar Kolarov just missed Yaya Toure minutes into the match and City could have been in front, but it was not to be and before long, the Blues had the upperhand.
Chelsea didn't have the ball much, but they kept the home side from getting chances and when they counterattacked, they were dynamic. They almost scored in the 27th minute when a bad giveaway by City sparked Chelsea the other way, but the Blues' 4-on-1 resulted in Ramires' underwhelming shot being saved by Joe Hart. Luckily for them, it would not be much longer before they did actually score.
A lovely little chip by Eden Hazard found Ramires, whose shot was blocked, but it came to Branslav Ivanovic. The right back had pushed forward and hit the ball first time with his left foot from 20 yards. It was an absolute rocket, finding the bottom corner and silencing the Etihad as Mourinho's men went 1-0 up.
Chelsea could have scored again before the break as Hazard once again undid the City defense and found Samuel Eto'o, but the striker's shot hit the bar and went over. The second half started like the first one ended, with Chelsea surging forward on the counter, but Hazard was too unselfish on the Blues' best chance and passed when he had a good chance at goal to waste the opportunity.
The chances didn't stop for the Blues, who hit the bar two more times, with Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill each rattling the woodwork. Chelsea didn't have the ball much, but they made their time on it count.
All the while, Manchester City didn't do anything of note. With Aguero out, the Citizens looked entirely pedestrian up front. Chelsea did well to drop men behind the ball and starve the front line of service, forcing City to be inventive, which they never were. Crosses came in, but Chelsea cleared them with ease.
City's best chance of the second half came on a scramble in front and it looked like they might finally find the net, but their lone shot was cleared off the line. Late on, Stevan Jovetic also had a look at goal, but Petr Cech was there to palm it away as the Citizens' hopes of an equalizer were dashed.
As dangerous as Chelsea were on the counter, their real work came in defense, where they were superb. They defended with numbers, but they were also extremely smart and disciplined to conceded space when they could afford it and close down when things got dangerous. Willian, in particular, was tremendous, tracking back and putting in an incredible effort to be so excellent defensively while also getting forward on the counter.
When the final whistle went, a smile came across Mourinho's face. City may have been without Aguero, Nasri and Fernandinho, but Chelsea had still done the job, a job no one else had done this season -- win at the Etihad.
Manchester City: Hart, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Toure, Navas, Silva, Negredo (Jovetic 57'), Dzeko.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Ramires, Matic, Hazard, Willian, Eto'o (Oscar 83').
Goals: Ivanovic 32'.