Chelsea ended Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the season as goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz sealed an impressive 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
The visitors were dominant in the first half but were made to rue missed opportunities when N’Golo Kante gave Chelsea the lead just before half time, firing past Ederson after good work by Eden Hazard.
Mauricio Sarri’s side grew into the game in the second half and made the points safe with 12 minutes remaining through David Luiz’s header.
The result means Liverpool stay at the top of the Premier League table by a point, with Chelsea now eight points back.
The result looked unlikely through the first half as City’s high press continuously caught Chelsea in possession and created numerous opportunities.
City failed to convert those chances however, and were hit with the sucker punch from Kante on the stroke of half time.
The champions continued to boss possession after the break, but allowed Chelsea more freedom to attack. Eventually, David Luiz popped up to break City’s resolve.
The game was similar in pattern to the corresponding fixture last season. On that occasion Kevin De Bruyne scored the only goal as City took the points.
In both games City had 61 or 62% possession, over 13 shots and several corners. But where magic from Kevin De Bruyne settled it last year, City lacked the Belgian’s magic and Sergio Aguero’s killer instincts this time around.
Credit must also be given to Chelsea’s defence, who were almost faultless throughout. Cesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz were standout performers.
Was it a corner?
David Luiz’s goal to make it 2-0 came from Chelsea’s first corner of the game, 78 minutes in. By then, City had had 13 corners.
But should the corner in question have been given? Ederson let Ross Barkley’s tame effort run behind for what he thought would be a goal kick. John Stones claimed after the final whistle that he didn’t think there was a touch.
City may have had a case, and such decisions only further the cause of VAR. It must be said though that this decision is not the reason that City lost, but it did create some contention.
City blunt in attack without Aguero
After missing City’s last two games with a mystery muscle problem, fans had hoped Sergio Aguero would be fit for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
Against Bournemouth and Watford, the Citizens managed to score three and two goals respectively, but against Chelsea they could not find a way through.
It marked just the fourth time that City had failed to score in a Premier League game since the start of last season, but fans will be alarmed that the ruthless edge that has seen them sweep aside all before them was markedly absent.
Gabriel Jesus, considered first choice deputy to Aguero since the Brazilian’s arrival nearly two years ago, was dropped to the bench, Pep Guardiola instead opting to play Raheem Sterling in the middle of his front three.
Pep Guardiola went as far as to decribe his side’s first half display as “exceptional”, but Sterling and Leroy Sane wasted good openings as the Citizens had nothing to show for it. Though Jesus replaced Sane not long after half time, the Brazil forward put in another ineffectual display.
The 21-year-old scored 13 Premier League goals last season and allowed Pep Guardiola to rotate between Aguero and him without effecting the side’s attacking momentum. So far in 18/19, Jesus has only one league goal, against Huddersfield back in August.
Sergio Aguero is expected back “soon”.
Liverpool only unbeaten side
Chelsea’s victory over City knocked them off the top of the Premier League for the first time since September, and leaves Liverpool as the only side still unbeaten in the league this season.
The Reds face Manchester United and Arsenal before the end of 2018, and may have already exited the Champions League, their fate to be decided on Tuesday when they play Napoli.
It remains incredibly unlikely that Jurgen Klopp’s men can become only the second team in Premier League history to go a full season unbeaten, but their current 16-game run is already the fourth longest opening streak since 1992 (The top three are Arsenal in 2003/04 (38 games), Manchester United in 2010/11 (24 games) and Manchester City in 2017/18 (22 games)).
The odds of such a feat are currently hovering around 10-1.
No strikers in either team
Headlines were made before a ball had been kicked when the lineups were announced, with neither side selecting an out-and-out striker to start the game.
Chelsea opted to play Eden Hazard in the middle with Willian and Pedro either side of him, while Pep Guardiola played Raheem Sterling in the middle, between Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez.
The move speaks volumes about the situation at both clubs, with regular Chelsea strikers Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud struggling to find the net, while Gabriel Jesus is on a barren run for City.
It’s not often that a team lines up without any recognised strikers (though in this case Sterling and Hazard were filling in), but for both teams to make the decision is certainly a rare occasion.
Kante impresses in new role
After two defeats in their last three league fixtures, there was much focus on Mauricio Sarri and his use of N’Golo Kante.
The Frenchman, who this week finished 11th in the Ballon d’Or rankings, has been played in a more advanced role than in previous seasons, making room for Jorginho.
Kante’s performances had been sub-standard in the losses to Spurs and Wolves, but he was sensational today with and without the ball.
Imperious out of possession as we’ve come to expect, the former Leicester midfielder showed the other side to his game, exhibiting predatory instincts to blast Chelsea ahead with their first shot of the match.
It remains to be seen whether Kante can make the right side of a midfield three his permanent home, but a display like this suggests he may be back to his best.