Manchester City produced arguably their finest display of the season with a 3-1 win at Chelsea that lay down a marker of title intent and heaped further pressure on Frank Lampard.
The Citizens shrugged off the issues of a Covid-outbreak within their squad to rampage to a third straight league victory for the first time this season and move up to fifth in the table.
Pep Guardiola handed a Premier League debut to goalkeeper Zack Steffen but after a nervy start, the rookie stopper had a relatively quiet evening overall.
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At the other end, City appeared back to their irrepressible best, particularly in a first-half spell where the damage was done.
Ilkay Gundogan’s wonderful turn and finish got the visitors up and running on 18 minutes before Phil Foden’s near-post flick doubled the advantage just three minutes later.
Chelsea appeared dazed by the double-blow and City all but sealed the points when Kevin de Bruyne swept in the rebound after Raheem Sterling had hit the post on 34 minutes.
The result means City are now just four points behind leaders Liverpool having played a game fewer. Chelsea, who grabbed a late consolation through substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi, are three points further back in eighth, but have played two matches more than the Citizens and look devoid of confidence following a run of one win, one draw and four defeats in their last six league outings.
Chelsea will now hope to raise their spirits when they turn their attention to an FA Cup third round tie at home to Morecambe on Sunday. City visit neighbours Manchester United for a League Cup semi final on Wednesday.
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The script seemed to slightly favour Chelsea to get back on track against a City side who have struggled for goals at times this season and who had seen their preparations for the match hit by a Covid-19 outbreak. However, it was the visitors who used their first run-out in 2021 to provide a huge statement of intent. City are now unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions, winning eight along the way. It was a real throwback to the form of previous title-winning seasons and if they can find more of that in what is a tight Premier League this term, they will be there or thereabouts.
As for Chelsea, there were already murmurs about Lampard’s future following a recent poor run, but the nature of this loss will only enhance the pressure. The team struggled to find any rhythm, defended poorly and the overall tactics will be rightly criticised. It would be knee-jerk and another grim indictment of what football has become if any panic buttons are pushed, but after such a huge summer outlay, questions will obviously be asked unless there is a rapid revival.
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MAN OF THE MATCH - Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
A goal and an assist for the Belgian who remained a major threat long after the first-half purple patch that had knocked the stuffing out of the home side. Linked brilliantly with Raheem Sterling, Gundogan and Foden as he once again came back to haunt his old team.
Chelsea: Mendy 7, Azpilicueta 6, Chilwell 6, Zouma 6, Thiago 6, Kante 6, Kovacic 6, Mount 5, Pulisic 6, Ziyech 5, Werner 5. Subs: Hudson-Odoi 6, Gilmour 6, Hudson-Odoi 6.
Manchester City: Steffen 6, Dias 7, Stones 7, Zinchenko 7, Cancelo 8, Rodri 8, Gundogan 9, Foden 9, Silva 7, De Bruyne 9, Sterling 7. Subs: Fernandinho 6, Aguero n/a, Mahrez n/a.
16’ – MAN CITY CHANCE! Cancelo threads a delightful ball into the right side of the box for De Bruyne. The Belgian takes it on the run but slides his low shot wide of the far post with just the keeper to beat.
18’ - GOAL! – Chelsea 0-1 Man City. Gundogan spins on to Foden's flick from Zinchenko's cross and fires low into the far corner.
21’ - GOAL! – Chelsea 0-2 Man City. It's two! Foden sweeps a first-time finish in at the near post from De Bruyne's slide-rule pass from the left.
34’ - GOAL! – Chelsea 0-3 Man City. De Bruyne slams in the loose ball after Sterling had raced clear before dallying and firing against the post.
90+2’ - GOAL! – Chelsea 1-3 Man City. No clean sheet for City as Hudson-Odoi tucks in a cross from the left to snare a consolation for the hosts.
- Gundogan has scored three goals in his last four Premier League appearances; one more than he scored in 31 games in the competition for Manchester City last season.
- Chelsea conceded three first half goals in a home Premier League game for only the second time ever, also doing so in August 2017 vs Burnley.
- Kevin De Bruyne has now scored four goals against Chelsea in the Premier League; the most a former player has netted against the Blues in the competition.
- Chelsea have three points fewer after 17 league games than they did last season (29), whilst in the Premier League era, the Blues have never finished higher than 6th when amassing a maximum of 26 points at this stage of a campaign.
- Chelsea have suffered as many defeats in their last six Premier League games (W1 D1 L4) as they did in the 23 matches beforehand (W14 D5 L4).
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