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Chelsea back in business

REAL HAZARD: The Belgian (no.10) knocks home the rebound after his penalty was saved

CHELSEA GOT back to winning ways with a hard earned 2-1 win against Manchester City. This was a genuinely big win for Antonio Conte's men. After Chelsea’s shock defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday and City’s point at the Emirates, was the title race back on was the question.

Here were two dominant teams in the Premier League going head-to-head. While City were unlikely to lift the top-flight trophy next month, the hosts had to claim all the points with second-placed Tottenham keen to take advantage of any slip-ups by the Stamford Bridge outfit.

Chelsea haven't lost back-to-back Premier League games at Stamford Bridge since November 2011, when Andre Villas-Boas' side were defeated by Arsenal and then Liverpool. They were in no mood to capitulate tonight.

City won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge last April, claiming their biggest victory away to Chelsea since 1978 and they could easily have won in west London with chances aplenty.

In the City ranks was injury-prone Vincent Kompany who has been missing for as long as Lord Lucan and Shergar.

Another centre-half to make a start was Chelsea’s highly-rated Kurt Zouma who has had his own struggles in the treatment room. The surprises did not end there with Fabian Delph making a start in the away midfield.

The last time these two teams met in the league City were reduced to nine men after Sergio Aguero manhandled David Luiz and Fernandinho slapped Cesc Fabregas. This encounter was never as feisty.

Chelsea won that game and were keen to complete a vital double against a fellow championship rival at the business end of the campaign.

Chelsea started brightly, which was no surprise after their weekend defeat. The home fans understood early on that they needed to get behind their team and they certainly did.

Nerves were eased when talisman Eden Hazard, after a cross by Cesar Azpilicueta, fired home from close range in the 10th minute but in all honesty City keeper Willy Caballero should have saved the shot.

The away side’s almost immediate reply was a shot by Aguero that was blocked and a wayward effort by Delph.

The first half justified all the hype, with two teams prepared to attack with verve and entertain the 41, 528 at the Bridge.

Fernandinho and Aguero had shots competently dealt with by Thibaut Courtois but all the while another goal was coming, either way.

Fabregas saw a shot of his own hit former Arsenal team mate Gael Clichy and deflect off the woodwork for a corner as the hosts looked to increase their advantage.

On 26 minutes the away side were level. This time Courtois was not so competent with his goal kick finding David Silva. The ‘keeper managed to save the little Spaniard’s shot but there was Aguero on hand to fire home.

Citizen Leroy Sane was then denied by a flying Courtois as the game revved up gloriously. But City were to pay for Fernandinho’s sloppy challenge on Pedro in the penalty area. Ref Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Chelsea fans were delirious.

That delirium was tempered slightly when Hazard’s 35th minute penalty was kick was saved by Caballero but the ball rebounded to the Belgian’s feet and he fired home much to the relief of most in the ground.

The second half just could not be as breathless as the first and so it proved. City had the better chances but could not take them.

Inside a minute of the restart a Kompany header hit the Chelsea crossbar after a Kevin De Bruyne free kick. Thereafter it was mostly Pep Guardiola’s men who looked most likely to score. John Stones had a decent header after Silva service of a corner.

Chelsea countered every now and again with the hard working Pedro having his curling effort saved by the City custodian.
Hero Hazard could have made his team totally safe near the end but fired his right foot shot wildly over the bar.

He and Chelsea were nearly made to pay for that miss. Both Aguero and Stones, in the closing seconds, had opportunities to gain parity for their side.

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