POST MATCH NO SHOW: Blues boss Jose Mourinho
HONOURS WHERE even at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea drew 1-1 with Manchester City today (January 31).
This was literally the match-of-the-day as champions City, fighting to retain their crown, were up against the team in pole position to relief them of their hard earned piece of silverware.
The hosts went into this fixture with some big names missing from their starting XI. There was no Diego Costa - controversially banned for a stamp on Liverpool’s Emre Can - or Cesc Fabregas, the midfielder sustaining an injury in the same midweek fixture against the Reds.
That said, even with that influential duo absent, Chelsea’s line-up looked solid with Loic Remy surprisingly starting ahead of legend Didier Drogba.
A glance at the City line-up suggested that they were a bit light up front, with only Sergio Aguero as their focal point in attack.
The little Argentine is just easing his way back to form after a long term injury.
One signifcant name on the City teamsheet albeit as a substitute was Frank Lampard, however, on this occasion he was wearing City colours rather than the dark blue of Chelsea which he had worn with such distinction for 13 years.
Just as noteworthy was the cursory handsake pre-match between Jose Mourinho and his counterpart from Mancheste, Manuel Pellegrini; the occasion was so brief it confirmed that the pair had not sent each other any Christmas cards last month.
This much anticipated match was to prove to be a slow burner but it was worth waiting for.
Inside the opening seconds Jesus Navas fired in a fierce drive that was batted away by Thibaut Courtois in the Chelsea goal.
Next up Fernandinho had an attempt on the home goal, the result was a City corner.
Chelsea were surprisingly off the pace as the men in light blue went on the front foot.
At this stage Chelsea’s key men were being sorely missed as the away side tried to put down a marker.
Mourinho’s men, surprisingly for them, were guilty of misplaced passes.
The only beacon of light for the hosts at this point was the fine form and trickery of Eden Hazard. Watching the Belgian ace in full flight is a thing of beauty and most of Chelsea’s best moments were generated by the diminutive playmaker.
On 33 minutes the first real big chance fell to Aguero. Blues skipper John Terry misjudged a long clearance and could not cut out the pass and the City man sneaked through the home defence but his low left foot effort went a yard wide of the upright.
But it as Chelsea who took the lead four minutes before the break when a fine ball into the City box from Branislav Ivanovic was superbly volleyed first time across the City goal by Hazard and Remy had the easy task of hitting the back of the net.
It took City just four minutes to gain parity. The busy Jesus Navas fired in a cross which the highly rated Courtois made a hash of, the ball bounced out to Aguero whose left foot shot was deflected into the Chelsea net by the eager David Silva.
The start of the second half saw Lampard’s touchline warm-up greeted by applause by both sets of fans.
City again started on the front foot, pushing back a Chelsea side who were clearly feeling the exertions of their midweek efforts.
Fernandinho tested Courtois with a header that flew up off the turf and was hurtling just under the Blues bar; Courtois pushed the ball over the net for a corner.
Navas was having a good game with his piercing runs and accurate crosses. Chelsea left-back Cesar Azpilicueta was having to be diligent and had his hands full all match.
Lampard made possibly his final appearance at the Bridge when he came on in the 77th minute. There was a mixture of applause and boos for the returning Chelsea hero.
Thereafter City huffed and puffed and looked the more likely but Chelsea will be happy after a tough week; a League Cup final berth has been secured and they maintained their five point advantage over their nearest rivals with this point.
Mourinho once again declined to address the media post match but in truth his players had done his talking for him.