In what seemed to be an evenly contested draw, Chelsea and Manchester City settled for 1-1 at Stamford Bridge, on Saturday night. Both teams, without their key players, looked to struggle for finding the net, although it was the away team which was ahead in terms of chances created and shots on target.
But that was alright, considering Chelsea’s defensive approach in the second half and maintaining the 5 points lead. Let’s get on with the five things we learned from this most anticipated clash of the month:
Kurt Zouma – an exciting, young talent discovered!
Whether you take midweek’s game against Liverpool or especially the last night’s game against City, there was 20-year-old center back who was hungry to prove to the world that he is a top class player. Although this was Zouma’s only the second Premier League appearance for Chelsea, he has ensured Mourinho that a talented CB is there in his squad to replace out-of-form Gary Cahill for now and later part of the season when injury issues begin to take over. The fact that he was against the likes of Aguero and Silva last night, is what makes what he did so special. Two successful tackles against the Argentine striker, 10 ball recoveries and a headed clearance from a corner in the last minute of the game when two players were behind to fetch a winner for City, were some of the highlighting points of his MOTM performance. Moreover, what was unusual for a 20-year-old was his composure and calmness that he maintained throughout the game. With zero fouls committed, he didn’t went in for harsh challenges and had successful 3/3 tackles.
Costa and Fabregas are two gems for Chelsea
Need not to say, the combination of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas is what Chelsea have relied upon this season. And the absence of our top goalscorer and top assist maker was clearly felt as we tried to hold on to a 1-1 score till the final whistle, apart from some tiring display by our players after the 120 minutes midweek action. The midfield trio of Oscar, Hazard and Willian struggled to keep the possession as Hazard looked unable to find room for himself, and Oscar and Willian were forced upon to their defensive duties by a highly pressing City side. There was no Fabregas who could win the ball in deep midfield, create spaces and push the 4 frontmen ahead. Loic Remy, who replaced Costa for the night, was unable to enjoy much of the time with ball as he looked disconnected with the midfield for most of the time and couldn’t get himself into the play, apart from his first touch goal when he read Hazard’s movement well to get ahead of his marker and put the ball in from a Hazard’s one-touch, low cross.
Lampard deserved a better welcome
In the 76th minute of the game, came the moment most of us had been eagerly waiting for. Frank Lampard was subbed on for Fernando, as many Chelsea stood up to applaud their legend. While there were some jeers that followed, it was good to see other Stamford Bridge faithful welcoming their legend to the fortress where he played for 13 years of his career. As the final whistle was blown, and even after all other players had left, an emotional Lampard stayed on the ground to do his lap of honour at all the four sides of the pitch and got a better response in return from the remaining crowd. But what was overwhelming more than anything else, was the warm hug shared by John Terry with his former teammate and friend, as soon as the match was over. And to those who call him a traitor for joining a rival club, grow up guys! Lampard is still a legend and one of the greatest players in our club’s history.
Chelsea have a promising bench
What caught the eyes of many even before the kickoff, were the names on Chelsea’s bench. With Salah and Schurrle on their way out, it was a chance for other names to be part of the squad. Apart from Cahill, Drogba and Cech, there were four teenagers- Izzy Brown, Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake and Ruben Loftus Cheek. While Zouma and Remy got the place in the starting 11, replacing Cahill and Costa respectively. Not only for the coming seasons, but in the later parts of this season as well, these youngsters can provide some really good options to replace the regular starters. While Zouma outstood all other men on the pitch, Remy too had a moment of his own when he fetched Chelsea’s only goal of the night. Christensen was impressive against Bradford, although Chelsea faced a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the visitors. Brown, Ake and Loftus Cheek have had next to no chances but the fresh legs promise to have a lot in store.
Still 5 points clear at the top!
As the second half was proceeding towards its end, Jose sent in Cahill for Remy. The defensive substitution, clearly meant that he was satisfied with the 1-1 draw. And it actually was the right decision, because Chelsea playing without Fabregas and Costa had seemingly less chances of grabbing a goal against a well positioned and tight City defence. And we couldn’t afford to give any space to Aguero and co and end up losing our 5 points lead. So at the end of the day, we still have a strong hold on that title with the peak winter months over, and comparatively easy Premier League fixtures coming our way over the next two months.
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt