City set a marker for success
When they became the world's richest club, Manchester City may have anticipated making history. Equalling a record for successive draws in the Premier League - seven - surely wasn't what they had in mind. There was, however, something quintessentially City about it. And there was something typically City about the way that run ended.
Having been held by Birmingham City and Burnley, by Fulham and Hull City, they duly beat the league leaders.
Unpredictability is in the fabric of the club and there were plenty of abnormal elements to City's victory. All three goals came from their players with Emmanuel Adebayor, long among the more unorthodox players, contriving to score with his back in his own net. Yet it was the Chelsea defence, often so resolute, who ended the game in a state of disarray, with Michael Essien and Branislav Ivanovic forming a makeshift central defensive partnership while John Terry, with his right knee bandaged, urged them on from the entrance to the tunnel. And, strangest of all, there was the unusual sight of Frank Lampard failing from 12 yards.
He was a victim of the continuing brilliance of Shay Given. Chelsea were the latest casualties of City's scorched earth policy. Just as Arsenal had been fazed by the high-octane approach Mark Hughes' side adopted in Wednesday's Carling Cup win, so Chelsea were rattled by their sheer vigour as City won controversially but deservedly.
Craig Bellamy had been the epitome of an energetic approach against Arsenal. With the Welshman sidelined, Carlos Tevez took on that mantle. The Argentine arrived at an exorbitant cost - around £47 million, according to some - yet still contrives to play with the attitude of the boy trying to break out of the backstreets of Buenos Aires.
He can supply a deft touch to accompany the habitual industry and Tevez curled in the decisive free kick after Ricardo Carvalho was penalised for fouling the Argentine. Or not, depending upon the interpretation. "It is not clear for me but I think Carvalho took the ball cleanly," said Carlo Ancelotti.
He was more vocal on the subject of City's first goal. Shaun Wright-Phillips' crisp shot was handled by Micah Richards into the path of Adebayor. His initial effort struck Terry, but the Togolese himself scored the rebound. "I think the referee [Howard Webb] made important mistakes," Ancelotti added. "It is clear Micah Richards did handball. I consider Webb a fantastic referee so I am surprised about these two mistakes."
Whatever the methods, the display merited the rewards. City charged around with constant commitment while the accumulation of six booking was a sign Chelsea were rattled. In days of pristine pitches in the Premier League, the City of Manchester Stadium turf was cut up, if not quite resembling the Baseball Ground, but the expensively-assembled home side seemed to relish the mud. "They put pressure on our midfield and made it difficult to play," admitted Ancelotti.
Tevez and Adebayor, the two costliest players signed by Premier League clubs this summer, provided the athleticism to accompany their ability. While their goals were disputed, others were almost scored. Carvalho produced a wonderful header to stop Richards levelling while Ivanovic blocked on the line from Adebayor.
"We played the vast majority of the game in Chelsea's half," Hughes added. "We showed courage and we were brave. Sometimes teams give Chelsea a little bit too much respect, but we weren't prepared to do that." Along with the Arsenal game, it completed the finest four days of his reign. "It's been a fantastic week," the Welshman added. "We have taken on one of the Big Four again and beaten them."
For that, however, they owed thanks to their goalkeeper. When Nedum Onuoha fouled Didier Drogba, Webb pointed to the spot. Given guessed correctly and Hughes said: "It was a fantastic save. You don't expect Lampard to miss penalties."
Indeed the only player to defeat the Irishman was one of his own colleagues. After Given had made smart stops from first Ivanovic and then Nicolas Anelka, the ball bounced in off an unwitting Adebayor.
If there was more than a hint of misfortune, it was nonetheless significant that a defence acquired for a collective cost approaching £50 million had gone missing. "Money will be mentioned whenever Man City is mentioned," admitted Hughes.
But as one billionaire's club beat another, it was not finances that seemed the most significant factor but sheer effort. And no one provides more than City's match-winner.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Shay Given - The best signing City have made and by quite some distance, he began and ended the game with terrific saves.
MANCHESTER CITY VERDICT: Nigel de Jong attracts few headlines, but the efficient Dutchman ranks among City's most important players, especially against high-calibre opposition. They could have been outnumbered in the centre of midfield, but his efforts, along with those of Gareth Barry, ensured they were not at a disadvantage.
CHELSEA VERDICT: Imperious against Arsenal last week, they were some way below their best. There was still a threat in attack - indeed Drogba twice came close - but Ancelotti's midfield combination did not gel. Perhaps Joe Cole would have provided more invention than Deco.
TERRY BAD: Had he accepted a multi-million pound offer in the summer, Terry probably would have captained City today. Instead he was booked for a foul on Tevez, ignored by referee Webb when protesting about City's first goal and roundly booed when substituted. He ended the game with a bandaged knee, though apparently it isn't serious.