Man City win Bridge battle
It was easy to forget that a sporting contest was taking place at Stamford Bridge as John Terry and Wayne Bridge renewed acquaintances under the sort of showbiz spotlight normally reserved for Hollywood A-listers.
There may be some of you who are growing a little tired of the sex scandal that has driven an almighty wedge between Chelsea captain Terry and his former club and international team-mate, but the latest chapter in this lurid tale was always going to be compulsive viewing.
Rarely has a football match become the focus of such frenzied tabloid titillation as this one, with the bulging Stamford Bridge press room confirming the appetite for a story that refuses to subside is far from quelled.
And the story was to gather pace before a ball was even kicked. The build-up to the pre-match handshake between the warring duo was a little like the promotion prior to a heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas, with the debate over whether Bridge would offer a palm to the 'villain' who had slept with the mother of his child raging all week.
Bridge withdrew his hand and refused to look at Terry when he brushed past the Chelsea leader. A roar duly went up around the stadium and it was echoed by a healthy burst of noise from a press box that barely had a seat to spare.
Just two days after Bridge announced that he would not play in the same England team as his foe, the duelling duo had their chance to settle a few scores on the pitch. In truth, the sideshow that was the Terry/Bridge affair appeared to take the focus away from a match that showed little signs of life in the opening 40 minutes.
That was until Frank Lampard burst through to score the opener, with Micah Richards at fault for failing to track the run of the Chelsea midfielder. Seconds later Terry was at fault as his side conceded an equaliser. With Carlos Tevez left up field as City's lone attacker, Chelsea's defensive line should have dealt with the long ball fired up field by Bridge with some comfort.
However, Terry stumbled at the key moment to open the door for a City leveller, exposing stand-in keeper Hilario as a major weak link once again. He really should have kept out Tevez's scuffed effort at goal, and Terry's heart must have sunk as the ball trickled over the line.
Five minutes into the second half and City were ahead as the speedy Bellamy got the better of a flat-footed Jon Obi Mikel and fired past Hilario from a tight angle. Once again, the Chelsea keeper should have done so much better.
A football match had broken out at last, though we were reminded of the key story of the day when Tevez then threatened to defend the honour of 'Team Bridge' as he squared up to Terry in the box after the pair tussled for the ball. The stocky Argentine would be a decent candidate to send into battle if such a contest was necessary, but referee Mike Dean quickly calmed tempers.
Dean was then the focus of attention again as Gareth Barry tumbled in the box under Juliano Belletti's challenge on 76 minutes, with the red card and penalty that followed all but ending this game as a contest. Tevez made no mistake from the penalty spot and quickly made a point of celebrating with Bridge as the City defender made his way into the corner populated by the jubilant travelling supporters.
The home side were reduced to nine men as a frustrated Michael Ballack picked up his second yellow card for a needless tackle from behind on Tevez and with that, the Chelsea hoards who had come to bait their one-time left back started to leave in their droves.
Bridge was already out of the firing line by this point as he was replaced by Roberto Mancini shortly after Tevez's penalty and the City boss insisted the pre-match hype did not provide additional inspiration for his team.
"We were not more motivated to win this game because of the Bridge situation," insisted Mancini. "Our motivation was this game can change our season and we have had a great result here. I really don't like to talk about the Bridge story because this has been spoken about so much. I am just glad this match is over now because we can speak about football again."
An irate Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti also refused to enter into the debate over the story everyone seems to enjoy talking about. "I don't think the focus on the Terry and Bridge story distracted anyone when the match started and I am not going to talk about this story any more," insisted Ancelotti, who bizarrely claimed Terry was not at fault for City's opening goal.
"The reality is we are still top of the table and while this defeat is a big disappointment, we will not let it affect the belief in our dressing room. This team will fight back."
Sport and scandal are so often familiar bedfellows, but Terry's antics between the sheets now seem to be having a direct impact on the efforts of the team he leads with increasingly unconvincing poise. For the first time in many a long week, Bridge can afford to smile at Terry's misfortune.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Carlos Tevez - He only arrived back in England a few hours before this match, but he turned in a heroic performance for City as he took on John Terry on his own. This Argentinean is a beast of a striker.
COLE DILEMMA: Joe Cole was offered another chance to impress in front of watching England boss Fabio Capello, but he failed to take his chance and was replaced after an hour. Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti is clearly unconvinced by the form and talents of his No.10.
TERRY WATCH: The deposed England skipper has been affected by the sex scandal that has engulfed him in recent weeks and his regular mistakes are costing Chelsea dear at a crucial stage of the season. He is not quite a liability just yet, but he is edging towards that point.
BRIDGE WATCH: In general, Bridge handled this traumatic situation with dignity. On this occasion, he more than got the better of his nemesis Terry.