Manchester City started playing not to lose at the City of Manchester Stadium, as if they were the away team. They were very disciplined defensively and well-shaped in midfield. It was always playing to stop Chelsea from scoring. James Milner provided a forward dimension on the left wing going forward.
On their part, Chelsea were patient and dangerous entering the attacking third of the field. Man City fortified the 18 yard area, building a solid wall, a barrier Didier Drogba, Nicholas Anelka and Flourent Malouda kept knocking with consistent aggression. With a little composure, Michael Essien could have at least forced a save from Hart.
City managed sporadic spells of possession only restricted to the midfield third with very occasional forays into the box. Both teams applied chess-like moves, accelerating forward-looking for opportune moment to catch each other off guard. They made good use of all manpower, getting goalside and leaving Drogba and Carlos Tevez upfront.
Combative duels became a little physical in the preparation zones, with Man City the more aggressive and Chelsea craftier. While not so polished, the match was excessively competitive. To show the balance of play, both Anelka and David Silva found themselves involved in defensive duties once in a while. Chelsea’s intentions were very clear as they stroke the post, had 2 penalty situation when Bolata wrapped his arm around Drogba and then shoulder charged dangerously later on.
The second half started with Anelka’s effort missing the post after a finger tip touch by Joe Hart. Man City passed the ball better but failed to penetrate. Their first half wing player became less effective as they changed the channel of attack to the right, though when they used the left side, Silva forced Petr Cech to dive low to parry the ball for a corner. The competitiveness of the match was less obvious, probably due to heavy legs from the first half pace and the midweek Carling Cup losses by the 2 teams.
Carlos Tevez received the ball exactly in the centre circle and ran the entire 55 metres with Ashley Cole backpedaling and then shot low to his left to beat Cech for only the second goal Chelsea have conceded in the league this season. The tempo increased as City looked for the second one while Chelsea hoped for an equaliser. Manchester City defended resolutely and counter-attacked decisively as Tevez began to harass Terry and Alex at will. The goal scorer and captain was eventually replaced by Emmanuel Adebayour with 5 minutes of play remaining.
Anelka had City fans and players’ hearts in their mouths when he failed to redirect the ball past Hart from within the 6 yard box. City defended like men possessed throwing all men behind the ball to thin any meaningful threats Chelsea posed. As it turned out, it was a day they would drop the first points of the Backlays Premier League campaign.