A superb goal from Kevin De Bruyne decided the contest between the Premier League’s top two on Saturday and seemingly the destination of the championship, with Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Chelsea moving them 13 points clear at the summit.
It was a game which had been billed as the last chance for Chelsea – and third-placed Liverpool – to keep the defending champions in sight but City were dominant, pinning their visitors back in their own half for long periods and they eventually produced the moment of quality to extend their remarkable winning streak in the league to 12 matches.
De Bruyne – famously sold on by Chelsea – spun away from N’Golo Kante on 70 minutes and bent a brilliant, trademark swerving shot inside the far post from 20 yards, his fifth goal against his former club.
“It’s an important victory because we’re playing against a big contender,” City boss Pep Guardiola said afterwards. “When you get three points they can’t get three points and it’s one week less. But in January no one is champion.”
Standings — English Premier League
City should have been ahead well before De Bruyne’s strike, with Jack Grealish spurning a glorious opening after Mateo Kovacic had been caught in possession by De Bruyne. City’s £100m man clipped his shot straight at the on-rushing Kepa five minutes before half-time, and still has just two Premier League goals to his name since his record-breaking summer transfer.
- Man City had an all English attack, with Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling coming in but Ruben Dias was surprisingly on the bench, with John Stones and Aymeric Laporte at centre back. Riyad Mahrez is away at AFCON.
- Chelsea made five changes from Thursday’s win over Tottenham, with Thiago Silva, N’Golo Kante back from Covid isolations, and Marcos Alonso, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech also given the nod. Mason Mount, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jorginho dropped to the bench, with Andreas Christensen out with Covid. Kepa continued in goal with Edouard Mendy at AFCON.
Chelsea defended well but didn’t have a shot in the first half, the first time that has happened in the Premier League under Thomas Tuchel. However, they had three in the opening four minutes of the second, with Romelu Lukaku drawing a fine stop from Ederson from his own one-on-one chance.
But the Belgian – who had powered past John Stones in the opening minutes – was too often starved of good service, with Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso culpable of overhitting passes in brief moments when Chelsea looked like they could open up the best defence in the division.
Man City: Ederson (7), Walker (7), Laporte (7), Stones (6), Cancelo (7), Rodri (7), De Bruyne (9), Silva (7), Grealish (6), Foden (7), Sterling (7).
Subs: Gundogan (N/A), Gabriel Jesus (N/A)
Chelsea: Kepa (7), Rudiger (7), Silva (7), Sarr (6), Azpilicueta (6), Alonso (5), Kovacic (5), Kante (7), Pulisic (5), Ziyech (5), Lukaku (5).
Subs: Werner (6), Hudson-Odoi (6), Mount (N/A)
Man of the match: Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)