Soccer — European leaguesTuesday, February 4, 2014
Chelsea beats City 1-0 in title showdown
Result ends Manchester’s 61-game scoring run in home league games
Branislav Ivanovic’s first-half cracker and Jose Mourinho’s tactical mastery helped classy Chelsea claim a 1-0 win over Premier League title rivals Manchester City who failed to score at home for the first time this season.
MANCHESTER, England — Chelsea neutralized the Premier League’s most rampant attack in beating title rival Manchester City 1-0 yesterday, with Branislav Ivanovic’s first-half goal ending the deposed leaders’ 100 percent winning record at home.
Ivanovic lashed home a fierce 25-yard shot in the 31st minute to cap a brilliant counter-attacking display by the visitors, who defended supremely against a team that has already scored 115 goals this season in all competitions. It was the first time City failed to score at home in the league since November 2010 — a streak of 61 matches — and the hosts were lucky not to lose by an even bigger margin, with Chelsea hitting the goal frame three times and threatening almost every time they broke forward.
Chelsea knew a defeat at Etihad Stadium — where City had won all of its 15 domestic league and cup games this season — would leave it six points behind City and potentially out of the title reckoning.
Now, Jose Mourinho’s side is level on points with second-place City, leaving Arsenal back on top with a two-point lead in what is proving to be an intriguing three-way race for the championship.
Mourinho is renowned around the football world as the master defensive strategist. Few will forget how his Inter Milan side nullified Barcelona in the 2010 Champions League semifinal at the Camp Nou, while Chelsea has already ground out 0-0 draws at Manchester United and Arsenal this season.
It was different here, though. Chelsea counter-attacked with such pace and purpose, and hounded City’s much-lauded ball-players into sloppy mistakes, that the visitors could easily have won by three goals. Samuel Eto’o, the excellent Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill all struck the goal frame.
City badly missed the injured Sergio Agüero but also holding midfielder Fernandinho, who was ruled out at the last minute with a muscle injury. Martin Demichelis — a centre back — filled in in central midfield and couldn’t stop Chelsea’s midfielders running amok.
Before Ivanovic put Chelsea in front, Ramires had a curling shot saved after running onto a pass from Willian, who had led a 4-on-1 attack on City’s beleaguered defence.
The goal arrived soon after, with City captain Vincent Kompany diving to block Ramires’ shot but seeing the ball squirt out to Ivanovic, who drove a powerful first-time shot with his left foot into the bottom corner.
ITALIAN LEAGUE. A first-half goal by Maxi López gave Sampdoria a 1-0 win over Genoa in their derby yesterday as they avenged their 3-0 drubbing by their old rivals earlier in the season. The former River Plate, Barcelona and AC Milan forward fired the winner midway through the first half after playing a one-two with Eder as Sampdoria continued to pull clear of the danger zone.
SPANISH LEAGUE. Villarreal sparked to life in the second half to beat Osasuna 3-1 yesterday, gaining ground on Athletic Bilbao in the chase for the Spanish league’s last Champions League place.