Letting Lampard leave comes back to bite Chelsea as City scrape draw
Jose Mourinho’s face was a picture when Chelsea legend Frank Lampard prevented his former club from opening up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League, as the substitute scored to snatch a share of the spoils for champions Manchester City.
‘The Special One’ look set for two smash and grab wins at the Eithad in seven months, but the ex-England international, applauded by home and away fans alike, rescued Manuel Pellegrini’s 10 men.
James Milner, another homegrown midfielder, played his part here, assisting Lampard after deflecting Diego Costa’s effort onto the base of Joe Hart’s post.
Following a cat and mouse first half where City were largely on top, this was a first proper domestic test of the season for Chelsea, and they still came away unbeaten, but with the sense of a missed opportunity.
Andre Schurrle continues to enhance his reputation as an impact sub for club and country, after the World Cup winner with Germany came off the bench to put Mourinho’s men ahead with 20 minutes left.
Five minutes earlier, Argentina right back Pablo Zabaleta saw red for a second booking, but there was an air of inevitability about a sending off here.
Referee Mike Dean made it difficult for himself. Rather than officiate this big game like it was a derby, he cautioned Fernandinho inside the first quarter of an hour. This was the first of nine yellow dished out.
Schurrle’s opener was classic counter-attacking football at its finest. City were caught cold from a corner with Eden Hazard, who Mourinho wants signed up to a new five-year contract, starting the breakaway down the right and continued his run before his back post cross found the supersub.
Class act Lampard levelled with five minutes left, but refused to celebrate when he turned in Milner’s first-time centre after a good spot from David Silva. Schurrle went from hero to villain here, however, as he failed to track the run of City’s assistant.
As this high-profile encounter came off the back of an absorbing eight-goal thriller where Leicester City upset and outscored the new-look Manchester United, it was something of anti-climax.
Big matches that matter rarely are open, and this was no exception to the cagey, keen to avoid defeat formula that managers appears content to stick with.
Of all five Premier League teams competing in Europe midweek, only Arsenal managed to win, and an assist can down to the mysterious virus sweeping through Aston Villa’s training ground which has prompted Paul Lambert to order it be quarantined.
However, as the Gunners are in north London derby action against Spurs and Liverpool face the Merseyside equivalent at Anfield against Everton next weekend, Chelsea and City could be the real winners from those rivalries.
Away wins for Tottenham and the Toffees, coupled with victories for Mourinho and Pellegrini over Villa and Hull respectively, could establish the reigning Premier League champions and current leaders as the main title race contenders.
Chelsea remain odds-on 4/7 favourites with Coral for the title, while City are 10/3 chances to retain their title.