Manchester City opened up a 13 point lead at the top of the table with a tight but deserved 1-0 win at home to second-placed Chelsea on Saturday afternoon.
The Premier League’s leading duo played out a precarious contest with each side abundantly aware of the threat either could offer one another.
The hosts enjoyed an expected dominance of possession but Chelsea held a high starting position off the ball to begin the match, blocking off City’s passing lanes rather than tearing around the pitch. Romelu Lukaku even had the game’s first chance, dumping John Stones to the turf and driving through a Ruben Dias-less defence but passed up the option to shoot.
That would prove one of the few openings Chelsea had to pull the trigger in a half which ended without the visitors attempting a single shot.
City grew into the match, gradually forcing Chelsea deeper and deeper – but were frustrated by the visitors’ clogged rearguard. It took a mistake from Mateo Kovacic, as Chelsea were finally caught out by City’s high press, to tee up Jack Grealish on the cusp of half-time. However, Kepa Arrizabalaga managed to just about contort his body to tip Grealish’s scuffed effort around the post.
Chelsea belatedly warmed the gloves of an underworked Ederson following the interval. Kovacic slid Lukaku through on goal, but City’s Brazilian custodian reacted quickly enough to beat away Chelsea’s first attempt of the match.
After an eight day rest – compared to Chelsea’s three – City maintained their intensity off the ball. Kevin De Bruyne forced Kepa into a hurried clearance in the 70th-minute which City swiftly collected on halfway and rattled back to their captain for the day. Evading the lunge of N’Golo Kante, De Bruyne drove to the edge of Chelsea’s box, bending in a superbly taken opening goal.
Chelsea huffed and puffed but City held the European champions at arm’s length in a victory that widens the chasm up to first place.
Ederson (GK) – 8/10 – After a watching brief in the first half, City’s keeper remained sharp enough to deny Lukaku with an unorthodox approach.
Kyle Walker (RB) – 6/10 – A little skittish in possession, Walker was reluctant to charge forward, holding back to offer his pace against the counter attack.
John Stones (CB) – 7/10 – Lost an early duel with Lukaku but wasn’t fazed thereafter.
Aymeric Laporte (CB) – 7/10 – Played a towering role on halfway in the build up to City’s goal, as well as blocking Timo Werner’s effort from close range.
Joao Cancelo (LB) – 7/10 – A regular stream of incision with characteristic reverse passes.
Bernardo (CM) – 6/10 – Flitting in and out of the contest, Bernardo played a more reserved role, allowing the likes of De Bruyne to push further forward.
Rodri (CM) – 7/10 – Surreptitiously sweeping behind his midfield colleagues, City’s defensive screen scarcely put a foot wrong.
Kevin De Bruyne (CM) – 8/10 – A nagging threat with his patented untracked darts into the box but just as crucial was his imposing role off the ball in a performance that earned a standing ovation.
Raheem Sterling (RW) – 7/10 – Made a beeline for Marcos Alonso at every twist and turn but dragged his clearest sight of goal wide.
Phil Foden (ST) – 5/10 – Dropping right into midfield, Foden wasn’t overwhelmingly influential in the attacking third.
Jack Grealish (LW) – 4/10 – Saw a lot of the ball but was regularly rebuffed by the imposing figure of Antonio Rudiger.
Ilkay Gundogan (CM) – 6/10
Gabriel Jesus (LW) – N/A
Kepa Arrizabalaga (GK) – 7/10 – Shanked an early clearance into his defender’s midriff but spread himself well to deny Grealish.
Antonio Rudiger (CB) – 7/10 – Playing on his natural but unfavoured side of the back-three, Rudiger was as dominant and robust as ever.
Thiago Silva (CB) – 6/10 – Sped back into the starting lineup, Silva gave Foden a long leash but always seemed in control of City’s false nine.
Malang Sarr (CB) – 5/10 – On just his second ever Premier League start, Sarr made a great sliding challenge on Sterling but was shaky in possession.
Cesar Azpilicueta (RWB) – 4/10 – On the rare occasions the Chelsea skipper ventured forward he slowed the attack down more often than not.
N’Golo Kante (CM) – 5/10 – Scuttled around the pitch with a remarkable range of coverage but the one tackle he missed proved costly.
Mateo Kovacic (CM) – 5/10 – Repeatedly the player tasked with attempting the line breaking pass in Chelsea’s build up enjoyed mixed success with this risky role.
Marcos Alonso (LWB) – 4/10 – Having earned an early yellow card, Alonso’s struggles when isolated with Sterling were given a disciplinary edge.
Christian Pulisic (RW) – 4/10 – Barely registered any impact before he was the first blue to be hooked.
Romelu Lukaku (ST) – 3/10 – Repeatedly cut an isolated figure as City’s dominance grew.
Hakim Ziyech (LW) – 4/10 – Incited the ire of his manager for a criminally overhit pass with Lukaku lurking on the last line – an action symbolic of a frustrating performance..
Callum Hudson-Odoi (LW) – 5/10
Timo Werner (RW) – 5/10
Mason Mount (CM) – N/A