Torres punishes City
Fernando Torres was the Chelsea hero as he capitalised on indecision in the Manchester City defence to give his side a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge. Adam Bate picks out the key issues of a game that saw City dominate the ball but punished at the back...
By Adam Bate - Follow @GhostGoal. Last Updated: 28/10/13 10:33am
A mix-up between Joe Hart and Matija Nastasic allowed Fernando Torres to score a 90th minute winner and give Chelsea a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. Torres had looked likely to be the villain after an early miss but turned things around by setting up Andre Schurrle for the opening goal soon after.
While City did equalise early in the second half thanks to a stunning strike by Sergio Aguero, it was the Chelsea striker who had the final say. Here we look at the Opta data to assess the key performers and look at how the home team won the game despite surrendering possession...
Chelsea v Manchester City starting formations
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho went with the in-form Torres as his lone striker with support in the form of Schurrle, Eden Hazard and Oscar. That meant Juan Mata and Samuel Eto'o had to settle for a place on the substitutes bench.
In defence, Mourinho chose to go with Gary Cahill alongside John Terry rather than David Luiz. Ashley Cole was fit to start at left-back after recovering from a rib injury with Serbia international Branislav Ivanovic preferred to Cesar Azpilicueta on the right.
Manuel Pellegrini opted to break up the partnership between Aguero and Alvaro Negredo in selecting a more cautious line-up. Mourinho referred to it before kick-off as "showing respect" as the City boss went with Javi Garcia in a defensive midfield role and Aguero as the lone forward.
However, Pellegrini did take a risk at the back as he introduced Martin Demichelis into the back line for his debut alongside Matija Nastasic. The 32-year-old Argentina international had yet to feature for the club following his summer arrival after suffering a knee injury.
Man City dominated possession in the first half with Javi Garcia using the ball effectively
Where it was won and lost
Pellegrini had revealed in his pre-match interview that he was wary of Chelsea's counter-attacking threat and that's how the game panned out after an initial flurry from the home side. City's packed midfield dominated the ball with Garcia's accurate use of the ball proving effective. City enjoyed 56 per cent of possession in the first quarter of an hour and by half time that had risen to over 58 per cent
Garcia's presence also left Yaya Toure free to play in an advanced role alongside David Silva and Samir Nasri. The three men combined well in tight spaces and City played 102 passes in the final third in the first half alone - they made just 118 all match away to Manchester United so in terms of enjoying possession high up the field, Pellegrini's tactics paid off.
It was congested in the centre but Silva still stood out. He made 21 passes in the final third before the break; no Chelsea player even managed 10 of them. By the end of the game he'd hit 41 final-third passes - the fifth most in the Premier League this term. Drifting in from the left, his movement caused problems throughout.
|Chelsea v Man City - Final third passing|
|Player||Team||Passes in final third|
|David Silva||Man City||41|
|Samir Nasri||Man City||25|
|Yaya Toure||Man City||24|
And yet, Chelsea were not concerned with trying to win a passing competition. After all, they were the ones creating the chances - happy to draw City forward. "They have an extra man in that midfield but it isn't preventing Chelsea getting in good positions," said Gary Neville on co-commentary. Uncertainty in the City back-line was highlighted by two early right-wing crosses and two further balls in from Ramires shortly afterwards almost saw Torres find the breakthrough - adjudged offside from the first before horribly wasting the second opportunity.
The Chelsea right flank proved critical. Silva's habit of tucking inside offered the possibility for Ivanovic to find himself with space ahead of him. The powerful Serb has not always used his status as the outlet that effectively but with Gael Clichy out of sorts, there were real chances for him here. It was an Ivanovic flick-on that found Torres for the opening goal - with the Chelsea No.9 then skinning the France international before crossing low for Schurrle to finish.
Chelsea's outlet was Branislav Ivanovic on the right and they used it well
"He's having a field day down this side against Clichy," said Neville of Torres. "I never thought you'd hear me say that." The feat looked rather less impressive when the burly Ivanovic repeated the trick after the break - Clichy's confidence appeared shot. With Demichelis and Nastasic also unsure of themselves, City appear to have an issue in the absence of their captain. "It's an alarming drop in the quality of their defending when Vincent Kompany isn't playing," said Neville afterwards.
Of course, Pellegrini does have the attacking players to cause problems at the other end and early in the second half the visitors netted the sort of goal they'd been looking for all game - passing it through the Chelsea lines. With no pressure on the ball, Nasri threaded a pass through to Aguero and the Argentine star beat Petr Cech on the angle with a powerful effort courtesy of his weaker foot. Aguero has five goals in his last three away games and gave a reminder here that he doesn't need Negredo alongside him to be the key man.
Man City passed through Chelsea for the equaliser and David Silva took up good positions all day
With the scores level, the two teams began to trade blows. A Garcia free header was saved by Cech before Hazard saw a strong penalty claim waved away by Howard Webb. Silva then forced a good save by the Chelsea keeper from the left channel. It was an open game and the result could surely have gone either way.
The managers made changes. While Mourinho opted to introduce Mikel and Willian in straight swaps, Pellegrini looked for width with Jesus Navas and Aleksandr Kolarov brought on to provide a different challenge. It was an interesting change that saw City surrender some of their midfield dominance. However, it was the final changes - or lack of them - that arguably proved critical.
While Pellegrini withdrew Aguero in the final minutes, Mourinho brought on Eto'o for Hazard rather than Torres and it was the hit-and-miss Spaniard who had the final say. More City indecision between Nastasic and the hapless Joe Hart was punished by Torres as he latched onto the defender's headed back pass and tapped into the empty net with Hart stranded.
Fernando Torres scored the winner but did well for the opener too and the heat map shows his movement
While City might count themselves unfortunate to lose such a game, the winning goal was no more than Torres deserved. Mourinho noted in his post-match interview that the work-rate of the much-maligned striker had impressed him since his return to Stamford Bridge in the summer and - in that sense at least - this was the Torres of old. His movement was encouraging and the turn of pace was there. He even hit the crossbar with one stunning first-half effort.
It was a physical performance too. Torres won more aerial duels than any other player on the pitch. As a result, in a game that might have been expected to highlight the contrasting quality of the striking options of the two title challengers, it was the Chelsea man who took the plaudits. Mourinho's side might have the striker to fire them to the title after all. Perhaps the question now is whether Pellegrini has a defence capable of winning it.
"The first half was our half. We were better, much better. It is difficult to be much better than a fantastic team. We should have scored more goals. The second half they start very strong. They score a great goal and after that the game was open. It was for both sides. In that period you have the little bit of luck you need to win these matches. We had this lucky situation, although you could say a belief situation because Fernando had the belief. We won a game that is very important for us. I think we beat the best team in the Premier League."
"I don't know if it's the worst (way to lose), but one of the worst, because I thought we played well. Especially in the second half we had control of the game. We made an important mistake. I don't think it is the moment to say who should take the ball. They scored a goal and we will analyse it. I think that we played a very good game. I think in the first half they had one chance and they scored, and they also had the shot that hit the crossbar. But I think in the second half we had two or three clear chances to score."
"It was a really good game of football. I think we saw the two best teams in England right now. These two can win ugly, they have the best squads and if you want to win the Premier League you'll have to finish above them. Hart was 100 per cent to blame for the final goal. Goalkeeping is all about making good decisions. Nastasic is in complete command and Joe should have seen that. If he stays it is an easy header back. Sorry to heap it on him but that's his fault today."
Neville initially opted for Aguero as his man of the match. "He got the goal but his general play throughout the game was good," said the Sky Sports pundit. "He was always a threat." But Neville was forced into a rethink when Torres popped up with a late winner that capped a fine display. Niall Quinn told Sky Sports: "He was busy all day and he had the bit between his teeth. He looks as though he wants it badly again and his manager will be hugely encouraged by that."
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||8||13|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||8||9|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||8||4|