City rampant as champions are routed
FA Premier League
Sunday 16 August 2015, 16.00 KO
City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany (c), Mangala, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas (Nasri 65), Sterling (Demichelis 79), Silva, Aguero (Bony 85)
Unused: Caballero, Zabaleta, Clichy, Iheanacho
Goals: Aguero (31), Kompany (79), Fernandinho (85)
Booked: Kompany, Fernandinho, Toure, Mangala
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Fernandinho
City continued their impressive start to the season with a comprehensive 3-0 dismantling of reigning champions Chelsea. Prior to the game, City unveiled the new South Stand which has increased the capacity of The Etihad Stadium to just shy of 55,000, and a sell out crowd witnessed an exhilirating performance by the home side. Jose Mourinho, displaying his usual grace, described it as a "fake result". In truth, he had a point. The scoreline flattered Chelsea, and the margin of victory could have been even greater.
City started the game in a determined manner, and should have taken the lead after just ten seconds. David Silva bisected the Chelsea defence with a neat through ball for Sergio Aguero but the Argentine saw his shot saved by Asmir Begovic, who had replaced the suspended Thibaut Courtois. The opening half hour saw a personal battle develop between Aguero and Begovic, as City threatened to run riot. The Bosnian goalkeeper produced two excellent saves to prevent Aguero giving City the lead, but was finally beaten just after the half hour. The Argentinian striker played a one-two with Yaya Toure on the edge of the box, and displayed immaculate close control to evade Gary Cahill before finding the bottom corner with a precise finish.
It was no more than City deserved given their dominance in the first half, and Eliaquim Mangala almost extended their lead just before the break. The centre half, who was excellent throughout, soared abouve Chelsea's defence to meet an Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick, but saw his header flash past the far post with the goal gaping.
Chelsea replaced John Terry at half-time, with their captain suffering a torrid 45 minutes at the hands of Aguero. It had been a wretched first half from the champions, who were inferior to their sky blue counterparts in every department. The opening twenty minutes of the second period saw an improvement from Mourinho's team, but whilst they dominated possession they created few chances of note.
Ramires thought he had levelled the scores when he prodded home Fabregras' pass, but was correctly adjudged to be offside. Their best chance of the game feel to Eden Hazard, but the Belgian fired straight at Joe Hart after good work by Diego Costa. Hazard was arguably Chelse'a best performer on the day, but an excellent display by Bacary Sagna restricted his impact. The Frenchman has started the season in fine form, and Pablo Zabaleta faces a fight to regain his place.
Hazard was left to rue his missed chance when Vincent Kompany doubled City's advantage in the 79th minute, heading home from a corner for the second successive game. Kompany outmuscled Branislav Invanovic, and his header beat Begovic via the far post. The Etihad erupted in celebration, and the game was effectively over as a contest.
There were impressive performances all over the pitch from City. Kompany and Mangala were utterly dominant at the back, nullifying the petulant Diego Costa, whilst Aleksandar Kolarov and Raheem Sterling linked up well and were a constant threat on the left flank. Fernandinho, however, was perhaps the game's standout performer, and his energetic display enabled City to win the crucial midfield battle. He was rightly booked for a heavy aerial challenge on Costa, but capped off a fine display when he rifled home City's third from the edge of the area with five minutes remaining.
The season is only two weeks old, and it would be foolish to write off Chelsea at such an early stage. However, City's dominant win has opened up a five point gap over Mourinho's side, and sent out a strong message to the rest of the league. If the Blues can maintain this level of performance they will take some stopping.