Manchester City once again left Stamford Bridge goalless following Chelsea’s 1-0 win to move back into second place in The Premier League.
Michael Essien made light of six months away from The Premier League with a spectacular goal and domineering performance in the middle of the park to point the destiny of this match firmly in the direction of the home side.
If the Ghanaian basked in the bright sunshine in West London it was not such a bright story for Didier Drogba who failed to finish this game through injury and the onetime Chelsea target Robinho carried a forlorn expression when substituted in the last 10 minutes.
Chelsea had the ball in the back of the City net within two minutes of the start but Frank Lampard was flagged for offside having beaten Shay Given from close range, following an initial strike from Essien which deflected into the path of the England midfielder.
One touch football from Chelsea almost enabled Nicolas Anelka to pounce in the six-yard box only for Nedum Onuoha to concede a corner with a timely intervention.
This sequence of events produced a clear opening for Carvalho to at least find the target with a header from a corner but the Portuguese planted it wide of Given’s goal.
There was an element of faultiness about the opening goal with Lampard’s free-kick bouncing once before meeting the boot of Essien who volleyed the ball, with an element of shin, into the top right corner of the net from just inside the penalty area.
The Ghanaian was in acres of space and Pablo Zabaleta was the guilty party for the visitors having initially tracked Essien before running back the opposite way ahead of Lampard’s delivery.
City were often preoccupied with chasing shadows but when they did threaten the opposition, Felipe Caicedo fired a shot across the goal with time and space on his side.
Elano and Michael Ballack were involved in their own private tussle in the sun and this boiled over in the 29th minute with the Brazilian uprooting the German to receive the opening yellow card from referee Mike Riley.
The physical side continued when Lampard supplied a fine pass to Anelka who sped towards goal from the right channel with Onuoha at full tilt just to stay with the Frenchman who eventually hit the deck, the defender looked to have taken Anelka’s legs with the ball conspicuous by its absence.
Chelsea’s passing was slick and direct and they were close to adding a second following Lampard’s reverse pass to Drogba who back healed the ball into path of Ballack with the German curling his effort wide, as the former Bayern man fell backwards.
Robinho needed something to get him into this contest and when the play opened up, he fed the ball into the path of Caicedo at the far post but Bosingwa intervened to stop the striker tapping the ball across the line.
Deco’s return was short-lived as he made way for Juliano Belletti as half time approached and the diminutive Portuguese made his way straight for the tunnel with a hamstring twinge the reason for his departure.
Drogba scores goals for fun against Manchester City and he smelt another when he latched onto Essien’s central pass but Onouha atoned for the initial mistake of allowing the Ivorian to make his charge with a sliding tackle to thwart the striker.
The visitors were clearly missing the combative Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong to at least slow down a rampaging Essien and he was involved again in a move which culminated with Anelka’s near post effort saved by the left hand of Given.
Micah Richards fancied himself as a part-time winger in the second half but on one occasion, this lack of a defender helped the long range predator Belletti drive forward and crack a shot against the inside of the post.
A limping Drogba had to leave the action in the minute having been treated on a couple of occasions during the match which meant Florent Malouda joined the fray.
Mark Hughes had previously withdrawn Caicedo and Elano to introduce Ched Evans and Kelvin Etuhu respectively, and his final roll of the dice saw the ineffectual Robinho replaced by Valeri Bojinov looking to rebuild his City Malouda came to prominence as the clock ticked down with a shot into the side-netting followed by an effort destined for a goal but the substantial boot of Richard Dunne cleared from off the line.
City could not conjure up an equalizer with 10 hours of football having now passed at The Bridge since Paul Dickov managed to net for the world’s richest club