The Argentine was at his clinical best with the Blues playing some irresistible football from start to finish and the hosts’ misery was compounded as they were reduced to ten men in the closing stages.City, it seems, are peaking at just the right time but performances like this will leave many wondering what might have been had there been more displays like this during the campaign.
After the midweek success against Paris St Germain, there was always the danger that this could be a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ – but with West Ham and Manchester United breathing down the Blues’ neck, the luxury for an off-day between now and the end of the campaign is non-existent.
Manuel Pellegrini made four changes to the side that beat PSG with both full-backs replaced and Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri returning.
The memory of the 5-1 loss in the FA Cup last February was still fairly fresh, but given the Blues’ progress in the Champions League since, the young team fielded that day has since been fully justified.
So limp has Chelsea’s title defence been this campaign that it was hard to believe the West Londoners are still reigning champions – but it would be foolish for any side to believe they can rack up at Stamford Bridge and claim an easy three points.
That said, City reached the half-hour point of the first-half scratching their heads at how at least three goals hadn’t been scored.
The Blues almost took the lead inside three minutes when a smart move saw Jesus Navas play in Kevin De Bruyne and the Belgian’s cross was almost turned in by Sergio Aguero but Gary Cahill managed to block his goal-bound tap-in.
De Bruyne then fired in a low shot that Courtois held well before the battle of the Belgians continued on 23 minutes when the City midfielder raced clean through with two defenders snapping at his heels before firing a shot that was again well held by the Chelsea keeper.
Then Nasri was in on goal but Courtois read his intentions, saving low from close range as his one-man defiance continued.
Not that the hosts didn’t create anything themselves – City were lucky early on when a long ball caught out Nicolas Otamendi and as Joe Hart held up Pedro on the edge of the box, he could little about the fierce shot he then whipped past him only for Otamendi to clear off the goal-line.
With the Blues’ fluid counter-attack causing the hosts numerous problems, it was no surprise when one such breakaway finally paid off.
As City cleared a corner, the ball fell to De Bruyne who played a slightly fortuitous one-two with Aguero before racing towards the Chelsea box, returning the ball to Aguero who nudged it to the side before striking a low shot that at last beat Courtois – albeit with the help of a Gary Cahill.
It was no more than the Blues deserved and the only surprise was it had taken as long as it had to arrive.
With Nasri, Yaya Toure, Navas and De Bruyne exploiting the space in midfield so well, the visitors went into the break a goal to the good and looking on course for a much-needed three points.
Chelsea started the second period positively and came close to levelling three minutes in when Pedro raced past two challenges before whipping in a low cross that Loftus-Cheek did the work of a City defender by hooking the ball up and clear.
It was a shot across the bows for City and a reminder that the hosts were not out of the game by any stretch of the imagination, but within five minutes, the Blues struck again with another devastating counter-attack.
As the ball fell to De Bruyne on the edge his own box, he impudently nudged it past two Chelsea players and raced forward, playing it to Nasri who in turn fed Aguero and the Argentine buried an angled shot past Courtois for his 25th goal of the campaign.
While Aguero’s finishing will grab the headlines, it was the brilliance of De Bruyne that again tore apart the home side.
Nasri should have made it three shortly after but he shot weakly at Courtois with City totally dominant at that point. The French play-maker, impressive again, limped off not long after with what looked like a muscle strain.
The Blues completed perhaps the best away performance of the campaign ten minutes from time when a surging run from Fernandinho ended with the Brazilian scythed down in the box by Courtois and referee Mike Dean had no option but send the Chelsea keeper off.
Of course, Aguero stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake as he moved on to 99 Premier League goals for City – it was also the team’s 100th goal in all competitions, for the record and Kun’s seventh hat-trick for the Club.
Polished, energetic and clinical – the perfect way to cap off a memorable week.