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The Blues were left counting the cost of numerous misses in a thrilling game that City looked in control of for long periods – and yet eventually ended up losing to a well-organised Chelsea side in a classic game of two halves.
Explosive, controversial and mesmerising.
City and Chelsea locked horns to produce the kind of encounter that only the Premier League seems capable of with a match that was packed with incident from start to finish.
The tone for this top-of-the-table showdown was set from the opening moments as Fernandinho clashed with Eden Hazard – the first of a number of crunching challenges from both sides.
The first of referee Anthony Taylor's decisions the City fans disagreed with came on six minutes when David Silva tied Gary Cahill in knots before rolling the ball into the box only for the grounded Cahill’s arm to deflect the ball out for a corner. He didn’t know much about it and it fell into the grey area of ‘arms in unnatural positions’ – as they say, you’ve seen ‘em given!
Hazard’s low shot from 15 yards had Claudio Bravo scrambling across his goal but it was a foot or so wide of the post as Chelsea threatened and the visitors continued to look dangerous on the break, particularly when the diminutive Belgian was on the ball.
But City have their own brilliant Belgian and the more the game went on, so Kevin De Bruyne’s influence grew. His crosses are sometimes unplayable and he was a constant thorn in his former employer’s side.
The Etihad was on its feet on 24 minutes as Fernandinho headed De Bruyne’s free-kick home, but replays showed three players in sky blue had marginally strayed offside.
It was the start of a sustained spell of pressure from City that would eventually see the home side take the lead.
Leroy Sane burst into life with a powerful run that set up Aguero on the edge of the six-yard box but his effort was blocked by Azpilicueta who stopped a certain goal.
Then Aguero headed De Bruyne’s cross wide when well-placed and Ilkay Gundogan was denied a penalty after being tumbled over as he shaped up to shoot – it was hard to keep up with all the chances.
Then, just as it seemed the teams would reach the break goalless, Jesus Navas picked the ball up on the right and his cross was spectacularly volleyed into the top left-hand corner by Gary Cahill.
It had been coming and it was just reward for City’s endeavours.
And the action didn’t let up after the re-start with the Blues looking to establish a two-goal cushion that might just be enough to kill the game.
It seemed certain to come on 57 minutes when Navas raced down the right after a clever ball from Silva and his cross found De Bruyne at the far post but he could only divert his shot onto the crossbar from point blank range. It would prove to be the game's turning point because three minutes later, Chelsea were level.
Diego Costa took a lofted pass down expertly in the City box, skipped past the unbalanced Otamendi before drilling a low shot past Bravo.
City were still creating chances, looking to regain the advantage - but failing to finish them and just one home goal in four successive home games in the Premier League will be a concern to Pep Guardiola.
The visitors were looking increasingly menacing every time they countered and it was no real surprise when, on 70 minutes, they went ahead. Costa broke clear of his own box and fed a through ball for Willian who raced clear before drilling a low shot past Bravo to turn the game on its head.
There was still time for City to take something from the game, but the fact was Chelsea should have been perhaps out of the contest with an hour played, seemed to weigh heavy on the Blues.
Aguero and Silva went close to levelling matters but the longer the game went on, the more it felt as though it wasn’t going to be the Blues’ day - and so it proved as Hazard's injury time goal gave the visitors a slightly flattering 3-1 scoreline.
It was harsh on City who had could and probably should have wrapped the points up long before Costa's goal, but the home support will feel many of the crucial decisions in the game didn't go the Blues' way - that's for others to decide after a game littered with incident.
In the dying seconds, a challenge by Aguero on David Luiz - who was fortunate to escape a red card himself earlier in the game - resulted in the Argentine being sent off and in the ensuing fracas, Fernandinho also dismissed for an altercation with Cesc Fabregas to further compound City's misery.
What had promised so much ended with anger and frustration - a pity because there had been much to admire about the Blues for the first hour of this game.
Without doubt the passage of play that had the Etihad roaring its disapproval came on 29 minutes.
Aguero accelerated towards Azpilicueta’s wayward backpass and a clear run on goal when David Luiz made contact with him as he ran past. Referee Anthony Taylor seemed to put his whistle towards his mouth and hand towards his pocket, but a glance over at his assistant’s unraised flag meant he took no action and waved play on.
To the majority it looked like a foul and a red card – but the officials thought otherwise.
He created one goal and could have had another two assists in an impressive display by the Spaniard who worked hard both in attack and defence throughout.
City wrap up the group stage of the Champions League with the visit of Celtic on Tuesday evening. With qualification already assured, expect Pep Guardiola to make a number of rotational changes with next weekend’s trip to face champions Leicester City in mind.
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