On a hot, balmy night in West London City’s challenge for the 2019/20 Premier League title finally ended, though not without a fight.

City went in a goal down to Chelsea at the break but fought back through a stunning Kevin De Bruyne free-kick, with Raheem Sterling hitting the woodwork moments after.

But after Fernandinho was sent off for a handball on the goal-line, Willian’s penalty decided the contest, 2-1 win in Chelsea’s favour.

What happened?

City continued from where they’d left off against Burnley for the first half-an-hour, dominating possession and pinning Chelsea in their own half.

The hosts were happy t camp on the edge of their own box with every man back, hoping to catch City on the counter-attack.

The best opportunity in that period of ascendancy was Fernadinho’s glancing header from Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick that was tipped over by Kepa.

But Chelsea began to look a threat when they did venture forward and Ederson was forced into a fine reflex save from Christiansen’s header on 33.

Indeed, there were one or two shaky moments at the back for City, but on 36 minutes, a terrible mix-up led to Chelsea taking the lead.

As a City free-kick was cleared to the centre circle, Benjamin Mendy played a loose pass towards Ilkay Gundogan allowing Pulisic to race forward towards goal.

Mendy then attempted to make amends by challenging the Chelsea striker as he raced clear, but he skipped past the tackle before placing a low shot past Ederson.

It was harsh on City, but a clever free-kick two minutes later came close to finding a quick equaliser when De Bruyne fed Mahrez on the corner of the box and the Algerian’s shot curled inches over.

But this City team always believes and when Kante fouled Mahrez 25-yards out, De Bruyne struck a wonderful free-kick into the top left-hand corner to level the scores just before the hour-mark.

Two minutes later, only the woodwork prevented City taking the lead following a superb counter-attack started by Ederson, played on by De Bruyne and David Silva to present Raheem Sterling with a one-on-one chance with Kepa but his effort struck the inside of the post.

Sterling went close again on 67 minutes with a curling shot from 15 yards as City looked for the second their display after the break more than merited.

And City continued to pummel Chelsea with a wave of attacks, knowing he price of dropped points, but the hosts then broke with purpose and as Pulisic went around Ederson, only a magnificent goal-line clearance by Kyle Walker prevented a goal.

It was becoming an enthralling contest with an air of ‘next goals wins’ drama thrown in for good measure.

Then, with 15 minutes to go, a mad scramble  in the City box ended with Fernandinho handling on the line and earning a red card for his troubles.

Willian converted the penalty to put the hosts 2-1 up and that looked to be that.

Of course, City never stopped trying - man down or not – but couldn’t find the two goals needed to at least prevent the inevitable a little longer.

What it means…

City remain second in the Premier League some 23 points adrift of the leaders - but with only seven games remaining, we can no longer catch Liverpool who are confirmed as this season’s champions.

What’s next?        

City travel to Tyneside to face a resurgent Newcastle United at St James’ Park in the FA Cup quarter-final.

Unbeaten in five games, Steve Bruce’s side held City to a 2-2 draw earlier in the campaign and also won 2-1 in last season’s Premier League clash in the north east.

Pep Guardiola has said his players will treat it as final in a bid to keep on track for our third domestic trophy of the campaign.

 

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Line-ups:

City: Ederson, Walker, Mendy (Zinchenko 59), Laporte (Otamendi 55), Fernandinho (c), Rodrigo (Jesus 55), Gundogan, De Bruyne, Bernardo (D Silva 55), Mahrez, Sterling

Subs: Carson, Sane, Doyle, Harwood-Bellis, Palmer

Chelsea XI: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Alonso, Barkley (Kovacic 73), Kante, Mount (Pedro 90+1), Willian, Giroud (Abraham 62), Pulisic (Gilmour 90+2)

Substitutes: Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Caballero, Zouma, James