Rodrigo’s spectacular late leveller ensured City shared the spoils with Chelsea in what was a pulsating and eventful Premier League clash at the Etihad.

Former City man Raheem Sterling had earlier seen a 42nd minute goal fire Chelsea into the lead and with City spurning a host of chances it looked as if that might prove decisive.

However, Pep Guardiola’s side again showed we can marry character with class as Rodrigo rifled home that deserved leveller seven minutes from time.

City poured forward in search of a late winner and also saw an injury time VAR check for a possible penalty turned down as our 11 match run of consecutive wins was finally checked.

What happened

Under the Etihad lights and amidst a Manchester Saturday night deluge, it meant the pristine playing surface was even slicker and faster than usual with the game beginning at breakneck speed.

There was also a snap and crackle about the early challenges befitting the latest meeting between two sides who had boasted a keen and intense rivalry in recent years.

And it was City who carved out the first opportunity on 12 minutes, Julian Alvarez scampering down the left channel before picking out the advancing Erling Haaland in the centre of the box.

MIDDLE MARCH: Jeremy Doku in the thick of things.
MIDDLE MARCH: Jeremy Doku in the thick of things.

However, for once the Norwegian failed to get true purchase and direction on his header with the effort going over the bar… much to the visitors’ relief.

Chelsea of course fielded two notable former Blues in their ranks in the shape of Sterling and Cole Palmer and the former then tested Ederson’s reflexes with a low skidding shot.

With Chelsea proving a real threat, especially on the counter break, it then needed a superbly timed tackle from Nathan Ake on 18 minutes to deny the advancing Palmer as he prepared to shoot from the right of the six-yard box.

Ederson then came to City’s rescue with a brilliant 24th minute block to deny the unmarked Nicolas Jackson what seemed a certain goal after a fine Palmer reverse pass had put in the advancing Malo Gusto down the right flank.

The City keeper was there again on 33 minutes, rushing out of his box to shut the door on Sterling after Enzo Fernandez’s first time pass had bisected the City backline and put the England international through on his own – though there was suspicion of offside.

And it was the visitors who made the opening breakthrough on 42 minutes thanks to Sterling.

Palmer’s delivery from Jackson’s neat flick sent the Senegalese forward hurtling down the right channel and his first-time ball found Sterling free at the left edge of the City box.

POWER PLAY: But for once Erling Haaland's header was off target.
POWER PLAY: But for once Erling Haaland's header was off target.

The England man first gathered the pass and then cut inside Kyle Walker before curling a 15-yard effort past Ederson into right edge of the goal.

City sought to conjure up an immediate response and it took a desperate block by Fernandez to deflect a goal bound shot by Argentine compatriot Alvarez.

The champions almost made the perfect opening to the second period only for a sweetly struck De Bruyne strike to agonisingly just drift over the target with Chelsea keeper Petrovic a spectator.

Sterling and Walker then came together in the Chelsea box amidst a clamour for a City penalty. However a subsequent VAR check deemed there was no foul.

There was an increased intensity and tempo to City’s work with Haaland sending a shot wide from Foden’s 51st minute cross.

In a frenzied spell of action Ederson then came to City’s rescue again with a quite brilliant block to deny Sterling a second at point-blank range before Dias headed a follow up effort from Ben Chilwell to safety.

Haaland then saw a goal bound effort stopped by Levi Colwill before Rodrigo then drilled a left footed effort wide of the target before Petrovic denied our Norwegian striker once more.

DRIVING FORCE: Kevin De Bruyne goes through the gears for City.
DRIVING FORCE: Kevin De Bruyne goes through the gears for City.

In what was a pulsating, adrenaline fuelled affair, Chelsea substitute Christopher Nkunku spurned a glorious 66th minute opportunity to extend the visitors’ lead after another breakneck counter.

The Etihad was then equally stunned on 78 minutes when Haaland somehow headed a pinpoint De Bruyne cross over the bar from just six yards out.

But one felt the City pressure eventually had to tell and so it was as Rodrigo smashed home a brilliant 83rd minute leveller.

The Spaniard latched onto a rebound just outside the box and saw a 16-yard rocket shot deflect in off Trevoh Chalobah.

City then laid siege to the visitors’ goal and saw a 94th minute VAR check for a possible handball by Colwill turned down as both sides settled for a point.


CITY XI: Ederson, Walker (C), Akanji, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Foden, Alvarez (Bernardo 64’), Doku, Haaland

Subs: Ortega Moreno, Stones, Kovacic, Gomez, Nunes, Bobb, Susoho, Lewis

CHELSEA: Petrovic, Gusto, Disasi, Colwill, Chilwell (C), Caicedo, Fernandez, Gallagher, Palmer (Chalobah 71), Sterling (Nkunku 64), Jackson

Subs: Bettinelli, Gilchrist, Samuels-Smith, Harrison, Casadei, Madeuke, Mudryk

Star man

Once again Rodrigo made a crucial contribution in the most testing circumstances.

Many could have been forgiven for thinking it was not to be our day given how many chances had gone begging.

But the Spaniard showed great skill and composure to rifle home that late leveller to deliver a deserved point.

Who knows how important that could be come the end of the season?

NO ENTRY: Ederson is there to deny Chelsea's Nicolas Jackson.
NO ENTRY: Ederson is there to deny Chelsea's Nicolas Jackson.

Pep’s reaction

“The way we play we deserve to win, yes.

“The first half was tight, they had chances on transition. We have two or three clear [chances] too, but the second half in last five, 10 minutes in the first and second half was really good. We played and we did everything.

“Sometimes it happens. We were close. Always they have chances in transitions, but I couldn’t expect differently when I saw the game against Aston Villa or the game against Crystal Palace. It’s Chelsea. Chelsea Football Club.

“I know they are so young and everything OK, but they are a fantastic team. It happens and for that, you have to perform 94, 95 minutes and it’s not complete. Saying that, it happens for the amount of games.

“We play to win, so no doubt about that. With chances we have we deserve it.”

rodrigo reaction

“It’s a point, a draw, of course we want to win and the way we performed second half we deserved a bit more but when you defend like we did you can’t get more.

“It was in our hands and we have to do better individual actions and you can’t let the game go this way. I’m not blaming anyone but we have to take responsibility if we want to win the league.

“We had chances to win and I felt the momentum but sometimes it’s a bit frustrating and the ball doesn’t go in.

“There’s still a long way until the end of the season. We have to win against Brentford. We were on a very good run and we know none of us three [City, Liverpool and Arsenal] will win every game until the end. We have to have strong mentality and move on to the next one.

“We have enough experience to know it’s just the beginning of the last part of the season. We want to win but we have to check ourselves and in the first half with our defending we have to be stronger for the rest of the season.”

What it means

The draw means the reigning champions remain in third place in the Premier League table.

We have 53 points - two less than Arsenal who secured a 5-0 win at Burnley.

Liverpool, who won 4-1 at Brentford earlier today, remain top on 57 points.

However, City have a crucial game in hand on both Arsenal and Liverpool.

GET IN: Rodrigo and Kyle Walker celebrate.
GET IN: Rodrigo and Kyle Walker celebrate.

What’s next

City make a quickfire return to Premier League combat here at the Etihad on Tuesday evening.

We play host to Brentford in a rearranged game from just before Christmas when we were in Saudi Arabia taking part in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Kick-off is slated for 7.30pm (UK).

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