Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea end City's unbeaten run

Manchester City pressed the self-destruct button as Chelsea ended their unbeaten start to the Barclays Premier League season and hauled themselves right back into the title race with a 2-1 win.

City were in cruise control midway through the first half at wet and windy Stamford Bridge, looking every inch champions elect as they tormented their opponents. Mario Balotelli scored inside two minutes and they should have been 2-0 up - seeing a decent penalty appeal turned down in the process - before simply losing their way.

That allowed Raul Meireles to equalise before half-time after which City simply lost the plot, Gael Clichy picking up two yellow cards in 11 minutes and Joleon Lescott handling in his own box, allowing substitute Frank Lampard to net the winner from the penalty spot.

The result ended Andre Villas-Boas' run of defeats against other big teams and propelled his side to third place, seven points behind their opponents. Victory capped a week to remember for Chelsea - who beat Valencia to progress in the Champions League - while defeat sealed a week to forget for City, who crashed out of the same competition.

The opening goal owed everything to the brilliance of Sergio Aguero and a slip from Branislav Ivanovic. Aguero received the ball on the right with his back to goal, carried it inside from the right and played in Balotelli, who shrugged off the wrong-footed Ivanovic, rounded Petr Cech and nonchalantly stroked the ball home.

City were tearing into Chelsea, forcing errors in their opponents' half, and although the hosts looked to have got a grip when Meireles' drive was deflected over in the 10th minute, they should immediately have been 2-0 down. Ashley Cole conceded possession, allowing Aguero to race goalward and leave Jose Bosingwa in a heap before drilling wide.

Bosingwa got away with dangling his leg in the box, prompting David Silva to go down, with referee Mark Clattenburg waving away the appeals. Clattenburg also failed to spot an altercation between Yaya Toure and Juan Mata which might have seen either player carded, before Didier Drogba forced the first save of note from Joe Hart in the 25th minute.

City's workrate had dipped and they paid the price when former academy graduate Daniel Sturridge brilliantly laid on Chelsea's equaliser. The ball was sprayed to the forward out on the right and he tricked his way past Clichy and crossed for the arriving Meireles to crash into the net on the volley.

No-one ran to the bench to celebrate, putting paid to suggestions Chelsea's players had been asked to. Clattenburg's yellow card was soon out, with Meireles and Vincent Kompany both booked before half-time and Clichy just after for hauling back Sturridge. The left-back saw red two minutes before the hour mark, fouling Ramires.

Chelsea introduced Lampard for Meireles in the 73rd minute shortly before Ramires became the latest player to see yellow for an ugly tackle on Balotelli. The hosts eventually made the breakthrough seven minutes from time, after Lescott handballed. Lampard smashed the penalty straight down the middle and sent Stamford Bridge into ecstasy.

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