Lampard adds a note of reality to City 'razzmatazz'
Manchester City 1 Chelsea 3
Frank Lampard called it the "razzmatazz" around Manchester City and for those City fans in the stadium on Saturday the razzmatazz was good while it lasted, which was approximately three minutes.
For that period of time in the first half, between Robinho's first goal and Ricardo Carvalho's equaliser, the unreality of City's improbable new situation was all-consuming before the plot became all too familiar for the home fans.
It will take more than one £32.5m Brazilian to change City forever, especially when – with respect – there is still a place for the likes of Michael Ball in the team. Jose Mourinho spent most of his three years and four months in English football telling us how Chelsea's success was not about Roman Abramovich's money and the famous players – it took a lot more than that. One way or another it seems that City and their fortunes will prove him right or wrong.
Robinho is a start but, to borrow an analogy from the world of the Premier League footballer, City have the gold-plated Bentley Continental, they just do not yet have the mock-Tudor Cheshire mansion and the double garage in which to park it. If he had been at the game, Sheikh Mansour Al-Nayed, the Abu Dhabi royal behind the takeover, would no doubt have smiled at the many Mancunians who had brought their tea towels to wear on their heads. He would have been introduced to the famous names, including Andrew Flintoff, now queuing up for a place in the City directors' box. And even the Sheikh would have recognised the difference in class between his team and Chelsea.
Lampard has been at Chelsea long enough to remember a time when Enrique De Lucas was considered a big signing and he knows that there is more to the success of the club than a few marquee-name transfers. "It won't happen overnight," Lampard said. "It didn't happen with us overnight. You can't just throw even a load of top players together and get results straight away.
"But if City do it the right way they've got a chance of being up there with the best. We've done that, but we want to sustain it. It was a potentially dangerous time to play them because of all the razzmatazz around them and the signing of Robinho, who is a great player and will make a real impact."
There was no wistfulness about Robinho when faced with the team that he really wanted to sign for and he did his best to convince everyone that he was pleased to be at City with a bit of opportune badge-grabbing after his 12th-minute goal from a free-kick. That was a moment of drama and excitement – less impressive was him and Deco swapping shirts on the pitch at half-time, a bad habit creeping into the English game from South America. You can only wonder what Malcolm Allison would have made of one of his players coming into the dressing room at half-time cheerfully clutching an opponent's shirt.
There is something so impressively relentless about Chelsea, even without Michael Essien and Michael Ballack in midfield, and it was epitomised nowhere more than in Lampard. Carvalho may scored the first and made some crucial blocking challenges but Lampard, so unloved by the English sporting public for the last few years, looked more like the dynamo he was in Chelsea's two title-winning seasons.
Through good times and bad, Lampard has always scored goals for Chelsea but few better than the one he tucked past Joe Hart yesterday after an exchange with Florent Malouda. "I'm very pleased I stayed in the summer, but don't really want to go over it again," he said later. "All I can say is that I'm 100 per cent sure I made the right decision, for myself, my football and my family." So, it was suggested with tongue firmly planted in cheek, he would not be following Gianfranco Zola to West Ham? "No," he replied, "and you can print that."
Carvalho volleyed in the first from close range, Nicolas Anelka added the third from Joe Cole's through-ball and it would have been the perfect afternoon for Chelsea had it not been for the dismissal of John Terry. What went unnoticed in the fall-out for that red card was that Alex da Costa, brought on for Anelka as a replacement centre-half, was excellent. As City will have noticed, Chelsea's strength runs deep.
Goals: Robinho (13) 1-0; Carvalho (16) 1-1; Lampard (53) 1-2; Anelka (69) 1-3.
Manchester City (4-1-3-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne, Ball (Sturridge, 84); Kompany; Wright-Phillips, Hamann (Fernandes, 61), Ireland; Robinho, Jo. Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Ben Haim, Elano, Garrido, Evans.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Mikel; J Cole (Belletti, 70), Deco, Lampard, Malouda (Drogba, 70); Anelka (Alex 79). Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Bridge, Kalou.
Booked: Chelsea Mikel.
Sent off: Chelsea Terry.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).
Man of the match: Lampard.