Belfast Telegraph

Man City 1 Chelsea 3: Both teams face FA censure after red cards and brawl

By Tim Rich

Two red cards, a brawl, the sight of Cesc Fabregas toppling over the advertising hoardings after Sergio Aguero had launched himself into an appallingly-judged lunge at David Luiz. No home wins in nearly three months. This is not what Pep Guardiola was supposed to be about.

The aftermath of Manchester City's 3-1 defeat to Chelsea will be hard to take. Aguero's second red card of the season will see him banned for four games that will include the encounter with Arsenal later this month.

The loss of Fernandinho, who reacted to a slap by Fabregas by trying to throw him into the crowd, may not catch so many headlines but it will hit Manchester City just as hard.

As the holding midfielder in a club committed to attack, the Brazilian is the pivot around which Guardiola's tactics revolve. His manager is unlikely to have been impressed with the sight of Fernandinho trying to grab Max Sala, the club doctor, after his dismissal.

Chelsea were luckier. The referee, Anthony Taylor, who had turned down two Manchester City appeals for a penalty, appeared to book Fabregas for the slap on Fernandinho, an action that might have earned the Chelsea midfielder a red card. If the booking was for something other than this, then the FA can punish Fabregas retrospectively.

They will almost certainly charge both clubs with failing to control their players.

Chelsea's eighth successive victory took them four points clear of Manchester City and, until they face Tottenham at White Hart Lane on January 4, their fixtures look straightforward.

Antonio Conte did not give his verdict on perhaps the most impressive victory of his time in England. The Chelsea manager had been waiting for Guardiola's press conference to finish but it dragged on and there was a bus to catch.

While Guardiola has made more changes in personnel than any Premier League manager this season, constantly tinkering, constantly adjusting, Conte has made the fewest and since changing to a 3-4-3 formation after the debacle at Arsenal in September he has yet to drop a point.

Guardiola spoke at length, although his policy of never discussing refereeing decisions meant his only comment on the brawl was that it was "a pity". He sounded like a man who had just spilled a rather good glass of red wine.

Guardiola preferred to concentrate on the goals Manchester City did not score rather than the ones they conceded. "Always in my career my teams have conceded a few goals because we dominate possession and create chances too far away (from our defensive lines)," he said.

"I don't think we lost because of defensive problems. We played better here than in the last two away games," he added, reflecting on the 2-1 wins at Burnley and Crystal Palace.

"When we won there I was worried and I said to the guys that we had to play better, like we did at the beginning of the season.

"I told them: 'Be free in your mind, protect the ball, be aggressive, show personality, play and attack'."

In what was one of the season's title deciders, City generally followed their manager's instructions. But they lost the game and then they lost their heads.

MAN CITY: Bravo, Stones (Iheanacho, 78 mins), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Gundogan (Toure, 76 mins), Navas, Sane (Clichy, 69 mins), Silva, De Bruyne, Aguero. Unused subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Sagna, Fernando

CHELSEA: Courtois, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso, Pedro (Willian, 49 mins), Diego Costa (Chalobah, 81 mins), Hazard (Batshuayi, 90 mins). Unused subs: Begovic, Aina, Ivanovic, Oscar

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the match: Diego Costa

Match rating: 8/10

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