Belfast Telegraph

Lampard strikes late to give Chelsea pals the blues in Manchester City showdown

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea

By Sam Wallace

In the pre-match briefing document prepared for his players on Manchester City's strengths and weaknesses, Jose Mourinho will no doubt have noted the tendency of the opposition's No 18 to make late runs into the penalty area and score important goals.

After all, Frank Lampard has made a career out of doing just that: the problem, even at the age of 36, is stopping him doing it.

His 85th-minute equaliser was the most dramatic twist in an afternoon that took its time coming to the boil but was well worth the wait. The equaliser was a genuine double-take moment. Having connected with James Milner's cross and denied Chelsea victory, Lampard embarked upon the most mawkish, low-key goal celebrations in the history of players scoring goals against former clubs.

For the travelling support who had sung Lampard's name all afternoon, in defiance of any suggestion there is animosity, it was one of those moments they will find very hard to forget.

The mood was very different on the City bench where Manuel Pellegrini had sent Lampard on as a 78th-minute substitute for Aleksandar Kolarov with his team a goal down and reduced to 10 men following the red card for Pablo Zabaleta on 66 minutes. They had been beaten home and away last season in the league by Chelsea and another defeat for Pellegrini, always just a few degrees below boiling when it comes to facing Mourinho, would have been hard for him to take.

As ever this was a Mourinho performance somewhere on the spectrum between brilliance and cynicism and when his substitute André Schürrle struck with less than 20 minutes left, he must have believed he could win.

Pellegrini later accused Chelsea of a "small team" mentality and having come to City only to defend. Mourinho spat back that the City manager should stick to his former promise not to talk about Chelsea. The dismissal of Zabaleta will do nothing to change Pellegrini's mind, with the City view very much that Diego Costa, Mourinho's alter-ego on the pitch, played a key part in the red card.

It was a game that burst into life in the last 25 minutes. Before then there were some intriguing personal battles on the pitch – nowhere more than Vincent Kompany against Costa – but there was too much at stake for either team to commit to the kind of attack that would force the issue.

You would be hard-pressed to recall a significant chance before the break.

By far the stand-out chance of the game in that first hour fell to Sergio Aguero on 57 minutes when he turned away from Cesc Fabregas in the box and hit a shot low to the left of Thibaut Courtois which the young goalkeeper did well to stop. It fell invitingly for Edin Dzeko in the area but Ramires reacted first and got the ball away.

These are the small details upon which a game can turn. Five minutes later, Mourinho brought on Schürrle and John Obi Mikel, moved Fabregas into the No 10 position and soon after Chelsea scored. At the centre of it all was Zabaleta's red card, a tangle with Costa that ended badly for the Argentine. You could not help but feel that he played into the hands of the striker.

Zabaleta had fouled Costa but whether it measured up as another booking given some of the other tackles in the afternoon is dubious. Bacary Sagna was sent on for Dzeko.

The goal was beautifully worked by Chelsea, coming from the left to Branislav Ivanovic, onto Costa and then out wide to Eden Hazard on the right. He sent his cross to the back post was met by Schürrle with his left foot.

City were desperate not to go down again at home to Chelsea and Lampard came on for Kolarov with 12 minutes left with the away fans singing his name. Shortly afterwards, Costa hit the post and then Milner, who had been excellent, picked out Lampard for the goal. He had to leave Chelsea at some point, and one supposes this summer was as good as any. Even so, it was a hell of a way to say goodbye.

Belfast Telegraph


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