Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League as Kevin de Bruyne’s superb strike secured another three points for Pep Guardiola’s side, who outplayed the reigning champions Chelsea.
The visitors faced a different challenge to those that they’ve faced so far during their rampant start to the season but they were more than a match for it, and the Blues nearly turned their early dominance into a goal when Thibaut Courtois produced a brilliant reflex save to deny Fernandinho.
Chelsea – who lost Alvaro Morata to injury in the first-half – forced Ederson into a couple of smart reaction saves down low but they failed to cause consistent problems for a well-drilled City defence.
It seemed just a matter of time until Guardiola’s side took the lead and it was worth the wait, with De Bruyne playing a quick one-two with David Silva before unleashing a stunning 25-yard shot into the net.
City nearly had a second late on when Gabriel Jesus’ fizzing effort was headed away off the line by Antonio Rudiger but it mattered not, and Chelsea now sit six points adrift of the Manchester sides.
15 – De Bruyne steals the show
There’s only one place to start.
Manchester City were once again indebted to Belgian talisman Kevin de Bruyne on Saturday after he popped up in the right place at the right time to finish off an intricate move with a brilliant 25-yard strike with his so-called ‘weaker foot’, earning City a deserved win in what was a thrilling encounter.
He was at the heart of everything good about the visitor’s play, making 131 passes in the midfield, supplying ten crosses, crafting six clear-cut chances and – ultimately – providing goal-scoring heroics.
De Bruyne was the figure of productivity all evening and Chelsea simply couldn’t contain him – not even the obstinate N’Golo Kante could keep him at bay – and he managed to create more chances than the entire Chelsea team combined (four) such was his ability to find the ball at his feet with regularity.
His effort took his involvement in City goals to 15 in 17 his last Premier League matches, a staggering amount, and if his importance to Guardiola was ever in doubt he re-enforced it in style at Chelsea.
38% – Manchester City stifle the hosts
Whilst De Bruyne and co. were tearing things up in attack a lot of praise has to be heaped on the shoulders of the Manchester City defence, who put in an all-round defensively solid performance.
Chelsea arrived at Stamford Bridge high in confidence after their dramatic away win at Atletico Madrid during the week but they couldn’t break down a solid City back-line, with the hosts managing just four shots all match – and just two after the 26th minute – as their attacking play was stifled.
To highlight just how dominant City were all match, Eden Hazard – who tore the Atletico defence to shreds in the week – failed to create a solitary chance all match, having little impact on proceedings.
Conte will know that his side were outclassed in all areas, with his side having their lowest amount of possession (38%) since the 2003-04 season, and he’ll know that he was tactically outmanaged by his Manchester City counterpart Guardiola – and he’s got work to do if they want to retain their title.
8 – Delph passes first real test with flying colours
And one man who was at the heart of Manchester City’s defensive efforts at Stamford Bridge was the unlikeliest figure of Fabian Delph, who has been handed a career reprieve under boss Guardiola.
Injury to Benjamin Mendy – who is ruled out of action for seven months after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee – has left the Blues with depleted options on the left side of defence, and the Spaniard experimented with Delph at left-wing back in the recent Carabao Cup win.
On that occasion it worked and, as such, the England international has all of a sudden become a critical first-team player at the Etihad, but he faced his biggest test so far against a strong Chelsea.
It’s fair to say he passed it with flying colours though, making five tackles and completing three interceptions as Delph – along with his defence – kept the hosts’ attacking threat to a minimum.
Whilst he doesn’t have the crunching tackles in his locker and the physical strength that the other City defenders have, his positional sense is second-to-none and he anticipated Chelsea’s every move.
Delph has shown himself to be a more than capable deputy for Mendy for the time being, so much so that the French international jokingly tweeted his concerns at how good his teammate was filling in for him, and this could be the beginning of one of the more unpredictable transformations for a while.
8 – Chelsea’s home form leaves daylight between the top
Whilst it’s certainly too early for the warning signs to start flashing around Stamford Bridge, the reigning Premier League champions need to be careful not to drop too far off the pace at the top.
Defeat against Manchester City means that they’re six points behind Guardiola’s side already after just seven games, and Antonio Conte’s side need to bounce back well after the international break.
Saturday’s defeat signalled the third time this season – in just four matches – that Chelsea have dropped points at home, already dropping more this year (eight) than the whole of last year (two).
Whilst there’s the argument that two of these games were against Arsenal and City, those are the type of games that you need to be winning to get yourself up there and challenging for the title when May comes around – and their inability to grind out a win at home should raise some alarms.