MAN CITY 2, CHELSEA 1
Carlos Tevez returned from footballing wilderness to set to Manchester City’s dramatic late matchwinning goal which keeps their Barclays Premier League title challenge very much alive.
The Argentinian rebel backheeled the ball to Samir Nasri who found the net as City overturned a deficit in the final 13 minutes of the match.
Chelsea had taken the lead through Gary Cahill but a penalty from Sergio Aguero and late effort from Nasri kept City on the shirt tails of neighbours United.
The win also created a Premier League record of 20 successive victories as they became only the fourth top-flight team to achieve the feat.
More important to City, however, were the three points as until late in the game it looked as though their title hopes may have been damaged beyond repair until their late salvo.
City manager Roberto Mancini said: “I don’t know if it was a championship performance, but it was a good performance in a difficult game.
“The first half was frustrating as we had three or four incredible chances to score, but you need to score at this stage of the season.
“The most important thing tonight was that we picked up three points and not what happens after this victory.”
The City manager added he feels his side has not played well for the last three or four weeks.
“We have had problems with our defenders and only have four fit at this moment,” he continued.
Mancini also dismissed the importance of the Premier League record they set in recording 20 successive home league wins saying winning the title is the only thing which matters.
The City manager was also delighted to have Tevez back saying he needs two or three more weeks to get match fit and be back to his best following his lengthy absence.
“He gave an important assist for Samir and all the supporters are happy for this,“ he continued.
Chelsea were set up to frustrate with five in midfield and Fernando Torres as the lone front man the bench included heavyweights such as Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Daniel Sturridge.
The tactic employed to stifle City worked a treat in the opening 45 minutes as they succeeded in frustrating them as well as the fans who became increasingly agitated as the half wore on.
City still created a couple of gilt-edged chance which, if taken, would have soothed their nerves.
Yaya Toure released Nasri with a slide-rule pass but the former Arsenal player could only watch in anguish as he lobbed keeper Petr Cech only to see the ball hit the crossbar.
Mario Balotelli intercepted a stray pass from Frank Lampard and found himself clean through on goal only for Cech to deflect his shot for a corner when it looked as though he could not miss.
Balotelli was largely anonymous, however, and he was replaced at the break by Gareth Barry as Yaya Toure was given a more advanced brief. He had been one of the two midfield anchors.
The start to the second period followed a similar pattern with Chelsea continuing to frustrate.
City, however, did have their moments as Cech was forced to tip Nasri’s cross on to the bar and in the resulting scramble David Silva back heeled the ball into the side netting with the ball deflecting off Frank Lampard.
And from the resulting corner, Aguero shot over when well placed six yards out.
The title race took another dramatic twist on the hour when Chelsea snatched the lead against the run of play.
With City appealing for a foul by David Luiz on Yaya Toure following a Juan Mata corner, Cahill struck a shot which deflected off Yaya Toure to wrong foot keeper Joe Hart.
City threw on Tevez – he received more cheers than jeers – and Edin Dzeko to form a three-pronged strikeforce in a do-or-die move.
They finally found a way to goal when referee Mike Dean penalised Chelsea substitute Essien in the 77th minute for handling a shot from Pablo Zabaleta, though it was from point-blank range.
Aguero stepped forward to send Cech the wrong way from the spot as he scored his 22nd goal of the season.
For the first time in the match City played with a belief they could take something from the game.
And they struck what turned out to be the match-winning goal with little over four minutes left.
Nasri played in a short pass to Tevez who cheekily back heeled the ball back to Nasri who danced through on goal before lifting the ball over the diving Cech.