MAN CITY 1, CHELSEA 0
Manchester City surrendered their 100-per-cent home record and missed out on the chance to reclaim top spot in the Barclays Premier League.
Chelsea ended City run of 11 straight home league wins as right-back Branislav Ivanovic’s match-winning goal threw the title race even more wide open.
Suddenly only two points separate leaders Arsenal from City and Chelsea as the three clubs contest the championship.
it was a night when Jose Mourinho was spot on with his tactical game plan as Chelsea frustrated City without being negative.
Indeed, Chelsea ought to have won by a wider margin as they struck the frame of the goal on three occasions as they asked more questions of City than any other team has done in the league at the Etihad Stadium.
Manuel Pellegrini believes the absence of key players like Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho, Samir Nasri and Javi Garcia proved crucial.
“We were without five or six players and, with them, this defeat might not have happened,” explained City’s manager.
Pellegrini admitted he was disappointed not to put a six-point gap between themselves and Chelsea.
He said: “It was an important defeat, but not decisive.
“We lost against a good team who played very well, it was a very close game, but they had the luck to win it.
“It was an important game for Chelsea. If we had won, we would have have gone six points above City.”
Pellegrini added that City had more possession than Chelsea and also had chances to score before Chelsea took the lead.
City, who failed to score for the first time at home in the Premier League since November 2010, were without injured pair Aguero and Fernandinho, two big misses, while Gael Clichy also stepped down from the side which won 5-1 at Tottenham.
There were recalls for Alvaro Negredo, Matija Nastasic and Aleksandar Kolarov while Chelsea’s surprise was the omission of talented Brazilian Oscar who was only on the bench.
Chelsea made a jittery start and City could easily have snatched a lead inside the opening 60 seconds as keeper Petr Cech was lured from his goal acting as a defensive sweeper.
Yaya Toure twice went close to making a breakthrough then turned provider cutting the ball back for David Silva who fired just wide of the far post from inside the six-yard box.
Yet Chelsea almost snatched a 27th lead following a breakaway when William burst from midfield and released Ramires whose shot was superbly beaten out by City keeper Joe Hart diving low to his left.
And City were caught out again five minutes later as Chelsea made the all-important breakthrough. A shot from Ramires was blocked by Vincent Kompany as the ball rebounded to Ivanovic who rifled an unstoppable shot low into the far corner past Hart.
Chelsea came close to adding a second goal just before half time when Edin Hazard’s cross from the left was met by Samuel Eto’o whose angled shot crashed against the crossbar as the visitors were firmly in the ascendancy.
They were denied by the frame of the goal for a second time soon after the restart when a 30-yard drive from Nemanja Matic hit the angle of post and bar as City continued to struggle against Chelsea’s fluid play.
Midway through the second period, Chelsea were denied by the woodwork for a third time when Gary Cahill’s header from William’s corner struck the upright with Hart beaten.
City came agonisingly close to equalising when David Silva bent a free kick over the defensive wall only for Cech to make a brilliant save to turn the ball over the crossbar.
And in the third minute of stoppage time, Cech pulled off another super save to turn away a goal-bound shot from substitute Stevan Jovetic as City came close to snatching an unlikely point on a night which firmly belonged to Chelsea.