MAN CITY 2, CHELSEA 0
Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez scored the goals as Manchester City beat Chelsea to claim a last 16 place in the Carabao Cup.
However, it was City’s second choice goalkeeper Stefan Ortega who caught the eye as he was named man of the match.
The German, signed in the summer from Arminia Bielefeld, pulled off a string of fine saves to keep a coveted clean sheet, his second in only three appearances for the Blues.
And it was also fitting that Ortega was the player spotlighted in City’s matchday programme with the front page devoted to a photo of the 30-year-old.
City manager Pep Guardiola was delighted with Ortega, declaring: “The club made an exceptional signing. He is an exceptional keeper.
“We saw that when we played in Dortmund and the fact Chelsea did not score was down to him.”
It was a game in which goalkeepers excelled as Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy also played a blinder to prevent the Pensioners from suffering an even heavier defeat.
Guardiola was happy with the performance in the light of the quality of the Chelsea side.
“It doesn’t matter what happened with their last result, they are a fantastic team,” he said.
Guardiola picked out younger players Sergio Gomez, Cole Palmer and Rico Lewis for praise.
He was also delighted to have Kalvin Phillips back after injury declaring he will be an important player in the second half of the season.
And with days to go before the break for the World Cup, Guardiola is satisfied to be second in the league and through to the next stage of the Champions League and Carabao Cup.
“We could be top, but Arsenal have been exceptional. We have more points in the Premier League at this stage than is any of the last four seasons,” he said.
“It shows how high the bar and standards have been set.”
Chelsea manager Graham Potter took encouragement from the defeat, saying: “There were quite a few positives, though obviously we are disappointed with the result.
“The way we played had a better structure and the performance level was close to what we want.
“We showed courage, and it shows their keeper was man of the match. It was a step forward.”Embed from Getty Images
City, who made seven changes to the side that kicked off against Fulham, handed a start to 17-year-old Lewis along with academy graduate Palmer.
There was plenty held in reserve on the bench which included Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden.
Versatile academy midfielder Lewis Hall made his first Chelsea start in a much-changed line-up.
Denis Zakaria, who scored against Dinamo Zagreb on his Chelsea debut last week, was also in the side as was Armando Broja.
They, too, had plenty of firepower on the bench including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher.
Both sides had clear-cut chances in the opening half.
Julian Alvarez and the lively Jack Grealish were both denied by super saves from Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy.
And City’s second-string goalkeeper Stefan Ortega pulled off three big saves, twice denying Christian Pulisic and Hall.
City made a double change five minutes after the restart when Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri were replaced by Bernardo Silva and Phillips who was making only his fourth appearance of an injury hit debut season.
Phillips is hoping he has proved his fitness to be named in England’s World Cup squad saying he is optimistic but there is also a doubt having played so few games this season.
Guardiola’s side made an electrifying start to the second period as Grealish was denied twice in quick succession by the marvellous Mendy who was having a stormer.
But the keeper was finally beaten in the 53rd minute after Trevoh Chalobah was booked for upending Mahrez on the edge of the box.
Mahrez exacted retribution as he curled the resulting free kick over the defensive wall, a stunner for his fourth goal of the season.
City doubled their advantage five minutes later with Mahrez this time providing the assist.
His shot from the right of the box was parried by Mendy with Alvarez reacting the quickest to rifle home the loose ball, his seventh of the campaign.
It was so nearly a third on the hour when Palmer was denied by Mendy as City were in total command.
Ortega prevented Chelsea from halving the deficit when he made a super low save to deny Hall who was impressing hugely on his debut.
City made a third change with 10 minutes left as Aymeric Laporte made way for Nathan Ake.
Chelsea had a chance to half the deficit in the 90th minute, but it summed up their frustrating night.
Sergio Gomez headed a cross against his own upright and Ake turned the rebound into his own net but a Chelsea player had strayed offside.