By Paul Lagan at Etihad Stadium
Man City 1 v Chelsea 0
Chelsea needed to win to have any chance of chasing down Manchester City and they failed at the Etihad, losing to a second-half strike from ex-Chelsea midfielder Kevin de Bruyne.
The home side deserved to win – Chelsea were set up to defend and hope to get something on the counter-attack.
In truth, they defended well, but not well enough, and failed to deliver at the other end of the field when the paucity of chances were on offer.
The fact for the first time under Thomas Tuchel they did not register a strike on goal in the first half said it all about the mindset the west Londoners were in.
City are now 13 points ahead of Chelsea with the other major winner Liverpool rubbing their hands in glee. They are a point behind Chelsea in third place but have two games in hand.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s almost scored an own goal on four minutes when a edge of the penalty area clearance by Kepa smashed into the full-back’s face and arrowed back towards his goal, but the ball inched wide on the goal.
Marcos Alonso upended Raheem Sterling on eight minutes and was yellow-carded by referee Craig Pawson.
John Stones has the first chance on goal from either side on 14 minutes. But his unchallenged header on the six-yard box was not powerful enough to trouble Kepa.
The left side of Chelsea’s defence showed consistent weakness and in 40 minutes, Jack Grealish failed to take full advantage after Mateo Kovacic was dispossessed and the England wide man could only clip the ball wide of goal.
There were no changes by either side at half time, but Chelsea had three excellent chances to open the scoring in the first five minutes – on what turned out to be their only chances of the game.
First Romelu Lukaku tried a curler from the edge of the penalty area having been set up well by Kovacic, but Edison parried it away. The ball fell to Hakim Ziyech who panicked and smashed his drive over the crossbar.
Alonso did something similar but without the panic – it just wasn’t very good.
City continued to pose a threat but a bit like Chelsea had no cutting edge up front.
The home side were applying the death by a 1,000 cuts – Kevin De Bruyne’s wonderful free-kick on 61 minutes saw Kepa at his best as he pawed it away.
Yet still the Londoners kept as calm as they could. And hoped their defensive tactic would prove fruitful.
Head coach for Chelsea Thomas Tuchel sensing a change of pace was needed in the side to push City back, opted to bring on Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner – off came Christian Pulisic and Havertz on 69 minutes.
It did no good as two minutes later, Werner allowed De Bruyne to run free. N’Golo Kante tried to hack him down to no avail and the Belgium midfielder produced a fantastic curling right-footer from 25 yards out that arched round Kepa and into the back of the net.
Tuchel brought on Mason Mount for Alonso with 10 minutes left on the clock.
But with the advantage firmly in their court, City boss Pep Guardiola signalled to his players to sit tight behind the lead and protect the score.
Chelsea had their best period of possession at this time, but could do nothing to pinch an equaliser and go home pointless.
Chelsea:Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Thiago Silva, Rudiger, Sarr, Alonso; Kante, Kovacic; Ziyech, Pulisic; Lukaku.
Subs: Bettinelli, Jorginho, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Saul, Barkley, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Havertz
Man City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Sterling, Grealish, Laporte, Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva, Cancelo, Foden
Subs: Steffen, Dias, Gundogan, Jesus, Fernandinho, Maeterlinck, McAtee, Lviv, Wilson-Esbrand
Referee: Craig Pawson
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