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The World Seen With  A Football Fan's Eye

Manchester City

03.02.2014 PREMIER LEAGUE 2013/2014
Manchester City - Chelsea 0:1

Everyone knew the game was for high stakes! The hosts’ win would allow them to regain leadership in the Premier League table, after Arsenal had beaten Crystal Palace on Sunday. Not only that, but Chelsea could also be deprived of three very important points – another close rival for the Championship race this season - a true “Six Pointer”. All aces were supposed to be on City’s side: the match was at home and even more importantly, the new year’s opening statistics, namely that in 9 games in January (PL, FA Cup and League Cup) Man City scored 30 and conceded just 6 goals. The most recent victory at White Hart Lane (5:1) made an electrifying impression on the Premier League observers. Hence no surprise that more than 47 thousand people gathered at the Etihad Stadium on the Monday evening, eagerly expecting another success. The truth was, that Chelsea had come to Manchester and offered a pretty tough time to the hosts. The Spanish brigade did not stand up to the challenge this time. Dzeko’s performance was well below his usual standard and the extremely solid Yaya Toure was missing invention and a “pull” for his team, and particularly after the goal loss. All Chelsea players performed on a very decent level by contrast, whereas Hazard and Matic (at times resembling Lampard from his best times) were shining lights, and outstanding; whilst the infallible Cech saved his team from goals at least twice in the closing phase of the game.
Seems like no “Ultras” (i.e. non-stop cheering up fans) are to be found at Etihad Stadium – people simply wearing light blue caps and scarves would from time to time shout “Come on, City” and that’s about it, when it comes to the organised chanting and rebel rousing! It does seem to confirm the theory that City do actually have only “light temperature” supporters many of whom fell in love with the club only when the Sheikh’s money stream reached Manchester, and brought the first successes after many barren years. In this context the Chelsea fans cheering up their team throughout the entire match duration, looked and sounded impressive, and it made those Blues feel like home.
Mourinho could not hide his satisfaction from a success achieved in an encounter versus great rivals, and he emphasised it with this important step in the journey for the PL Championship however, “not any more important than matches with the other teams”. Pellegrini tried to explain his team’s failure, by the absence of a few players, yet it did not sound convincing at all – the match proved one can not beat a team like Chelsea just by relying on momentum. After the match, Alan Shearer who commented on it, for one of the UK TV channels, called the Chelsea success a strong signal to the other EPL Teams – a well thought through tactic, can sometimes stop a “steam roller” even on its own home pitch.
Both teams will meet soon again, this time in the FA Cup competition, yet we all know this has lower priority – as in the case of all top football leagues. It is the League Championship title that counts in the first place, followed by some trophies to be won on the Europeans scene, and The Champions League in particular. City are also awaiting another thrilling encounter, in Champions League against Barcelona, and commemorative scarves were already available for sale at the Stadium.
Apart from the purely sporting occasion perspective, some appraisal and acknowledgement is also well deserved, for the organisational part of the event: the stadium entry and exit flows are smooth, parking areas available, food and drink outlets well equipped and functional, including Chardonnay of quite reasonable quality!
It will be interesting to find out how soon The Citizens are going to lick off their wounds after the knock-down. Seems like only three teams are left in the serious race for the Premier League this season?