It had to be. Carlos Tevez. AWOL since September, but a telling contribution first match back. The rifts have gone. Or so that’s what they will tell you. The home support were mixed, some cheered Tevez, some jeered. Either way, all celebrated the winning goal. A crucial goal. Manchester City are still hot on the heels of their city rivals. Chelsea are looking increasingly likely to miss out against theirs. Torres started after his two goals at the weekend, but lightning failed to strike twice. Tevez showed him how to influence the game. Cahill, another scorer against Leicester last week, showed him how lightning could strike twice, opening the scoring an hour in. But that only served to ignite Manchester City. Back they came. First Aguero from the spot, then Nasri lifting over. Mancini wins. His compatriot counterpart suffers his first defeat of his interim reign.
But it could have been worse. The signs were there from the start. Manchester City were all guns blazing from the first minute. A couple of shots were blocked, before Silva skied over. The home crowd only added to the atmosphere. This was a match they could not lose.
But neither could Chelsea. Torres had a fair share of possession, but as a lone striker, the competence of Yaya Toure and Richards stuffed him out.
Chelsea’s nervous start would not have been helped by Ivanovic’s injury. Off he came, Bosingwa on. But Manchester City only continued where they left off. Nasri clipped over Cech but saw his shot rebound off the bar.
Then came the moment of the match. Lampard’s wayward pass was picked up by Balotelli, but the Italian lost in a one-on-one duel with Petr Cech.
Manchester City continued their domination in the second half, but Chelsea were doing well defensively. Barry came on for Balotelli, with Yaya Toure moved into a more attacking role.
Chelsea were stuck inside their half, and to withstand the pressure, Roberto Di Matteo took off Meireles for a more natural defensive midfielder in the name of Michael Essien.
The change was the precursor to the goal. Chelsea’s real threat this match would have been from set-pieces, thwarted at every possible passage in open play. So when a corner floated in on 57 minutes, Chelsea had to make it count. And Gary Cahill did. David Luiz fairly challenged Barry to the ball, and the loose ball found its way to Cahill. He hit it goalwards, and a wicked deflection off Toure left Hart wrong-footed.
Manchester City’s run of 19 consecutive matches won at home was to be severely tested. Tevez entered the frame of things. It was desperate times for Mancini, calling on a player he once said was “finished” at the club. Dzeko soon followed him on, with Manchester City desperate to salvage at least something from this match.
And the equaliser came with a quarter of an hour to go. Essien was adjudged to have handled a Zabaleta shot, and though it certainly hit his hands, it is debatable as to whether it was intention, of whether the Ghanian could have gotten his hands out of the way from point-blank range.
But City did not care. Aguero sent Cech the wrong way, and it set up for a grandstand finish.
And how City were to celebrate. No tears this time. The muted atmosphere after the Cahill goal was to goal, with a decisive goal just eight minutes after their first. Tevez held up the ball well and Nasri lifted over Cech: 2-1.
It was a defeat tough to take for Chelsea. There is no shame losing to Manchester City away, but this is no time for pride. Top four is a must for Roman Abramovich. Every point counts. Three went to zero in nine minutes for Chelsea. They must regroup. Saturday lunch-time will perhaps be their biggest match of the season.