Chelsea 0 Man City 0: Lessons as Benítez’s men frustrate Citizens
Chelsea 0 Man City 0: What lessons did we learn as Rafael Benítez's new side frustrated the Premier League holders?
City can’t capitalise on Chelsea’s flat start
Perhaps distracted by the vocal support for Roberto Di Matteo emanating from the Stamford Bridge stands, which reached a crescendo in the 16th minute, Chelsea were flat in the opening half under their new interim manager Rafael Benítez. Manchester City’s Achilles’ heel in Europe has been sloppy errors in the early stages of games, but Roberto Mancini’s side showed no signs of a Champions League hangover. Inside four minutes, Pablo Zabaleta and David Silva combined, with Ashley Cole making a last-ditch tackle to prevent the right-back from pulling the trigger, before James Milner and Yaya Toure both failed to capitalise on a free sight at Petr Cech’s goal from the edge of the Chelsea’s area. The Citizens enjoyed a 56 per cent share of possession in the first half, creating six chances, with the best falling to Silva and Sergio Aguero. In the 20th minute, Zabaleta’s cross found Silva but the former Valencia man failed to trouble Cech with a tame effort before Aguero, afforded time by a defensive lapse, produced a weak headed attempt just before half-time.
Benítez faces tough task reinvigorating Torres
At his unveiling at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, Benítez was confident Fernando Torres could improve his ailing form through hard work, with Chelsea supporters hoping the Spanish striker’s former manager will be the right man to spark change. However, on the evidence of his performance against City, the Chelsea interim boss will have his work cut out to help the 27-year-old rekindle his old form. In the opening 45 minutes, Torres failed to muster an attempt on Cech’s goal, completed just 62 per cent of his passes, and was dispossessed three times. Some have pointed to Chelsea’s failure to tailor their style of play to the former Atletico Madrid striker, with Torres thriving on Steven Gerrard’s early delivery between centre-halves to help him to his 81-goal haul at Anfield. When Torres did finally get a chance to run at Cech, the Spain international lacked the searing pace to get away from Vincent Kompany, despite the City captain struggling for fitness. In the 60th minute, Eden Hazard and Mata combined to tee up Torres but the striker’s left-footed shot flew just over Joe Hart’s crossbar in what was the home side’s best chance of the match. Of course, Benítez has barely had time to work with his compatriot after whirlwind start to his reign, but the 52-year-old is facing a big challenge reversing Torres’ fortunes.
Kompany stars despite fitness problems
Kompany was doubt for the clash at Stamford Bridge after the centre-half picked up a knee injury midweek, but the City captain started following a rigorous warm-up. The Belgian was tasked with manning the Citizens defence against a Chelsea side full of exciting attacking midfielders – and Torres. Kompany showed a return to form after a series of unconvincing displays in the Premier League and in Europe. His primary duty was to keep Torres quiet and the defender easily bullied his opponent off the ball, while he made a staggering 15 clearances. His performance was epitomised by a commanding and vital header from Juan Mata’s inswinging free-kick just before half-time, with Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz lurking. When Kompany finally succumbed to an error in the 90th minute, the City skipper recovered well to halt Torres.
Dzeko set to revert to super-sub role
Mancini has preferred Edin Dzeko for City’s games against Chelsea and Real Madrid this week, dropping Carlos Tevez to the bench, while Mario Balotelli remains out of favour. The former Wolfsburg man has scored four Premier League goals as a second-half substitute this term. But he has failed to make any impression when handed a starting berth, struggling to strike up an understanding with his partner Aguero – it was a performance which mirrored a similarly lacklustre contribution against Madrid. The pair exchanged a pitiful seven passes before Mancini opted re-united Aguero with Tevez. While Dzeko does offer a target for City to aim from deep and wide positions, he is more erratic and less mobile than the former Manchester United striker. Expect Mancini to drop Dzeko for the trip to Wigan Athletic on Wednesday.