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Showdown verdict

How did the key head-to-heads unfold in the engrossing contest between Man City and Chelsea?

Last Updated: 04/02/14 at 11:40

Jose Mourinho: Produced perfect tactics in a game that was expected to be cat an

Jose Mourinho: Produced perfect tactics in a game that was expected to be cat an

Chelsea did anything but 'park the bus' in their hugely important 1-0 victory at Premier League title rivals Manchester City on Monday night as Jose Mourinho produced a masterful display of tactics.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Sky Sports subscribers can watch highlights of Man City v Chelsea

Branislav Ivanovic scored the only goal of the game to move the visitors level on points with Manuel Pellegrini's hosts, who in the process lost their previously perfect home record in the Premier League, a 20-game unbeaten run and failed to score at the Etihad Stadium in the top flight for the first time since 2010.

It was an engrossing contest that lived up to its tag as a showdown and so how did the clash unfold in the head-to-head battles between key individuals?

ZABALETA V HAZARD

City right-back Pablo Zabaleta is widely considered one of the best in the world and he showed his early intent against Eden Hazard by clattering the Chelsea playmaker high up the field in just the 46th second of the game. Indeed, in the opening 20 minutes, only 18.5 per cent of Chelsea's attacks had come down the left, Hazard's flank, as was his lack of influence against Zabaleta.

But Hazard was then allowed the opportunity to drift about the field and this meant Zabaleta was not always able to get close to the Belgian to prevent him from turning and running with the ball. One first-half contest saw Hazard run at and beat Zabaleta on the byline before crossing for Ramires to hit the frame of the goal. And, by the end of the first half, Hazard had enjoyed 32 touches of the ball - more than any of his outfield team-mates. Hazard had also impressively won 90.9% of his 11 first-half duels.

Hazard, as a result of having the permission of Mourinho to float around the pitch into central areas - and with Ivanovic pushing high on the opposite flank to ensure Chelsea kept some width, also ended the game with more touches of the ball (75) than any other Chelsea player. His probing, teasing, quick feet were a constant menace for City.

Eden Hazard's touch map demonstrates the extent to which he moved around the field against City

DEMICHELIS V WILLIAN

The loss of Fernandinho to injury just a day before the game was an immense blow for City. The Brazilian's importance cannot be underestimated and that was demonstrated against Chelsea. Fernandinho was sorely missed but Pellegrini's decision to select centre-back Martin Demichelis in central midfield ahead of someone like James Milner, who has more energy and has played in central areas in the past, still seemed a strange one.

Demichelis struggled drastically for the midfield knowhow to contain Willian, who played off the back of Samuel Eto'o and constantly looked to run beyond City's No. 26. In the eighth minute, Demichelis lost a header to Ramires and Chelsea broke through Willian. In the 25th minute, Demichelis could be seen grabbing at the shirt of Willian as the Chelsea man ran past. Demichelis did make five tackles in the first half, more than any other player on the field, and his tackling is not in dispute. But he was too often caught out of position or lacking in pace.

That Willian was allowed to create seven chances, more than any other player, come the final whistle tells its own story. It was an ingenious decision from Mourinho to play Willian up against Demichelis, with the Chelsea boss having typically played down the importance of the loss of Fernandinho to City before kick-off. Chelsea exploited Demichelis by moving around him, with Hazard playing 11 passes to Willian - which was the visitors' frequent pass combination.

Hazard's passing to Willian was Chelsea's frequent combination and exploited Martin Demichelis

SILVA V MATIC

David Silva was the only player in the game to finish with a passing success rate of more than 92% (94.2%). This is typical of the Spaniard nicknamed Merlin but what is not typical is that he was not allowed to play in the areas in which he likes to impact upon the game.

In the first 30 minutes, Silva was superbly marshalled by David Luiz, who was playing in a defensive midfield role for Chelsea. As a result of having no success against Luiz, Silva moved to the other side of central midfield in order to try and have better luck against Mourinho's January signing, Nemanja Matic. However, this, too, was without success.

Matic was superb and, with Chelsea's midfielders keeping a tight square in central midfield, Silva was unable to pull the strings in the areas between the centre circle and edge of the penalty area that he enjoys (see below). Matic made five clearances in the first half, which was equal with Gary Cahill. Matic then produced another four clearances in the second half while he also gained possession seven times in total during the match. His positioning was superb throughout and he even contributed with a 30-yard effort that hit the frame of the goal.

David Silva's pass map (left) showed how he could not influence the centre against City's boxed midfield (right)

KOLAROV V IVANOVIC

Ivanovic has long been a crucial player for Chelsea and it is his reliability in carrying out the tactics and orders of his managers which seems to make him so popular. In pushing high up the pitch from right-back whenever possible, he ensured Chelsea did not become too narrow as a consequence of Hazard cutting in on the opposite flank and Cesar Azpilicueta obviously detailed to stay deep at left-back (see below).

Ivanovic, whose goal was the first with his left foot in his Premier League career, got forward whenever possible and this did at times leave Chelsea exposed down their right, meaning City left-back Aleksandar Kolarov had the freedom to charge forward. Kolarov had produced seven crosses in the first half, more than any other player, and ended the game with 11 crosses, which was only less than Jesus Navas (19).

But it was Ivanovic's defensive nous which ultimately helped Chelsea come out on top. At the final whistle, Ivanovic had lost only two duels while Kolarov had lost seven. Likewise, Ivanovic had recovered possession on seven occasions while Kolarov had only done so once.

Branislav Ivanovic always pushed high up the field on the right while Cesar Azpilicueta stayed deep on the left

NEGREDO V CAHILL

Was Alvaro Negredo fully fit after his shoulder injury? Did City gamble on his return in the absence of Sergio Aguero? Either way, it is difficult to remember Negredo having a more ineffective game in his short time with City. The summer signing was far from his best and hardly had a sniff against Chelsea's centre-back pairing of Cahill and John Terry. In his 57 minutes on the pitch, Negredo had only two shots - both of which were off target. Negredo also touched the ball only 26 times and won less than half of his five duels with Chelsea opponents.

This is credit to Cahill and Terry, who have already established themselves as Chelsea's best defensive pairing but continue to look better with every game they play together. Cahill was brushed aside by Negredo before the City man shot over the crossbar in the third minute but Chelsea's centre-backs were otherwise strong, organised and communicated superbly. Cahill had made five clearances in the first half while Terry had produced four. Cahill won everything in the air, every important header, and finished the match with 16 clearances, which was seven more than his next team-mate.

Alvaro Negredo did not look fully fit and was allowed only two off-target shots

GARY NEVILLE'S VIEW

"He does not mind us praising him does Jose Mourinho. He loves the attention of big matches. You saw him tonight and he was like the conductor of the orchestra. He walks out at the start of the match and sits on the bench before his team have even come out. He comes alive on big match days and that is what the best managers do. He is the best in the world at the moment at affecting big matches, absolutely brilliant."

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

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ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

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Wenger hails important win

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s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

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