ANTONIO CONTE’S MEN L AY DOWN TITLE MARKER

Published : 8:58 am  December 5, 2016 | No comments so far |  |  (204) reads | 

Untitled-3Chelsea laid down a huge marker for the Premier League title by coming from behind to beat Manchester City 3-1 in a game that boiled over on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium. City took the lead on the stroke of half-time courtesy of a Gary Cahill own goal before second-half strikes from Diego Costa and Willian swung the game in Chelsea’s favour. Costa’s equaliser on 60 minutes came after a period of relentless City pressure during which Kevin De Bruyne missed a glorious chance from just four yards out. Eden Hazard wrapped up the points in injury time to stretch Chelsea’s winning run to eight games in the league but that was not the end of the drama as Sergio Aguero was dismissed for an ugly tackle on David Luiz before Fernandino followed him down the tunnel for an altercation with Cesc Fabregas. The victory moves Chelsea four points clear at the top of the Premier League while City, who were four points clear themselves at the end of September, have now taken just 12 points from their last eight games. Much was made of the tactical battle between the two managers in the build-up and Pep Guardiola decided to match Conte’s 3-4-3 formation. Guardiola made six changes from the team that beat Burnley 2-1 last weekend with David Silva and De Bruyne back in the starting line-up. Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, Nolito, Fernando, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna were the six players to drop out. It was just the single change for Conte, who lost Nemanja Matic to a “small muscular problem” with Fabregas replacing him. Despite City starting with good intent, it was Hazard who had the first shot when curling an effort from 20 yards inches wide of the post after 15 minutes. Aguero tested Thibaut Courtois from a similar distance 10 minutes later but the goalkeeper helped it on its way over the crossbar. City did have the ball in the net moments later but Fernandinho’s header from close range was ruled out as he was a yard offside from De Bruyne’s set-piece. Luiz was thrust into the spotlight on 30 minutes as he obstructed Aguero as he attempted to latch onto a poor back-pass by Cesar Azpilicueta. It seemed like referee Anthony Taylor was about to blow for the free-kick – and potentially a red card for Luiz as the last man – but ended up waving play on, much to the annoyance of the home fans. Those boos turned to cheers just before halftime though as City took the lead. Jesus Navas swung a hopeful ball into the near post and Cahill awkwardly swung a right foot at the ball which deflected into the top corner.