Manchester Citys unbeaten record went up in flames at Stamford Bridge as goals from NGolo Kante and David Luiz handed Chelsea an impressive 2-0 win.
Kante opened the scoring against the run of play, performing his very best Frank Lampard impression by arriving late inside the penalty area to thump a shot home after being picked out by Eden Hazards intelligent cut-back.
Luiz made it two on 78 minutes with a wonderful header that looped majestically into the top corner at the far post, this time from an in-swinging Hazard corner to settle the contest and ensure Citys first Premier League defeat since April.
Both managers decided against naming an out-and-out striker with Eden Hazard preferred to Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata for Chelsea, while Raheem Sterling played centrally with Sergio Aguero out injured and Gabriel Jesus starting on the bench.
Here are some of the main talking points!
Star man – NGolo Kante
In the wake of Chelseas unbeaten record crumbling after defeats to Spurs and Wolves, Sarri has had to field numerous questions about his use of Kante having shifted him into an advanced midfield role in order to accommodate Jorginho at the base of midfield.
Having been accused of misusing Kante regularly over the past few weeks, you suspect Sarri might afford himself a wry smile as he enjoys a glass or two of Chianti this evening given the impact that Kante made in Citys penalty box.
Like every player in royal rather than sky blue, Kante was a virtual bystander for the opening 44 minutes of the game, yet he came alive when it mattered, latching onto a Hazard pass to hand the hosts a scarcely believable lead.
That wasnt the only good moment Kante came up with in Citys box. He created two chances in total – more than Willian and as many as Hazard and Pedro – with one of those a lovely slide-rule passes across the box to Willian who forced a save from Ederson.
Perhaps the Kante experiment is starting to work after all…
Weak link – Riyad Mahrez
Slightly harsh on the Algerian as none of Citys forward players were at their best, but Guardiolas decision to sacrifice Leroy Sane for Gabriel Jesus rather than Riyad Mahrez seemed slightly harsh considering Sane had looked extremely dangerous in the first half.
Sane had passed up a great opportunity to score in the first half when he dawdled on the ball for too long before being dispossessed, yet he did have Cesar Azpilicueta rattled at times, which is more than Mahrez had on his opposite number Marcos Alonso.
Although Alonso is undoubtedly the most effective attacking full-back in the division, his defensive shortcomings have been exposed recently and it was clear early on that City were targeting that side, attacking down Chelseas left 42.7% of the time, compared to 37.2% on the left.
However, Mahrez struggled to get any joy, failing to create a single chance – Sane, in contrast managed two in 31 fewer minutes – or have a single shot on target. In fairness to Mahrez, though, none of his teammates were up to their usual high standards.
What surprised us? Chelseas lack of possession
Under Sarri, Chelseas average possession rate in the Premier League has rocketed up from 54% last season to 63% this, moving from fifth in that particular metric to second, just behind todays opponents Manchester City.
The Italians desire to evolve Chelsea into a passing side has been obvious since his first game in charge but at Stamford Bridge, both Sarri and his players well and truly met their match as City passed them off the mark – in the opening 44 minutes, at least.
By the end of the first half, City had enjoyed 62.4%possession to Chelseas 38.6%, controlling the tempo of the game and spending virtually the entirety of it camped inside their hosts half. Indeed, the average position map for both sides showed that 16players were in Chelseas own half – all 11 for the home side as well as five City players.
Chelsea were poor and fortunate to be ahead at the interval and while much-improved in the second period, little changed in terms of possession as City sought a way back into the game. In the end, it ended up 61.3% in Citys favour.
There are certain managers whom you suspect that the process is as important as the result, Sarri being one of them. Before the game, he lauded Pep Guardiola as the best coach in the world and ultimately his aim to mould a Chelsea side in Citys image: one that can dominate games through controlled possession and win major honours while doing so.
This Chelsea performance was more symptomatic of Antonio Conte than Sarri. Nevertheless, given the esteem in which he holds Guardiola, Chelseas current Italian manager will most certainly savour this result, no matter how it was achieved.
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