Kevin De Bruyne’s stunning long ranger snatches away the victory from Tuchel’s Chelsea

January 16, 2022

The battle of the Catalan and Bavarian philosophy; the mutual respect between the two coaches on and off the pitch and to further sensationalize the significance of the encounter the media raised the point Lukaku who was yet to deliver his apology to the Chelsea fans with his performance in the build-up to the game. Well to be honest that and Pep Guardiola’s remarks in the pre-match press conference regarding the match postponement controversies of Liverpool- “Are you saying here we are smarter, that Omicron doesn’t want to come and visit us?” On the other hand, the tone from Stamford Bridge was strikingly notable as it showcased a strong-fisted battle-cry from Tuchel- “We will hunt them down and make them underperform”. 

The coaching rivalry

The clash of the first and second of the league table had been set at the backdrop of a misty, cold evening in the Etihad which created a perfect blend for the mood around the recent COVID stricken Premier-league fixtures. The prelude to the sky-blue dominated symphony was evident within the first quarter of the game with both the team going up against each other’s neck trying to find spaces and possession in the middle of the park but eventually Pep Guardiola’s side won almost every interception and aerial balls which were designed by the Tuchel army to create problems in the City backline.

If these two sides locking horn was the biggest footballing news of the day then why were the supporters not suitably ecstatic by the supremacy of their team’s performance? Has Pep Guardiola fortified such a statement for his team that even beating the defending European Champions meant nothing of another Saturday evening stroll around the Etihad? City is now 13 points clear of Chelsea at the league table after registering their win last evening as they got their 12th consecutive win in the league. In his post-match press conference, Pep Guardiola said-

“I don’t know what is going to happen this season, I don’t care. What I care about is that after winning what we have won in the last years, still, these guys in every single game give everything for this club. This is so difficult to find in modern life, in modern football. We are humble enough to run without the ball, to try to do our best in every single game. This is my – and our – biggest achievement as a club and as a team by far. To win and win and win for years and still be there all the time, in this country and this league. This is the biggest title I have and will have when I leave Manchester.”

It was a slow-burning tactical arm-wrestling with a struggle for space and startling infliction of thrust from perhaps one of the most interesting players in the City ranks. Kevin De Bruyne has some unfinished business with Chelsea. It feels like whenever he takes to the field to play one of his former sides where he failed to thrive and had bad luck something in his performance just switches it all up. Yesterday we witnessed class-A Kevin De Bruyne- taking on the deep-seated role of an attacking midfielder, ball provider to the forward line, the false nine, and all-in-all being the most prized weapon in the City cavalry.

Chelsea played out most of this game like a high-grade FA Cup minnow in search of a sudden counter-attacking opportunity to capitalize from. The Blues defender Malang Sarr tried to provide cross-field passes and long balls for Pulisic and Ziyech in both the wings to eventually sneak the pass in for Lukaku and one time he was successful in making Ederson make a force save when Stones failed to clear the fall off the Belgian striker.

Lukaku’s effort blocked by Ederson

Ziyech and Marcos Alonso’s shots blazed over without making much difference as City created menace in the left-wing forcing Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta to close in on Joao Cancelo and Jack Grealish’s efforts.

Grealish Vs Azpilicueta

At around the 70th minute, Joao Cancelo laid the ball inside and Kevin De Bruyne was in space between those tightly-knit Chelsea lines. He bounced off N’Golo Kante who was on the wrong side and surged with his attack. It was like a picture out of a magnificently painted canvas as he knew just the pathway towards the goal. He skewed inside, unclogged, with just the amount of time to nudge the ball into its right path and curled the shot into the far corner. Kepa Arrizabalaga (the second-choice custodian of Chelsea taking the place of the usual Eduardo Mendy being unavailable for the Africa Cup of Nations) dived and for the forms, sake lifted his arm where his only function should have been to stand and fist the ball away conceded the goal cutting a poor figure out in the pitch.

KDB’s goal

Tuchel’s bombs did not explode, whether it was Kovavic’s constant effort to combat Sterling’s attacking efforts or Kante searching legs to dominate spaces in the sky-blue simulated winning organization it was just as though something was missing for them. Although he brought on Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Timo Werner in the dying embers of the match there was not enough effort or intelligence to break down the City’s system of play or to get a last-minute equalizer.

Kante Vs Sterling

When Kevin De Bruyne bid his farewell to this eventful fray to make way for Ilkay Gundogan he looked like a grandee being wheeled away by his retinue, applauded from all sides as he returned to the bench looking rather pale and drained from all the dazzle. De Bruyne has now spent seven years with City, six under Pep Guardiola and now as he enters his 30s he is becoming more of a stately figure for the club and the supporters. He has had four shots on goal the same number as the entire Chelsea squad and provided the solitary outstanding effort which stood out among all others and enough for the team to celebrate the victory lap. I don’t think this City team realizes the superiority of their game- every other team plays football but they keep creating brilliant imprints of matches in our brains that it is a pleasure to watch them play week in week out.

TEAM NEWS:

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Joao Cancelo, De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Grealish, Foden.
Subs: Dias, Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus, Steffen, Fernandinho, Mbete-Tabu, McAtee, Lavia, Wilson-Esbrand.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Sarr, Thiago Silva, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso, Ziyech, Pulisic, Lukaku.
Subs: Jorginho, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Bettinelli, Saul, Barkley, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Havertz.

Referee: Craig Pawson

King of the match: Kevin De Bruyne.