Chelsea took a big step towards securing Champions League football next season as they beat Manchester City 2-1 in arguably the most competitive game since the Premier League’s restart.
Victory for Frank Lampard’s men also ensured that Liverpool were officially crowned champions of England for the first time in thirty years. A truly remarkable feat for one of the great teams of the Premier League era, but alas, this should not take away from what will be heralded as a seminal moment in Lampard’s burgeoning career as Chelsea manager.
City, despite talk of rotation, fielded a strong side and soon set about dominating possession as they looked to stretch Chelsea’s rigid defensive structure.
It seemed only a matter of time before Pep Guardiola’s men would take the lead, but chances were at a premium and City became restless in their pursuit of the opening goal.
This was quickly pounced upon by Chelsea’s midfield who looked to spring Christian Pulisic and Willian in behind. Then against the run of play, Pulisic took advantage of a mix up in the City defence to drive forward and slot home the opening goal.
The game continued to follow a similar pattern after the break and it appeared as if order had been restored when Kevin De Bruyne found the top corner with an inch-perfect free-kick.
Chelsea, though, persevered and after Fernandinho had handled Tammy Abraham’s goal-bound effort, Willian fired home the winning goal from the penalty spot to end any lingering hopes of a title push for The Citizens.
Here’s how we rated Chelsea’s players after the game:
Kepa Arrizabalaga - 6
Made a fantastic save from Fernandinho in the first-half before commanding his area well to claim loose balls. Despite having little to do, he overcame an early lapse in concentration to provide a calm and composed figure behind Chelsea’s backline.
Cesar Azpilicueta - 7
Anticipated the loose ball exceptionally well, intercepting City’s cross field passes and striding forward with purpose. Did well to contain Raheem Sterling on the whole, with the England winger only being afforded a handful of opportunities to break in behind.
Andreas Christensen - 8.5
Christensen went a long way to proving his doubters wrong with a brilliant performance against one of Europe’s most dangerous attacking forces. The Dane won every single duel he contested, holding his position and ensuring he knew when to engage and when to drop off the ball. Nearly got on the scoresheet with a bullet header, and displayed great composure in possession.
Antonio Rudiger - 7
Another player whose future was thrust into the spotlight following a shaky performance against Aston Villa at the weekend, Rudiger also managed to raise his game to suit the occasion. He saw a lot of the ball and used it well, completing 50 passes whilst maintaining a 92% success rate. With Chelsea failing to dominate the possession statistics for just the second time this season, Rudiger’s ball retention was pivotal to The Blues gaining a foothold in the game.
Marcos Alonso - 7
Having picked up a yellow card in the first-half, Alonso had to tread carefully when defending one on one, and he did so superbly. Riyad Mahrez was rarely allowed to faint inside as he had done so often to Chelsea’s detriment in the reverse fixture this season. A disciplined performance from the typically erratic Alonso.
N'Golo Kante - 7
Whilst I’m still of the opinion that Kante works better as the more advanced member of a double pivot, he did excellently to cut out City’s passing lines and help instigate Chelsea’s transitions. His tendency to draw fouls in and around the edge of the box is of some concern, but a player of his quality and experience is certainly capable of cutting that out of his game.
Ross Barkley - 7
A very understated performance from Barkley, who is starting to show his importance to a squad devoid of physicality. In man-marking Bernardo Silva, he helped cover Azpilicueta when he was drawn out of the defensive line by Sterling. Silva’s withdrawal early in the second half was a testament to Barkley’s efforts to mark him out of the game. His ability to then break forward and run beyond the last man helped Chelsea stretch the game when they countered.
Mason Mount - 6.5
Chelsea’s first line of attack he was effective in possession, always looking for runners ahead of him. Again his importance to Lampard’s press shone through as he looked to win back possession and force City into mistakes.
Willian - 7
Fully deserved a goal for his efforts over the past few games. Chelsea’s most creative player, he may have lacked composure at times in the final third, but ultimately his ability to burst into space and drag defenders towards him opened up opportunities for the likes of Mount and Pulisic.
Olivier Giroud - 6
In helping retain possession higher up the pitch, he allowed Chelsea to be more expansive in possession. Despite not offering a direct goal threat, it was his hold up play that bought Pulisic into the game as the American had someone to play off.
Christian Pulisic - 8.5
I’m not sure there have been many players more effective than him since the restart. In just over 100 minutes, he has scored two huge goals, offering the directness and clinical edge that Chelsea’s attack has been lacking all season. City’s defending may have left a lot to be desired, but nonetheless Pulisic still had an awful lot to do before slotting past Ederson and he did it superbly. Following so much time out injured this season, his impact feels like that of a new signing.
Mateo Kovacic – 6: Recycled possession well and offered more defensive solidity as Chelsea looked to defend their lead.
Pedro – 6: Only a fantastic save by Ederson denied him the perfect leaving present. Offered pace and energy on the break.
Tammy Abraham – 7: The perfect antithesis to Giroud, the Englishman came on and instantaneously began attacking the space in and around the six-yard box. Was denied a goal by Fernandinho’s handball, but I’m not sure Abraham will mind after Willian dispatched the resulting penalty.
Billy Gilmour – 6: A fleeting cameo from the youngster but still he managed to impress, playing a perfectly weighted cross-field ball into the path of Pedro.