From One Extreme To Another!
VMC regular, Kevinho sent us the following.
When I wrote my first ever front page article for Vital Manchester City on Thursday entitled The Buck Stops With Under Performing Players I included a couple of statements which were, 'I still however live in hope that he (Mancini) can get things back on track in the closing months of the season with excellent displays of attacking football' and 'The players will really need to stand up and be counted from now on, starting at Stamford Bridge on Saturday lunchtime'.
I also stated the hope that we would keep the same 'settled' back five for two games in succession. All of these things were evident at Stamford Bridge today and just look at the result, a convincing 4-2 win against all of the odds and in my opinion it echoed our 2-1 away win at Manchester United a couple of seasons ago on the 50th Anniversary of the Munich air disaster, where the heroes on that day were the unlikely combination of Benjani and Darius Vassell - Today they included Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy who each netted a brace and were further evidence of just how far we have come in such a short period of time.
The build-up to this match had been dominated by all of the talk regarding the broken down relationship between City left back Wayne Bridge and his former friend and captain at Chelsea, John Terry (due to recent non-football related allegations in the media), would they shake hands or wouldn't they? The other question that had been bubbling on the surface in the media following City's midweek FA Cup defeat at Stoke was that Roberto Mancini was now starting to look under serious pressure and how we'd beaten nobody of any note during his time in charge - How that all changed over the course of a quite remarkable 90 minutes.
Tevez and his remarkable work rate
For about 40 minutes the match was something of a non-event as each side cancelled each other out, although Chelsea were looking the more likely team to score and that they did a couple of minutes later through Frank Lampard, although the City defending wasn't great in the build-up. Here we go again I thought to myself. Then in first half injury time Carlos Tevez hit a weak shot which Chelsea goalkeeper Hilario somehow didn't manage to deal with and the ball trickled across the line and into the back of the net. Goals count no matter how scrappy they are and this further highlighted just how important Tevez is to us with his work rate, never say die attitude and more direct attacking threat as his goal got us in level at half-time.
Early in the second half things got even better as Gareth Barry's excellent pass put Craig Bellamy away and even though he was on his weaker left foot he powerfully drove the ball into the back of the net to put City 2-1 ahead. I began to dream and believe that we could complete a remarkable double against the best team in the league this season just like we did against United two seasons ago, and things were soon to get even better.
Centre of attention
Gareth Barry burst into the penalty area and was brought down by Juliano Belletti, who was rightly sent off for being the last man and with Wayne Bridge being the centre of attention today, I suddenly remembered an incident during our 2-1 home win against Chelsea earlier in the season when Belletti only received a yellow card instead of a red for a reckless lunge on Bridge, which put him out injured for a couple of months with medial knee ligament damage - They usually say that decisions even themselves out over the course of a season, it certainly did in this case. That man Tevez once again coolly stepped up to the plate and slotted the ball into the net for a 3-1 lead.
Cue more Chelsea indiscipline as Michael Ballack was sent off for a savage lunge on Tevez from behind which should have been a straight red rather than a second yellow and then a red and a fourth City goal on the break from Bellamy following some good work from SWP. The fact that we gave away an injury time penalty didn't matter for once, even though Lampard converted it to reduce the deficit to 4-2.
Funny old game
Although the plaudits will rightly go to Tevez and Bellamy for their two goals apiece, I also thought that Shay Given was back to more like his old self with some fine saves and ball handling and despite Gareth Barry conceding a late penalty; he had arguably put in his finest performance in a City shirt to date.
It just goes to show that you never know what to expect in this funny old game called football as although we have struggled against some of the lesser teams, our record against the big 4 so far this season is a different story as we have now completed the double over Chelsea, have beaten Arsenal at home, have drawn with Liverpool twice and we have only been robbed in 'Fergie time' at Old Trafford.
It just goes to show that we'll probably never shake off the 'typical City' tag as does anybody actually think that we'll follow this performance up with a win away at Sunderland in a couple of weeks time? For today though we will enjoy the moment and celebrate a most unexpected 3 bonus points in our quest for that all important fourth Champions League place.