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Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City: Chelsea seals crucial win to boost top-four spot with goals from Christian Pulisic and Willian’s late penalty.
Pep Guardiola had suggested he had “one eye” on their FA Cup quarter-final tie with Newcastle United and would, therefore, seek to rotate his squad.
But even with six changes from the 5-0 thrashing of Burnley, the Catalan’s ‘second-string’ still saw Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, and Raheem Sterling feature from the start.
Frank Lampard handed a start to Christian Pulisic after his goal from the bench against Aston Villa, while Ross Barkley replaced Mateo Kovacic in the starting line-up.
City had held the Premier League title in their hands for the last two years but anything other than a win would see the crown head to Liverpool.
The visitors began with purpose, dominating possession without doing too much to break down Chelsea, although Fernandinho’s header from a De Bruyne free-kick required a decent stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga.
A shocking error from Benjamin Mendy resulted in the opener and it was Pulisic who put City to the sword. Mendy’s horrible mix-up with Ilkay Gundogan allowed the American to race clear and he finished superbly past Ederson.
After the break, City looked fired up – almost as if they weren’t aware in the first half that their title was on the line. And their new-found urgency paid off.
Kante fouled Mahrez some 25 yards out and De Bruyne hit the free-kick from some 25 yards out, whipping it over the wall and into the top corner with a stunning strike.
The goal seemed to rejuvenate City and they began to pile the pressure on Chelsea. Just two minutes later, an incisive breakaway that began with Ederson ended up with Sterling one-on-one with Kepa. He lifted it over the Spaniard only to see it bounce back off the woodwork.
It felt like a pivotal moment in the title permutations and it woke up Chelsea, with Mason Mount striking against the side netting after a rare error from Ederson.
Kyle Walker came to the Brazilian’s rescue shortly after when Pulisic broke through on goal and rounded Ederson, only to see his effort somehow hacked off the line by the England full-back. City was still alive.
But any hope of delaying Liverpool’s title celebrations soon evaporated after an incredible passage of play. Willian crossed to Tammy Abraham, who saw his effort blocked by Ederson. Pulisic followed up on the rebound, but Fernandinho was in the way. When it fell to Abraham against, the veteran clearly used his hand to block it.
VAR was put to use to investigate and Fernandinho knew what was coming: a red card and penalty. Willian took the ball and struck it firmly into the top corner, sparking celebrations all around Liverpool with the knowledge that finally, after 30 long years, the title would be heading to Anfield.
But for Chelsea, it was a hugely important victory. Five points clear of Manchester United with seven games to go and prove that Frank Lampard can cut it with the best coaches in the world.