A goal from Gabriel Jesus was enough to beat a lackluster Chelsea side in Saturday’s early Premier League kick-off, giving Pep Guardiola a measure of revenge on Thomas Tuchel for defeat in last season’s Champions League Final.
All eyes were on Guardiola and City after a run of three successive defeats to Tuchel’s Chelsea but it was the Spaniard who earned the bragging rights after his side suffocated the Blues, denying Romelu Lukaku and co. even a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes.
It was an unusually inert performance from Chelsea, who have been so impressive in the opening games of the season. With the team shorn of the creative influence of the injured Mason Mount, Tuchel and Chelsea were made to pay for their conservative approach.
Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus proved to be the difference maker when his 53rd-minute shot deflected off Jorginho and glided past a wrong-footed Edouard Mendy into the Chelsea goal.
Tuchel’s Chelsea have become known for their backbone throughout his reign but the German was unable to galvanize his side into a response – and it was City who looked the more likely of the two teams to score, with Mendy showcasing a series of impressive saves to keep the rampant Mancunians at bay.
Jesus could have had a second, too, but for Thiago Silva’s agile goal-line clearance while $139 million summer signing Jack Grealish was also denied on two occasions by the Senegal shot-stopper.
Debate in the press all week had suggested that Saturday’s game was among the most crucial of Guardiola’s spell in charge. Another setback against Chelsea, which would have made it four defeats on the trot in the fixture, would have plainly suggested that the Premier League champions had ceded invaluable ground to their London rivals.
1 – Man City have conceded just one goal in their six Premier League games this season – the fewest they’ve shipped at this stage of a league season in their history. Statement. pic.twitter.com/jTw7acbE9Y
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 25, 2021
Rodri’s game by numbers vs. Chelsea:
95% pass accuracy
11 final third entries
5 duels won
1 foul won
He was excellent today. pic.twitter.com/wGTfYWRZtS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 25, 2021
Now, ahead of crucial games with Paris Saint-German in the Champions League and a Premier League trip to Anfield next weekend, it is Guardiola and his City charges who will start next week with a pep in their step.
“Today we played for each other, ran for each other and passed the ball for each other,” said a content Guardiola after the final whistle. “Now I’m watching the Ryder Cup and I’m seeing how they play for each other. That is nice when you play football too. It’s just three points of course, but the way we played was so good.
“Sometimes we believe we need a proper striker to finish, but the important thing is the way we play. The most important thing is doing it as a team and as a unit.
Guardiola on whether playing a defensive midfielder vs Chelsea was the reason Man City won (a nod to criticism about the UCL final): “When we win, the manager is a genius, when we lose, the manager is a loser. I understand everything.” #CFC #CHEMCI
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) September 25, 2021
Brilliant performance by @ManCity ⭕⭕⭕ our demise was greatly exaggerated by the clowns in the media all we heard was city can't score, City doesn't have a striker, we can't defend, they said we can't replicate what we did last season. I wonder what will they say now?
— Dwight cole (@Dwightcole16) September 25, 2021
“It’s like last season. Sergio [Aguero] was injured all year and we won the Premier League. It’s a good way to start this fascinating week that we have ahead of us.”
As for Tuchel, he admitted that his side were second best throughout the game.
“We lost the game and City deserved to win. Until the goal, we were very strong in the last 20 metres of the field – but only there, unfortunately. Everywhere else, we were not good enough to relieve pressure and to hurt them,” said the German.
Pep Guardiola got the best of Tuchel tactically this time and that’s all there is to it. We can’t throw a fit at every game we lose, this is just a blip and I’m sure we’ll be back running again.
— Mod (@CFCMod_) September 25, 2021
Got exactly what we deserved today. Bit of a shocker, that performance, City were excellent too but they wanted it more. Tuchel got it wrong but some poor displays there, might be time to try Chilwell again, Alonso had a shocker.
— CharlieHustle19 (@NAtcheson16) September 25, 2021
“The performance was not complex enough. Overall, simply, we were not at our best level. After the goal it felt a little bit like the belief in winning was bigger than the fear of losing. I don’t know why. We tried to push and get the crowd behind us. It was a very emotional game but never on our highest level.
“We conceded a goal from a set play. Even if we wanted to go for long balls for Romelu [Lukaku], it was not precise enough. I didn’t really feel the belief that we could escape the short balls. It was doubtful and it felt like we had something to lose. We lacked a little bit of freshness also.”
Reacting online, several fans were more than impressed by Guardiola’s tactical masterclass.
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“Brilliant performance by Man City,” said one fan. “Our demise was greatly exaggerated by the clowns in the media. All we heard was city can’t score, City don’t have a striker, we can’t defend.
“They said we can’t replicate what we did last season. I wonder what will they say now.“
“Pep Guardiola got the best of Tuchel tactically this time and that’s all there is to it. We can’t throw a fit at every game we lose; this is just a blip and I’m sure we’ll be back running again,” wrote one Chelsea fan.
“Got exactly what we deserved today. Bit of a shocker, that performance, City were excellent too but they wanted it more. Tuchel got it wrong but there were some poor displays there. It might be time to try [full-back Ben] Chilwell again, and [defender Marcos] Alonso had a shocker,” said a third.
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