Manchester City’s crowning as Premier League champions has been postponed for now at least after Marcos Alonso’s late strike earned Chelsea a 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium that propelled Thomas Tuchel’s side to third in the table.
Raheem Sterling’s opener late in the first half seemed to have teed Pep Guardiola’s side up to formally retain the trophy they ceded to Liverpool last season but the Blues proved to be a match for a much-changed City in a clash that suggests the Champions League final next month could be won by either side.
An absorbing first half low on chances but high on tactical intrigue burst into life just before the interval when Andreas Christensen misjudged a bouncing ball — injuring himself in the process — allowing Gabriel Jesus to burst in behind and square for Sterling to tap into an empty net via the poor touch of Sergio Aguero. It was not the only time the Argentine fluffed his lines in pursuit of the goal that would have drawn him equal with Wayne Rooney for the most scored in the colors of one Premier League club.
Moments after Sterling’s opener Billy Gilmour brought down Jesus in the box, handing Aguero the chance to double City’s advantage. A Panenka penalty straight down the middle was comfortably saved by Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal.
The visitors were much improved in the second half and got their reward when Hakim Ziyech struck low from outside the box, an effort too powerful for Ederson to do more than parry the ball into the bottom corner. Chelsea had the better of the game’s closing stages and had the ball in the net through substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi only for VAR to intervene.
Chelsea kept finding joy down the right and the pressure told in the second minute of added time when Timo Werner’s low cutback found Alonso to skew a shot past Ederson. Though defeat will only postpone City’s inevitable crowning as Premier League champions it could prove to be precious for the Blues, who moved up to third and now seem well-placed to qualify for the Champions League even if they do not win the final.