Chelsea and treble winners Manchester City went toe-to-toe in an utterly enthralling 4-4 Premier League stalemate at Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side made an excellent account of themselves and could largely attribute not picking up all three points to a rotten slice of luck and some questionable calls from the referee. With that said, a last minute converted by Cole Palmer to save a point is something ever so befitting of the Premier League scriptwriters.
The Citizens rocked up to the King’s Road with a very attacking line-up but it was the Blues of the London variety who started off front-footed and bright, with Nicolas Jackson, Reece James and Raheem Sterling linking up nicely early doors. A picture perfect crunching tackle from Conor Gallagher very much set the aggressive tone.
Nonetheless the current Premier League champions slowly gained a foothold. Marc Cucurella in particular found himself battling to contain a spritely Phil Foden – something he did admirably in the first half.
Chelsea were happy to invite pressure and spring on the break. Former sky blue Cole Palmer worked into a good position on the right flank after 13 minutes, but chose the wrong option and Ederson eventually claimed after a risky headed pass backwards from Rodri.
While proceedings slowed on the pitch, things were heated enough in the stands on a frosty November evening at the Bridge. Travelling fans chanted “Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that”, apparently unaware of their football history. The home faithful rather amusingly retorted with “We saw you cry in Porto”, a reference to Manchester City’s bruising 1-0 Champions League final loss to the Pensioners in 2021.
Back on the pitch, a loose ball broke for Gallagher who lashed it towards goal on the half-volley. It was however comfortable for Ederson, who didn’t need to adjust his position nor exert himself too greatly to claim.
Sadly referee Anthony Taylor – no stranger to giving decisions against the home side – decided to make himself the centre of attention and award Manchester City an extremely soft penalty halfway through the first period. Cucurella was adjudged to have hauled down Erling Haaland despite the robotic Norwegian grabbing a handful of the Spaniard himself. A VAR review bafflingly only looked at the point of contact, and the penalty was allowed to stand. Haaland could only duly oblige from twelve yards, and Cucurella and Palmer went into Taylor’s book for the foul and interference respectively.
Yet the lead lasted all of five minutes. Ederson made a super stop to deny Reece James from a sweetly struck free-kick, but the resulting corner was headed home by Chelsea’s senior citizen Thiago Silva. Gallagher’s delivery was right on the money and Palmer used veteran nous beyond his years to block the bulky Haaland from getting close to ‘O Monstro’.
The energy was restored after questionable officiating had once again threatened to derail a tasty Premier League contest. Phil Foden went on an unbelievable hot streak of play immediately after Chelsea’s response. He first beat several men with a jinking mazy run before finding Haaland at the back post, with the Norwegian firing into the side-netting. The Englishman would then chop inside on his right and fire off a shot that seemed destined for the far corner – Robert Sanchez could only watch it evade his grasp, but fortunately evade the target too.
Manchester City were made to pay for that profligacy. The £77m man Josko Gvardiol was turned inside out by the captain James, who subsequently put it on a plate for Sterling to have the goal to aim at at the far post. A twelve minute turnaround was complete.
But there was still time for the treble winners to get back on level terms, and they did so in spite of Sanchez’s heroics to get low and get a strong wrist to a fierce Haaland shot. In added time at the end of the first half, a short corner – which should have been awarded as a goal kick – found its way to Bernardo Silva, who looped in a picture perfect cross right on the button of the advancing and unmarked Manuel Akanji.
To say Mauricio Pochettino was apoplectic at his men for switching off was an understatement – the Argentine visibly distressed on the touchline after so much hard work had come partially undone by a moment of sleepiness at the back. The shrill of the half-time whistle in truth was a welcome break for spectators, staff and players alike, after a breathless end-to-end period drew to a close.
The sleeping sadly continued for the hosts after the interval. Moises Caicedo was caught napping in midfield and had his pocket picked. Julian Alvarez caught Cucurella cold on the overlap and Haaland essentially threw his entire body at the ball to bundle the Sky Blues ahead in minute 47.
Jeremy Doku was booked for some Oscar-worthy theatrics, throwing himself to the ground in the box with all the poise and grace of a ballerina in a bid to buy a penalty off the usually ever-willing Anthony Taylor. The Belgian would then be denied by the legs of Sanchez a couple of minutes after, showing Axel Disasi a clean pair of heels in his final act before being substituted for Jack Grealish.
Cole Palmer would then channel his inner Lionel Messi, to put it lightly. The fleetfooted Englishman skipped past Rodri and Dias into the area and poked at goal under extreme pressure, only to be denied by Ederson. Pochettino turned to his bench thereafter to freshen things up – James and Enzo Fernandez making way for Malo Gusto and Mykhailo Mudryk with twenty-five minutes to go.
Following a short stoppage for the Manchester City goalkeeper to receive treatment, he would go on to push a long-range Gallagher effort right into the feet of Nicolas Jackson. Chelsea’s hat-trick hero could hardly miss as his instincts to follow the ball in proved right, drawing an unbelievable clash level again in the 67th minute.
It looked like Kyle Walker clearly handled the ball in the area five minutes later, but Taylor and VAR wanted nothing to do with it. Substitute Gusto would then spurn a glorious opportunity, blasting a sitter over the bar after good work from the sumptuous Sterling, and Bernardo Silva would be stopped short in a similar position by a recovering Disasi.
The pace seemed to relent ever so briefly for the first time in the fixture, and it was typical that a bolt from the blue would see the visitors take the lead again. An effort from Rodri took a heavy deflection off Thiago Silva to leave Sanchez helpless and the Blues behind with just four minutes of regulation time remaining.
Armando Broja came on in place of Caicedo as Pochettino went for broke, with eight added minutes to do so. The rolling of the dice paid off – Broja clattered in the area to win a 95th minute penalty. Cole Palmer, with nerves of steel, sent Stamford Bridge into raptures and brought down the curtain on a Premier League tussle for the ages.
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