Taking a point away from Stamford Bridge is ordinarily a cause for satisfaction if not celebration for the visiting side.
But it is doubtful that any of Manchester City's players felt much jubilation following a 0-0 draw that, save for a few anxious moments at both ends, never delivered on the promise of its run-up.
Much was made of the dismissal of Roberto Di Matteo and the quickie hiring of Rafa Benitez by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich this week. Watching Chelsea play against City, though, you would have been hard-pressed to say the Blues showed anything new or unique compared to what they were under Di Matteo.
Particularly given the absences of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea was likely to play a relatively conservative game and try to hit City on the counterattack, where City has struggled some this season. That is more or less what happened.
The only real aggressiveness at the Bridge on Sunday came from the stands, per the Daily Mail, where the Chelsea faithful were boisterous and unabashed in their ongoing support of Di Matteo and their distrust that Benitez will do even as good a job as his predecessor did.
As for aggressiveness from the Blues themselves, you might consider Fernando Torres' penchant for falling down at the slightest contact an expression of aggression against the pitch. Torres spent more time on the ground than one of Abramovich's priceless Oriental rugs in this one.
Finally, a quick shout out to both ESPN2 (Swansea/Liverpool) and Fox Soccer (Chelsea/City) for presenting over 180 minutes of football and no goals. America thanks you.
Players are graded on a scale of 1 (carried along by his teammates to their detriment) to 5 (a credit to his side and football as a sport).
City's ace keeper faced six corner kicks and five shots, but only one was on target. Well, all right, maybe two were on target, but Ashley Cole's drive that Hart tipped over the bar led to a goal kick, not a corner, so the officials missed that one. Hart was not bad, but he was not very busy, either. A clean sheet is a clean sheet, though. 3.
The Argentine defender was City's best player on the day. While that may sound like damning with faint praise given the team's overall effort, it is not meant as such. Zabaleta defended zealously and made a number of fine runs to set City up for offensive opportunities. That none were converted is not on him. 4.
Early-season jitters appear to now be behind Nastasic, and pundits are noticing the improvement (per Goal.com.) Nastasic was far from perfect against Chelsea; particularly, one wasteful dribble out of bounds near the conclusion of the match led to a mini-frenzy in front of Hart's cage that followed the throw-in. Still, he is getting better. 3.
There were questions as to whether Kompany would be fit for this fixture. He started and played the entire match. If Kompany was not fit, he did an exemplary job of concealing it. His best moments were tracking back on Torres and dispossessing him of the ball. Often, it seemed Torres got unnerved just knowing Kompany was coming after him. 4.
City had 11 corner kicks in this match, and Kolarov thus had ample chances to find Edin Dzeko's head in the box. It never happened. Kolarov's play in the middle of the field and in his own end was strong, though. 3.
There is not much sense in wasting words getting to the point with Silva's play lately. He is not creating chances for City's glamour boys in the necessary numbers. And against Chelsea, he missed the target on an unmarked header with a lot of net to hit. 2.
Rare is the time where you switch a match off and say, "Man, that James Milner is really dynamic!" This display against Chelsea from Milner was not dynamic. Then again, City have plenty of putatively dynamic players, and they did not burn out any bulbs on the scoreboard, either. Milner did his job. 3.
Roberto Mancini must be getting to the point with Yaya where he has to consider that the Ivorian's middling play is less a slump and more a sign that Yaya is not the irresistible force he has been in past seasons. Certainly, City's fans keep waiting for Yaya to truck through midfield with the ball and either score or create an opportunity for someone else. It did not happen today, either. 3.
Like Milner, Barry is not asked to create highlight-reel finishes or thread passes through five befuddled defenders. Those jobs are left to others. Barry was in the right place all day, and there is a lot to be said for that. 3.
Sigh. When Dzeko comes off the bench, he is instant offense. When he starts (as he did against Chelsea), the ball never seems to find him, and when it does he dribbles it with his left foot and then with his other left foot. Of course Dzeko always wants to start. As it is with pitchers in baseball, starters make the big money, and even premier closers have to settle for less. At City, though, Edin Dzeko is Jonathan Papelbon, not Cole Hamels. 2.
He ran his backside off, but to little avail. Strikers always look great when they are scoring goals and sort of useless when they are not (take Fernando Torres, for example.) Aguero was pretty useless today. 2.
Carlos Tevez (69th minute for Dzeko)
Like Aguero, Tevez exerted all the energy you could have asked him to. None of it made much difference, though. Unlike Dzeko, Tevez is normally far more useful when he starts. City might wish Tevez had started this one. 2.
Mario Balotelli (86th minute for Aguero)
Even in an exceedingly brief appearance, Balo managed to be Balo, getting booked (unfairly to be sure) for diving after taking a good bit of David Luiz to his upper torso and/or chin at the death. Thanks for playing, Super Mario. No grade.
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