Manchester City beat Chelsea, 2-0, on Sunday afternoon in a contest that wasn't even as close as the score seemed to indicate.
Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez both scored for City who, despite the win, still have plenty of work to do this season. They're now back within 12 points of Manchester United for the English Premier League crown after the Red Devils scored their own 2-0 victory over QPR a day earlier.
Chelsea, meanwhile, sputters even closer to fourth- and fifth-place Tottenham and Arsenal. In an increasingly disappointing campaign, the Blues now face the very realistic prospect of missing next year's Champions League.
Let's take a quick look at who stuck out in Sunday's match:
1st Star: Yaya Toure, Manchester City
Toure broke the scoring seal 20 minutes into the second half, but even more impressively, he did so in atypical fashion—for him at least.
The bruising Ivory Coast midfielder was sorely missed during his absence at the Africa Cup of Nations. Manchester City are thin on power and force in the midfield, and with Toure out of the lineup, they often found themselves getting exposed as such.
And while he did, as he always does, provide that physical ballast up the middle, Toure also dazzled with a new, unforeseen trick: finesse.
He danced and duked his way through the Chelsea midfield in the 65th minute, getting into auspicious territory, then bending a beautiful clip past Peter Cech in the far corner.
That, combined with his typical, dominant play in the midfield, was enough to earn him top honors on Sunday.
2nd Star: Peter Cech, Chelsea
Two-nil isn't a good result for any English club, much less a defending Champions League unit. So it's hard to say Cech kept his side from getting embarrassed on Sunday; despite his best efforts, they very much did nonetheless.
But with a different, less-heroic man between the pipes, this one could have gotten more than just a little out of hand.
If not for Cech's brilliance in net, it wouldn't have taken 65 minutes before a goal was scored in this one. City had countless opportunities in the first half that Cech had to sweep away brilliantly, and if not for that deftness, it could have been a multiple-goal game by half.
Poor defending doomed the Blues in this one, not poor goalkeeping. The latter, in fact, or rather its inverse, was almost enough to save them.
3rd Star: Joe Hart, Manchester City
Two keepers on one three-star list? Blasphemy!
But also deserved.
On a day where Manchester City outplayed Chelsea from start to finish, there were a number of field players who could have taken home this honor. From Rodwell to Aguero to Silva to Tevez, almost all of the Citizens played a solid-to-great match on Sunday.
Joe Hart, however, made the play of the game to atone for an earlier sin, and had he not been able to, we could be writing a much different story right now.
City's ever-improving net-minder took Demba Ba down in the box during the first half, earning a penalty for the new Mr. Chelsea himself, Frank Lampard. Stepping up to bury his 200th goal in royal blue, however, Lampard was denied on a brilliant save by Hart that radically altered the game's trajectory.
With one fell swoop, City had regained all the momentum—a boon they used to control, and eventually usurp, the rest of Sunday's contest. Who's to say how they would have fared otherwise?
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!