Reflections on Chelsea's 2-1 Defeat to Manchester City
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The Blues paid the price for a poor first-half performance which saw them fall behind to a Samir Nasri goal, and were rather fortunate to go into the interval only 1-0 down. When Sergio Aguero added a second shortly after the break, the game looked over for the Londoners, but they rallied well after Demba Ba halved the deficit with a spectacular strike midway through the second half.
Indeed, if referee Chris Foy had awarded the Blues a penalty in the closing minutes when City captain Vincent Kompany tugged back Fernando Torres in the penalty area, it might have been a very different story. As it was, the Northerners held on for a victory which they probably just about deserved.
For more thoughts on the match, read on.
1. A Double Strike Force?
Demba Ba gave Chelsea hope with this spectacular strike
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Chelsea strikers Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have been seen so rarely together that, if they didn’t look so different, some fans might suspect that they are one and the same person.
So, it was interesting on Sunday to see the pair operating in tandem against Manchester City, albeit for just the remaining 24 minutes of the game when Torres came on for the ineffective John Mikel Obi.
The substitution had an immediate effect: Torres charging into the City box in pursuit of David Luiz’s long pass, which fell instead to Ba, who acrobatically hooked the ball into the net off a post. Chelsea scented an equaliser after that, and although it didn’t come, the presence of two strikers in and around the City penalty area seemed to unsettle Vincent Kompany and Co.
Might Rafa Benitez, then, consider starting with both Torres and Ba in some future games? It would certainly be a bold move, but as the Spaniard seems wedded to his 4-2-3-1 formation, the double strike force would appear to be a more likely option when, as on Sunday, the Blues are chasing a goal in the closing stages of a match.
2. Bad Omens
Chelsea players in their "unlucky" black kit
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Superstitious Chelsea fans would have noticed a number of bad omens ahead of the match on Sunday, which might have given them a distinct feeling that the Blues wouldn’t be returning to Wembley for the final next month.
First, the Londoners’ fans were not allocated the “lucky” West end of the stadium, from where they have watched Chelsea win the FA Cup in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Instead, City fans populated the West end, while Blues fans took the East end.
Second, the Blues lost the toss for choice of kit and wore their change strip of black shirts, shorts and socks, which they had also donned for their Premier League match against City last month. In case you’ve forgotten, Roberto Mancini’s men won that game too, 2-0.
Finally, the injured Ashley Cole was absent from the Chelsea team. Incredibly, since joining the Blues from Arsenal in 2006, Cole has never lost an FA Cup match. He missed the 1-0 defeat at Barnsley in 2008, although he did play in the 1-1 drawn replay against Everton in 2011 which ended with the Blues being knocked out after a penalty shootout.
So, with their fans in the “wrong” end, the team wearing an “unlucky” kit and missing their “lucky” Cup mascot on the pitch, Chelsea’s defeat was surely written in the stars.
3. Aguero Gets Off Scot-Free
David Luiz feels the effects of Sergio Aguero's reckless tackle
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Sergio Aguero’s horror tackle on David Luiz just gets worse with every viewing. The Argentinian’s two-footed lunge on Chelsea’s Brazilian defender looked pretty innocuous at the time, but there is no disguising the malice in the challenge in the slow-motion replays.
Referee Chris Foy took a charitable view on the day, and chose not to issue a card of either colour to Aguero. However, under FA rules, the City striker could have been given a retrospective red card for violent conduct and a three-match ban. Bizarrely, the Football Association announced on Monday that they would take no further action against Aguero who, in the eyes of most fans, can consider himself an extremely lucky man.
Strangely, though, this non-decision by the blazered buffoons at the FA could yet work to Chelsea’s advantage. After all, don’t forget that this coming Sunday Manchester City visit Tottenham, one of the Blues’ main rivals for a Champions League place next term.
Aguero may not be flavor of the month with Chelsea fans, but none of them would want City’s star player to be suspended for that game.
4. Escape from Fixture Hell
Chelsea's defeat may help Rafa Benitez secure a top-four place
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Of course, nobody wants to lose in an FA Cup semifinal, but Chelsea’s defeat on Sunday did come with one major silver lining.
If the Blues had beaten City, they would now be facing a Premier League-fixture pile-up of monumental proportions. Chelsea’s match away to Aston Villa, scheduled for the day of the FA Cup final, would have had to be postponed, and the Blues would still have had to find a date for their home game with Tottenham.
With the club's involvement in the latter stages of the Europa League an additional complicating factor, the most likely scenario is that the Blues would have had to play league games on both the Tuesday and Thursday before the FA Cup final—a ridiculous state of affairs which would have undermined both their chances of retaining the Cup and the credibility of the competition itself.
However, following Sunday’s defeat, Chelsea can now travel to Villa Park as planned, and the Spurs match will probably take place between that fixture and the Blues’ trip to Old Trafford the previous weekend.
In terms, then, of landing a top-four slot in the Premier League—still the Blues’ main priority this season—the easing of the club’s fixture congestion is a real bonus and will certainly make the loss to City less painful.
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