Chelsea overcame league leaders Manchester City 2-1 in an intense battle between the two Premier League titans at Stamford Bridge on Monday night, staging a spectacular comeback after going behind early on.
In pulling off such a massive result, not only have the Blues ended their opponent's unbeaten run in the league, but they have also catapulted themselves back into the title race.
It is ironic that the same pundits who dismissed Chelsea's Premier League chances a few weeks back are now singing praises of Andre Villas-Boas' side, acknowledging their resilience and strength of character.
More important than the three points is the lift this gives them. Finally they have beaten a team in the top six. And their display last night speaks volumes about their will power.
Of course, the road to victory wasn't an easy one. Let me brief you a little on the game.
The start couldn't have been any worse for the home side. In as early as the second minute, the diminutive Argentine Sergio Aguero danced around near the halfway line, before playing the temperamental Italian Mario Balotelli clean through on goal.
The result was an easy finish for the 21-year-old City forward, who rounded the man in the Chelsea goal, Petr Cech, before slotting home the easiest of finishes. The Chelsea defense had once again been caught napping, a familiar tale this season.
The first 20 minutes were all about the Citizens. Apart from being dangerous on the ball, they were doing a fine job off the ball too, pressing their hosts well and keeping them restricted in their own half. The home team was looking rather nervy at the back.
After that, the game was more evenly contested, but the Blues still couldn't get a sniff of the opposition goal guarded by City custodian Joe Hart.
That was until John Terry delivered a glorious long ball to Daniel Sturridge on the right, who dribbled past Gael Clichy and set up a Raul Meireles equalizer with a cross from his weaker right foot.
This was essentially the turning point in the game and the second half saw the West Londoners dominate. A second yellow for the visitors' left-back Clichy allowed them to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
The writing was on the wall for Roberto Mancini's City side and it was hardly a surprise when Chelsea went 2-1 up via a Frank Lampard penalty. Joleon Lescott's handball meant referee Mark Clattenburg had no choice but to point to the spot.
After that, it was all about holding out for the win—and that was just what Chelsea did.
In the end, both sides benefited from some lucky decisions that swung in their favour, but what AVB's boys should be lauded for is the way they weathered the early storm and stood up to the challenge to come out winners, in arguably their toughest fixture in the 2011-12 season thus far.
Villas-Boas deserves credit for ditching the high defensive line midway through the first half. But take nothing away from some of the brighter individual performers who helped the cause. For me, Daniel Sturridge and Raul Meireles were the standout players.
Sturridge changed the complexion of the game when he beat his man to set up Meireles. But that was not all. He tormented Clichy all through. It was his smart dribbling that had the Frenchman cautioned in the first half.
In the second half, he almost drilled home a loose ball with his right foot. But more importantly, he drifted inside to shoot in the 81st minute and earned the penalty so coolly dispatched by club legend Lampard.
Meireles was impressive throughout his 73 minutes on the pitch. Apart from a well-taken goal, he was a part of some fluid moves by his side. And while he did give the ball away a few times in promising positions, his grit and determination was there to see—perhaps the reason he got booked too.
Going by the evidence, the Blues have it in them to mount a serious title challenge and it wouldn't be wise to rule them out just yet.
The huddled up celebration after the final whistle really said it all. Chelsea are back in it. It ain't over till it's over.
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